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Supporters of Potomac crossing make pitch as regional panel considers projects

The American Legion Bridge on the Capital Beltway is often a choke-point for D.C. area traffic. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

ROCKVILLE, Md.  — Supporters of a second Potomac River crossing say the idea should get serious study and they plan to push for it at a regional transportation meeting next week.

“A new bridge would be a very costly project, but it would save commuters tens of thousands of hours per day,” said Jennifer Russell, the chair of the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance. The alliance has lobbied to get a second river crossing, saying a new bridge is critical to easing traffic on the American Legion Bridge.

Russell said the group will advocate for the bridge at a meeting Wednesday of the Transportation Planning Board at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which will consider a list of projects for long-term study.

Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner recently called the project a “zombie bridge” with no chance of funding. “It promotes sprawl, it degrades the environment, it destroys neighborhoods and it would totally destroy the ag reserve” he said, referring to the thousands of acres of land under special zoning to preserve large tracts of land in the northwestern corner of the county.

On Monday, the Montgomery County Council will consider a resolution opposing any plans for a second Potomac river crossing.

The argument that a new crossing to relieve congestion on the American Legion Bridge would harm the land set aside in the upcounty is an “old response,” Russell said. “We know that there are ways to build the bridge that will not impact the ag preserve. It’s a political response.”

But there’s also the question of funding. While touring Montgomery County this week, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, a self-proclaimed “roads guy” said of a second Potomac river crossing: “If we don’t have federal and state support, it’s not going to happen. The state of Maryland’s not going to pay for it.”

But the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance says there is support for a second Potomac River Crossing and cites a 2015 survey it commissioned. Russell said there were 800 respondents from across the region.

According to Russell, only 11 percent of the respondents were strongly opposed or were not certain of how they felt about a second crossing. Thirty-nine percent strongly favored a crossing; 20 percent “somewhat” favored a new crossing; and 28 percent rated themselves “neutral.”

Next week, the Transportation Planning Board will take a look at the transportation projects submitted for further study and make a selection of which ones deserve further analysis. Among other projects that could get a closer look:

  • Regional Express Travel Network including express tolling and express bus service.
  • Regional Roadway Congestion Hotspot Relief combined with Technological and Operational improvements.
  • Regionwide Bus Rapid Transit and Transitways with the DC Streetcar added
  • Regional Commuter Rail Enhancements
  • Metrorail regional Core Capacity Improvements
  • Metrorail Extensions combined with Regional Light Rail System
  • Optimize Regional Land-Use Balance
  • Transit Fare Policy Changes
  • Travel Demand Management for commute trips


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