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WTOP Beltway Poll: No tolls for transportation fixes

Thursday - 3/1/2012, 12:32pm  ET

American Legion Bridge (Courtesy of Md. State Highway Admin.)
The American Legion Bridge is one of two bridge crossings between Maryland and Virginia. The other is the Wilson Bridge. (Courtesy of Maryland State Highway Administration)

WASHINGTON - Paying a toll and using the money to fund transportation fixes. It's happening in our region in places like the Dulles Toll Road, where revenue being collected from those tolls is helping finance the mega-Dulles Rail project.

But local residents may be saying "Not so fast."

According to a new WTOP Beltway Poll, 52 percent of residents polled are against using tolls to pay for transportation fixes. Forty six percent are in support of the idea. The largest opposition comes from Maryland residents, where 55 percent of those polled said they were against the idea.

The poll also found two-thirds of people in the Washington area support the building of a new bridge across the Potomac River to ease traffic congestion.

Sixty nine percent of Marylanders support a new span. The poll finds that 65 percent of Virginia residents back a new bridge, while 58 percent of District residents support the idea.

Overall, 66 percent of those surveyed say they approve of building a new bridge.

The poll shows overwhelming opposition to an increase in the gas tax, with 78 percent saying they would oppose paying higher fees at the pump.

The greatest opposition comes from Maryland residents. Eighty-two percent of them say no, followed by 75 percent of Virginia and the District residents.

Opposition to higher gas fees is strongest among Republicans -- 93 percent are against an increase. Among people who earn less than $75,000 a year, 85 percent are against a hike.

The WTOP Beltway Poll, conducted by Heart + Mind Strategies, examines attitudes toward several growth-related issues in the Washington area.

Asked if they agree with the strategy of locating growth around existing employment centers, 82 percent say they do. Eighty-five percent of District residents support the idea the most, followed closely by 82 percent of Maryland residents and 81 percent of Virginians.

The region is divided over whether to locate growth in surrounding rural areas.

Overall, 51 percent agree with that idea, while 46 percent disagree. A majority of Maryland residents support that growth strategy, with 54 percent of people in favor, while only 46 percent of Virginia residents back that approach. Fifty percent of District residents agree with the idea.

Nearly nine in 10 of those surveyed, or 89 percent, say open space should be preserved as part of a growth strategy.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent.

The D.C. metro phone survey was conducted among 551 adults age 18 and over, between Feb. 20, 2011 and Feb. 23, 2011. This included representative samples of 200 people in Virginia, 251 in Maryland and 100 in the District.

Heart+Mind Strategies is a non-partisan market research consultancy based in Reston, Va.

WTOP's Mitchell Miller contributed to this report. Follow Mitchell and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)