Three Men and a Bridge

Three Men and a Bridge

Each of the major candidates for governor express support for controversial Techway bridge.

The Techway bridge has been one of the most controversial major transportation projects in the Washington region over the past five-plus years.

The bridge, and its accompanying four-to-six lane highway would connect the high-tech Dulles Corridor to Maryland's biotech corridor along I-270.

Supporters of the bridge say it is necessary to provide an additional connection between high-density areas on both sides of the river. The bridge, they say, would help to relieve congestion on the American Legion Bridge by ending the so-called horseshoe commute for drivers going from Reston to Gaithersburg, Md.

Bridge opponents say that traffic relief from the bridge would be minimal. Additionally, the road would encourage more intense development along the connecting roadway effectively negating any potential relief, say opponents.

A host of different alignments have been proposed for the bridge and an array of studies have been initiated, including a federal study that began at the direction of U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) in 2001.

Wolf ended the study after looking at aerial photos of the area and realizing that dozens, if not hundreds, of homes in established neighborhoods would have to be removed to complete the project along any proposed alignment. Most of the studied alignments crossed either McLean and Great Falls or Reston, Herndon and eastern Loudoun.

Wolf has backed away from involvement in new bridge proposals.

"That's something the states have to work out between themselves," said Dan Scandling, Wolf's spokesperson.

The idea for the bridge, however, never really died, and each of the three major candidates for governor expressed support the project.

Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R) supports the concept of a new bridge, but does not have a specific alignment in mind. “Jerry has not endorsed and specific proposal for a third crossing," said Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh. "He would work with Gov. [Robert] Ehrlich (R) to determine the exact method and location."

Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) also supports a new bridge somewhere west of the American Legion Bridge. Kaine does not have a specific alignment in mind, either. "We would want to take a look at the engineering data," said Kaine spokesperson Delacey Skinner.

Sen. Russ Potts (R-Winchester) also favors another bridge crossing. "We need to finish the Environmental Impact Statement for that," Potts said. Potts would also allow the engineering to guide the choice of alignment.

Local political leaders have a mixture of opinions on the bridge. U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11) is supportive of a techway, said spokesperson Rob White.

A major stumbling block for any bridge to Maryland is Maryland. The Montgomery County (Md.) Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing any bridge in 2004. The council cited concerns about destruction of existing neighborhoods, damage to parkland along the Potomac River and the need to protect the county's 90,000-acre Agricultural Reserve.

In Nov. 2003, Maryland Sec. of Transportation Robert Flanagan said that the Ehrlich administration is not considering a new bridge in any way.