Two Setbacks for Bridge

Two Setbacks for Bridge

Forces in favor of a second bridge crossing were handed two setbacks in this legislative session said Tina Brown of Solutions Not Sprawl, speaking at a meeting of the West Montgomery County Citizen’s Association on April 9.

However, there may also be a victory for those same forces. A bill which passed the legislature will allow Montgomery County to add a surcharge onto the vehicle registration fee. “Gov. Ehrlich may veto it,” Brown said.

Bridge opponents fear that some of the money will be used to fund a study for a techway -- a study which is still called for in the “Go Montgomery!” plan. Del. Brian Feldman (D-15) had introduced an amendment which would forbid using money for a bridge study, but his amendment failed.

However, any transit money generated by this surcharge will still have to go through the standard county budget process.

In victories for anti-bridge forces, two pieces of legislation, neither of which directly mention a second crossing or a techway, were turned back in the Maryland House of Representatives. The bills, one authorizing public-private partnerships to build transportation project and another supporting a Regional Transportation Authority, could have been used by proponents of a new bridge connecting Montgomery County to Northern Virginia, said Brown and others.

“They keep trying to use different methods,” Brown said.

One measure would have allowed for the creation of public-private partnerships for transportation projects. Environmentalists and techway opponents were concerned that by using private funding, projects would might be exempt from many regulations.

“When you use federal funding, that triggers NEPA,” Brown said. NEPA is the National Environmental Protection Act, which requires adherence to environmental standards by studying possible impacts of projects.

The partnership bill passed the Senate but died in committee in the House of Representatives.

The State had commissioned a study to analyze the potential of forming such a Regional Transportation Authority. Proponents of a such an authority say it is a way to overcome local objections to successfully build major projects, which is what others fear about a Regional Transportation Authority. A regional authority with power to raise funds might seek to override local zoning and community concerns when it decides which projects, such as a second river crossing.

The Maryland study recommended against a Regional Transportation Authority, but nonetheless, a resolution was presented in the legislature that would have created a commission to study the issue further. The resolution failed.

“We didn’t know, right up until the end, what would happen,” Brown said.

Brown does not believe the fight is over against these bills. “They’ll be back next year,” Brown said.