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WTOP Answer Desk: New Potomac river crossing coming?

Monday - 1/30/2012, 5:04am  ET

dullesbridge512.jpg
The American Legion Bridge is the farthest north passage over the Potomac River when traveling from Maryland to Virginia. There have been some calls for a new bridge over the Potomac River north of Dulles International Airport. (Google Maps)

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Will there ever be another crossing over the Potomac River? It's a question WTOP received after a recent story about calls for a new bridge north of Dulles International Airport.

It certainly is a heated issue. For an answer WTOP went to transportation officials who are polar opposites when it comes to the debate.

Bob Chase, head of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, which advocates for transportation projects, says a new bridge across the Potomac is clearly needed.

"U.S. 15 Point of Rocks Bridge is only one-lane in each direction and carries 20,000 vehicles per day. That will become 40,000 in 20-25 years," Chase wrote in an e-mail. "Route 28 in Virginia could easily be extended to the Maryland shore. The problem is the universal one for transportation (and no doubt other matters) -- the lack of leadership and political will."

Chase points out that it would be a complicated project, but "most important things are."

On the other hand, Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the region's Coalition for Smarter Growth, tells WTOP this kind of bridge is not a priority for local drivers and residents.

"The estimated price tag of a project like this is $1 billion," Schwartz says. "Let's save the money and deal with roads like I-66."

Schwartz says there are studies that show a new bridge connecting Maryland and Virginia in the Leesburg/Dulles Airport/Potomac area would be underused.

"With the growth this region is facing, transit and transit oriented development should be the push," Schwartz says.

There also are concerns about the impact such a bridge would have on the communities on both sides of the Potomac. Extending Route 28 across the Potomac could cut straight through 90,000 acres of Maryland agricultural reserve.

Regardless, the debate about a new crossing continues.

"We call it the zombie bridge, because it just never dies," Schwartz jokes.

Should there be another crossing over the Potomac? Where? Post a comment in this story, comment on WTOP's Facebook Page or use #WTOPTalkback on Twitter.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)