Davis, Moran Ask Warner for Study of Potomac River Bridges

Davis, Moran Ask Warner for Study of Potomac River Bridges

Two Northern Virginia members of Congress have asked Gov. Mark Warner (D) to go forward with a study that could lead to consideration of a “techway” between Maryland and Virginia, including another Potomac River crossing between the two existing bridges.

The state study would look at traffic on two existing bridges across the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia: the American Legion Bridge on Interstate 495 and the Point of Rocks bridge on Route 15 in Loudoun County.

The study would be a preliminary step before a decision could be reached on a proposed “Techway” they said.

U.S. Reps. Tom Davis (R-11th) and Jim Moran (D-8th) asked Warner to use $400,000 in VDOT funds for an “origin and destination (O & D)” study within six months.

A federal study of the issue was cancelled last year.

Davis and Moran made the request for a state study last week, just before VDOT commenced public hearings on its six-year plan for transportation projects.

“We believe it is premature to decide … whether a specific new highway corridor should be constructed over the Potomac River between I-495 and Route 15, or possibly a transit corridor, a hybrid transit/highway corridor, or even the 'no-build' alternative that is always an option when considering major new transportation improvements,” said Davis and Moran in their letter.

“We are convinced, however, that Northern Virginia will never be able to realize real transportation solutions until we are at least willing to complete the necessary studies and analyses in an objective and straightforward manner,” they wrote.

VIRGINIA’S COMMONWEALTH Transportation Board had budgeted $400,000 that was to correspond with $2 million in funding from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to study a possible highway between the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

With the six-year plan under review, that money could be redirected to other uses.

After initiating the $2 million FHA study, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) called for an end to the effort last year when preliminary results showed possible routes passing through established neighborhoods, requiring the possible demolition of hundreds of houses.

Residents in Great Falls, McLean, and Loudoun County reacted strongly when the FHA released conceptual drawings that showed more than a dozen possible routes for a “techway.” Environmentalists and smart-growth advocates as well as residents on the other side of the river in Potomac, Md. objected as well.

The idea of a techway connecting the Dulles corridor with the I-270 corridor in Montgomery County, Md. has strong support from the business community and many commuters.

“I feel as though I am representing the interests of my constituents,” said Moran, in pressing forward for a state study.

“There is too much concentration inside the Beltway. This region needs to be able to breathe economically. You can’t grow in any kind of intelligent fashion without a circumferential transportation route.”

Moran said the FHA could still fund preliminary studies for a techway, but “they are not going to cross Frank Wolf. Frank has both power from his position and credibility from his integrity.”

THE IRE OF GREAT FALLS residents still bubbles up at the mention of a techway bridge.

“We need to realize that concept was flawed. It was brought on by the dot com industry to bring employees into Virginia when they were willing to subsidize it. It wasn’t a traffic study,” said Ralph Lazaro, a Great Falls dentist who organized the North Seneca Citizens Association fight against the FHA study last year.

“The politicians are saying this now because of voter frustration with traffic,” Lazaro said.

“They are trying to appease voter frustration, rather than look at ways to spend money that could be productive.

“[The study] is a total waste of money,” Lazaro said. “It’s too small, not directed, and way too broad. It is the same mentality that flawed the original [FHA] study.

“The real issue is VDOT has no money, the roads need to be upgraded, and mass transit needs to be funded,” Lazaro said. “If there is extra money, help VDOT put the money towards improving the roads we already have.

“In their position, [politicians] should be more responsible to realize where money could be better spent.

But Moran said the study should go forward using state money.

“It keeps the concept alive by paying for experts to study the alternatives, including the no-build alternative. I think if no one is working on it, then the momentum dies,” he said.

“I think it’s premature to bury the concept of a northern crossing north of the American Legion Bridge and south of the Point of Rocks,” Moran said.

“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,” Moran said.