Report fuels debate for new Potomac bridge

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)

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Supporters of a new bridge across the Potomac may have more fuel in the controversial debate.

While Maryland and Virginia leaders say they have been talking about the possibility, others call for expanding transit options across the river as a faster and more cost-effective option to relieving congestion.

However, the region’s Transportation Planning Board just examined the demand for transit across the American Legion Bridge, and found that the demand simply may not exist between the Interstate 270 and Dulles corridors. The Planning Board points to a previous Metrobus route (Metrobus 14 service) across the bridge that was ultimately canceled because of low ridership.

From the report:

“In addition to providing little or no travel time benefit, there were secondary causes for the poor ridership on the Metrobus 14 service. The Tysons-Westpark terminal was some distance from ultimate traveler destinations in Tysons Corner, with limited onward transit service either circulating within the area or continuing onwards to Herndon and Reston. The urban environment lacked walkability for continuing on foot. Meanwhile, most office and retail destinations also provided free or low-cost parking.

“At the Maryland termini, connections to transit were either few (at Lake Forest Mall) or slow (to Bethesda and Medical Center). With the Metrobus 14 service offering at best very limited travel time benefits or travel cost savings, auto use remained the overwhelming choice.”

The report goes on to suggest that a transit option across the Potomac connecting the I-270 and Dulles corridors would have to improve significantly to attract riders.

But those pushing for a new bridge may not be able to simply use the transit study as a platform. The report from the Planning Board also references a 2003 study that examined morning peak traffic across the Legion Bridge. The “license plate survey” showed that the large majority of vehicle trips across the bridge started and ended outside of the I-270 and Dulles corridors.

From the report:

For example, the largest Origination-Destination pair for Virginia to Maryland commuters was from Annandale to Bethesda, while almost half of Maryland to Virginia commuters exited the Beltway heading inwards, with the most common exit being south on the George Washington Parkway.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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