New Potomac Bridge Study Approved

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The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TBP) recently (on July 19) approved another study of a new bridge across the Potomac River north of the American Legion Bridge, along with nine other projects from an initial list of 80 proposals.  This preliminary study is expected to be completed by the end of this year to see if a more in-depth analysis would be worthwhile.  The proposed bridge would presumably connect I-270, I-370 and the Maryland ICC Route 200 with the northern end of Virginia Route 28 near the Dulles International Airport.  There have already been several studies on such a bridge and possible routes between I-370 and VA 28, which generated heated debates pro and con.  The strongest proponents are commercial groups on the Virginia side of the river, even though their Governor Terry McAuliffe has stated he would not provide funding for it since the entire Potomac River (between DC and West Virginia) belongs to the State of Maryland.  It is opposed by environmentalists and smart growth groups who cite the disruption of residential areas and the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve on the Maryland side for divided highway access.  The Montgomery County Council has expressed its strong opposition and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has said the state has no plan and insufficient funds to build such bridge.

In his statement to the TBP Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner said, “… it is true that our region suffers from terrible congestion, congestion that studies show will get worse, not better. It is a real problem and we need real solutions to address it. Not fantasy solutions that will never happen — I repeat, never happen — and just as importantly, don’t truly contribute to solving the problem.

“Two Virginia Department of Transportation studies of the origins and destinations of American Legion Bridge commuters (2003-2004 and 2015) show that the vast majority of American Legion Bridge commuters are headed to destinations within or near the Capital Beltway. Building an outer Potomac River bridge would help only a small subset of existing American Legion Bridge commuters and it would remain a chokepoint.

“There are real solutions to this real problem. One would be building high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes extending from the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway, across the American Legion Bridge and onto I- 270. This would be a real improvement that the Montgomery County Council and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors have repeatedly urged our respective state transportation agencies to embrace. Along with restoring Metro and pursuing complementary transit options, that is a transportation solution that pulls us together as a region – not fracturing our region as an outer bridge crossing study clearly does.”

 Below are links to several recent articles about this proposal:

Washington Post: Planners to weigh 2nd Potomac River crossing from Montgomery — again   

Bethesda Beat: Opposition Rising Against Plan To Study Second Potomac River Crossing in Montgomery County  

Loudon Now A New Potomac River Bridge? How About Two?

Northern Virginia  Transportation Alliance: List of Priorities

Loudon County Board of Supervisors: Potomac Crossing Proceedings from June 29, 2017

WMAL: VA’s Potomac Crossing Dream is a Bridge Too Farm for MoCo

MoCoAlliance: The Recurring Cry for the Outer Beltway and Bridge Crossing through the Reserve: 2017