Effort begins to clear bottleneck on American Legion Bridge

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Traffic congestion is not just a problem in some neighborhoods. It’s a regional problem. And now there may be some cooperation on one of the biggest bottlenecks in the region: the American Legion Bridge on the Beltway that connects Virginia and Maryland.

Within a year, the Express Lanes on the Beltway near Tysons Corner will be operational. But those lanes stop short of the American Legion Bridge and the border with Maryland, leaving the likelihood of bigger tieups there.

So Fairfax and Montgomery county leaders have begun talking about possible solutions.

“I’m embarrassed,” says Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen, after hearing details of what Virginia has accomplished and how little Maryland has done on its side of the river.

The two counties have been talking with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority about providing rapid transit buses between work centers in Fairfax and Montgomery County.

A similar service that ran between 1998 and 2003 failed to attract enough riders and was canceled, but surveys indicate an increase in traffic and development and the rising cost of gasoline may make such a service more viable now.

Floreen and others agree there is no money right now to widen the bridge. But among the suggestions for short term solutions would be narrowing lanes on the existing bridge, and using the shoulders to add an High Occupancy Vehicle or Express lane that would also be open to buses.

“I thought that sounded interesting” says Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova. She is suggesting a public private partnership take a close look at creating such lanes on the bridge.

Floreen says it’s a good idea.

“This kind of analysis has been delayed, I think largely because of a lack of money”.

The bridge turns 50 later this year.

This is the first time leaders on the two sides of the river have gotten together to talk about this particular problem. The Express Lanes in Virginia, which will be tolled, are scheduled to open in 2013.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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