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Fairfax seeks state funds for Tysons roads

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley
Fairfax County needs $1.6 billion for roads and other transportation improvements around the redeveloping Tysons Corner and is turning to the state for financial help.

State officials, however, say they don't have the cash to give.

The county's planning commission recently said that state money would be a "critical component" of any funding package for the transportation improvements needed to prepare Tysons for an influx of hundreds of thousands of workers and residents in the coming decades.

"The state bears primary responsibility for the state road system, so technically, it's the state's responsibility," said Walter Alcorn, chairman of the planning commission's Tysons Committee. "There's really no question about that."

But Virginia's Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton warned Fairfax to look elsewhere for cash. He noted that developers often pay all infrastructure costs surrounding their new apartment buildings and office complexes and should pay in this instance. Besides, he said, state transportation funds are scarce.

"The county really needs to be very cautious in how it proceeds with development or redevelopment because there aren't any state funds," Connaughton said.

Fairfax officials questioned the state's willingness to pay.

"We're realists," Supervisor Jeff McKay, D-Lee, said. "We recognize [Virginia] is not going to come to the table with funding for this. They've zeroed out many of our road programs in Fairfax County."

Stewart Schwartz, president of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, agrees the state should be contributing.

"Tysons is the economic engine of Northern Virginia and the state," Schwartz said. "It has more square feet of office space than many of the downtowns of cities across the country. So the state should be investing in its economic engine."

Connaughton said Northern Virginia already gets its fair share of road money.

"The rest of the state already is actually subsidizing the transportation system in Northern Virginia, in that our numbers show that the state spends more money in Northern Virginia on transportation than Northern Virginia pays into the transportation special fund," he said.

Fairfax officials are considering options to state funding as well, including using real estate taxes, instituting a prepared foods tax or taxing commercial property owners. That would be in addition to money contributed by Tysons developers.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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