Here We Go Again

Here We Go Again

Virginia officials ask for study of Potomac River crossings

Heard this one before?

Two Northern Virginia members of Congress have asked for a state study that could lead to consideration of a techway and new bridge across the Potomac River.

U.S. Reps. Tom Davis (R-11) and Jim Moran (D-8) — asked Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) to spend $400,000 in Virginia Department of Transportation funds to study traffic on the two existing bridges across the Potomac River linking Maryland with Virginia.

"I think it's premature to bury the concept of a northern crossing north of American Legion Bridge and south of Point of Rocks [in Frederick]," said Moran.

The Virginia state study would be a preliminary step before a decision could be reached on a proposed "Techway," wrote Davis and Moran in a letter to Warner last week.

"I THINK we might be back to square one in fighting this techway," said Sen. Jean Roesser (R-15). "Fortunately, we have a coalition of organizations against it. We have to fight harder than ever to make sure that any proposed techway doesn't decimate any established communities or the agricultural reserve."

Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board budgeted $400,000 that was to correspond with the $2 million in federal funding for U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf's study last year.

Wolf canceled the Federal Highway Administration study on May 24, 2002, after preliminary results showed possible routes passing through established neighborhoods, requiring the possible demolition of hundreds of houses.

"I have come to the conclusion that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to build a new bridge without impacting established neighborhoods," wrote Wolf. "I thought perhaps there was still enough space on both sides of the river that a new bridge could be build to help relieve traffic congestion in the region … that does not appear to be the case."

DAVIS AND MORAN rekindled the fire just before the Virginia Department of Transportation commenced public hearings on its six-year plan for transportation projects. The money could be redirected for other uses in Virginia.

"I think if no one is working on it, then the momentum dies," said Moran. "Otherwise the money will get put back into some other pool unconnected to this purpose. I think it's very important to be able to make an informed judgment with regard to the techway.

"It can't be informed until we get experts to look at it in an objective fashion."

WHILE THE IDEA of a techway connecting the Dulles corridor in Virginia with the I-270 corridor in Montgomery County has support from the business community and some commuters on both sides of the river, many residents and officials in Maryland and Virginia are opposed to the crossing. All nine members of the Montgomery County Council oppose the proposal.

"Talk about being out of step with what is going on," said Del. Jean Cryor (R-1). "We always have to be vigilant, and be concerned about existing neighborhoods, parkland and the agricultural reserve."

The Potomac Master Plan states that the area cannot accommodate such a river crossing; the Master Plan is the 20-year blueprint for landuse, approved by the Council in March.

"Virginia has to figure out what it wants to do," said councilmember Howard Denis (R-1).

Denis said that the news has not changed the Council's unanimous opposition to a river crossing in Montgomery County.

Connection Newspapers reporter Beverly Crawford contributed to this story.