For over half a century, local and regional elected officials and planners have studied and debated the need to construct a second Potomac River bridge upstream from the I-495 American Legion bridge. Proponents contend that workers who live in Maryland, or vice versa, sit in grueling traffic jams every day, which are only going to get worse over time. Opponents, particularly those in Maryland’s Montgomery County, argue that it is simply a “developers’” tool to help foster growth in an area of the county that has been designated as an agricultural preserve.
In early July the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors resurrected the topic while considering options for the county’s long range transportation plan. Supervisors voted unanimously to add the project to the Countywide Transportation Plan and have instructed staff to study
potential routes for the new river crossing. Earlier this year the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a regional entity that prioritizes and funds regional transportation projects, included the bridge crossing in its draft TransAction 2040 plan.
Political support for the river crossing is strong in Loudoun County, as is the backing from the business community. Loudoun Supervisor Ron Meyers indicated it was his number one priority and intended to ask that the project be included as one of the “ten large-scale transportation and land-use initiatives identified by the task force for further study” by that the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB).
At the July 15th meeting over an hour debate ensued concerning inclusion of the bridge project. The debate, as recorded in a TPB meeting summary included:
“Board member Marc Elrich (Montgomery County) proposed removing the crossing from the list altogether, saying that it would yield more congestion and more sprawl in Montgomery County and would not be politically or financially feasible.
Some board members spoke passionately about the need to study the bridge. Others acknowledged the many concerns but reminded their colleagues that the task at hand was not to look at feasibility, but rather to evaluate at a high level the relative effectiveness of the different initiatives to aid further consideration and deliberation.
The board also heard extensive public comment both in favor of and opposition to including the bridge on the study list. Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner was among those who testified against including the bridge, citing increased congestion, environmental damage, and sprawl as his main concerns. Others said the bridge was needed to provide another way for people to move between Virginia and Maryland, both for economic development reasons as well as for security and emergency preparedness.
Ultimately, the board voted to accept the recommendations for further study. Staff has already begun work on the comparative study and will report back to the task force in September.”
It should be noted as well that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said “the state has no plan to build a new Potomac River crossing in the county and said any such crossing would require federal funds even if it were supported by the state and local governments.” Needless to say, the planning and research continues; stay tuned.