Dear Supervisor Storck:
The Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC) believes strongly that existing electric
and communications utilities along Richmond Highway should be placed underground, along
with associated transformers, during the construction of the project to widen Richmond
Highway from Jeff Todd Way to Sherwood Hall Lane.
Undergrounding utilities has many benefits:
• Improved service reliability during extreme weather, so that there are fewer instances
of loss of power during wind, snow, and ice storms
• Greater public safety, including fewer inactive traffic signals, reduced vehicular crashes,
and fewer downed power lines which cause danger to human lives and interfere with
Police and Fire response times
• Enhanced contribution to the economic development potential of the area. Developers
respond to signs of public investment in an area, and to improved aesthetics.
SFDC supports all these benefits, and due to its mission to revitalize the Richmond Highway
Corridor, particularly focuses on development potential. Not undergrounding sends a negative
signal to all who would invest in the corridor that redevelopment is not a priority.
Further, not undergrounding utilities in conjunction with highway widening, when it is least
expensive, would then put the burden of undergrounding on individual property owners when
they redevelop or improve their businesses, at greater cost; and with the potential to
discourage redevelopment due to cost. In addition, not all property will redevelop in the
future; how would those segments of overhead wires be undergrounded unless the project is
done comprehensively and with broad cost-sharing?
SFDC recognizes that undergrounding is expensive, and that decisions must be made on how to
allocate the cost of undergrounding. What is fair – placing the cost on the immediate property
owners only, or on the entire jurisdiction? We believe that the costs should be spread over all
of Fairfax County, for two reasons: 1) economic development along Richmond Highway helps
the tax base of the County, providing positive budgetary results for all County taxpayers; 2) the
cost is less per taxpayer when spread over a larger base of taxpayers. In addition, there are
economies of scale in doing the full length of the widened Richmond Highway at once rather
One mechanism to raise funds has been facilitated by State Senator Surovell. There are
probably others. For example, providing conduits underground helps not only with electric
wires, but also cables and fiber for communications utilities, who may be able to cost-share.
We leave it up to the County staff to evaluate and propose a mechanism they consider proper,
and to the Board of Supervisors to adopt such a mechanism for implementation. But we do
hold the Board of Supervisors responsible for the initial decision – that the overhead utilities
along the segment of Richmond Highway that are part of the Richmond Highway Widening
project MUST be placed underground in conjunction with construction of the widened road.
Thank you for considering this request.
President for the Board of Directors of SFDC