WAMU 88.5 : News

Potomac River Crossings The Object Of VDOT Study

Play associated audio
Commuters slowly move over the American Legion Bridge, connecting Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Md.
(AP Photo/Leslie E. Kossoff)
Commuters slowly move over the American Legion Bridge, connecting Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Md.

The Virginia Department of Transportation will study traffic volume over the Potomac River in an effort to determine where the most people and goods will cross as the region's population grows, according to a statement released by the agency on Tuesday.

The study — scheduled for completion next spring — will not recommend a solution but instead provide a basis for consultations with transportation officials in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Specifically, it will focus on how best to improve transportation across the river from Point of Rocks in the west to the Route 301 bridge in the east.

Study not focused on new construction, officials say

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton downplayed the possibility his office would push for the construction of a new bridge over the Potomac.

"We're really not prejudging anything. In fact, we're not really getting into what's the best alternative," he said.

The study already has its critics, who say the Republican administration of Gov. Bob McDonnell has been pushing for a new Potomac River bridge for years.

"They are pushing for another bridge even though the real fixes we need to make are at the American Legion Bridge," said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which supports expanding mass transit instead of road expansions. To Schwartz, a new bridge connecting Virginia and Maryland would lead to more congestion and sprawl. He favors implementing transit options on the American Legion Bridge.

"In the near term, that can be buses on dedicated bus lanes with frequent service, connecting the Red Line and the Silver Line, connecting Tysons Corner and Fairfax County job centers with the Montgomery County job centers," he said.  "Fortunately, Fairfax County and Montgomery County have already met and are pursuing the transit investments that are needed both short term and long term."

Connaughton disputes the allegation the McDonnell administration is after a new "outer beltway" at the expense of mass transit investments.

"This is one of the things that will be the hallmark of the McDonnell administration, is that we are pursuing increased transit opportunities, as well as dealing with congestion on our roadways, and looking for bike paths and pedestrian paths.  We are doing everything.  This is not a one-solution-fits-all," he said.

Maryland not in favor of new crossing

If Virginia officials privately favor building another Potomac River span, they may meet resistance across the river. In an October letter to Secretary Connaughton, Acting Maryland Secretary of Transportation Darrell Mobley clarified his agency's position.

"The Maryland Department of Transportation's (MDOTS) highest priority remains the preservation of our existing infrastructure and the safety of the traveling public. MDOT does not intend to revisit the years of debate regarding new crossings of the Potomac River," the letter said. "We are interested in the study of potential improvements to existing crossings, including: the Governor Nice Bridge along the US 301 corridor, the American Legion Bridge on the Capital Beltway, and the potential addition of transit across the Wilson Bridge."

Connaughton said he believes D.C. and Maryland officials are in agreement that a study of future traffic volume is necessary. As far as a possible solution, he said, "We haven't gotten there yet."

NPR

In 'Porcelain,' Moby Searches For Validation And Finds Unlikely Success

The electronic musician's new memoir traces his journey from Connecticut suburbs to New York City raves. It's a tale of dance clubs, DJs and Manhattan in the 1990s full of self-deprecating humor.
NPR

To Survive The Bust Cycle, Farmers Go Back To Business-School Basics

Farming is entering its third year on the bust side of the cycle. Major crop prices are low, while expenses like seed, fertilizer and land remain high. That means getting creative to succeed.
WAMU 88.5

Power Plant Fight In Prince George's County

A predominantly African American community in rural Prince George's County recently filed a federal civil rights complaint in response to plans to build a third power plant in one town, and fifth in the region.

NPR

Reports Peg Tech Billionaire As Funder Of Hulk Hogan's Case Against Gawker

The New York Times says entrepreneur Peter Thiel confirms he has been bankrolling the ex-wrestler's lawsuit. Gawker is appealing a jury award to Hogan of $140 million over publication of a sex tape.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.