The Coalition for a Sensible Bridge has asked the Inspector General at the U. S. Department of Transportation to investigate the lack of a Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge Authority.
The Alexandria-based group has expressed concerns about and opposition to a 12-lane bridge. The letter, dated Feb. 26, 2002, says that the lack of such an “authority” is in direct conflict with the 1995 legislation that lays out how the bridge will be built, maintained and managed.
“The statute calls for the Authority to be established and the Authority “shall undertake” the project. The statute further guarantees the city of Alexandria a seat and vote on the Authority board,” the letter says.
Judy McVay is the founder and chairman of the coalition. “We have been concerned about this lack of compliance with the legislation for more than a year,” McVay said. “The concern is, who is really managing this project? The jurisdictions are supposed to have a vote, not just have meetings with the state departments of transportation.”
McVay further cited the agreement that was signed by the states of Maryland and Virginia, the District of Columbia and the U. S. Department of Transportation. “The agreement quotes from sections of the legislation but deliberately leaves out the reference to “the authority” from the agreement,” McVay said.
“We ask that the office of the Inspector General examine how and why federal funds are being spent on a project that is statutorily required to have a controlling legal authority in place before the expenditure of those funds,” the letter says. “We further ask that your office investigate the apparent deliberate effort to conceal the need for this authority from the parties to the agreement, thereby depriving them of a vote on issues regarding the project.”
Alexandria Councilman Bill Euille cochairs the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Neighborhood Task Force. “I really think that this is much ado about nothing,” Euille said. “I vaguely remember that there was supposed to be an authority and I had just assumed that this had been done. Unfortunately, this is about people trying to slow down this project that must move ahead as quickly as possible to relieve some of the region’s traffic problems.”