Leaders talk seriously about new Potomac bridge

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON — Whether or not you think there should ever be another Potomac River crossing, the leaders of Maryland and Virginia have started to talk about the possibility. And the talk is serious.

“D.C. has gotten so big now, it’s time to consider — what does an outer belt look like that diverts more traffic off the inner Beltway,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell tells WTOP.

“There’s a tremendous amount of opposition to doing anything south of Point of Rocks, but if you consider the options north of Point of Rocks, I think you’ll probably see something like that happen,” says Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

McDonnell says the idea makes sense, and O’Malley says the growth in the region warrants the discussion. However, both leaders caution that talks are still in a very preliminary stage.

“It won’t happen in the next two years. I think it’s something that some governor after me has to make a decision about.” O’Malley says.

Under Maryland’s current six-year transportation plan, O’Malley says there is no budget for a new span over the Potomac.

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.”

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.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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