The Virginia Department of Transportation made a quiet announcement right before Thanksgiving last week. It plans to begin a new study of traffic utilizing existing Potomac River bridges, between Point of Rocks and the Harry Nice Bridge (Morgantown).
The study will get underway in the coming weeks, and is expected to conclude in Spring 2013.
When completed, VDOT expects to have a new data set from which to extrapolate future demand for new crossings.
They are asking Maryland and DC to cooperate in the study.
Of course, this is a complete waste of money. We know the demand for additional Potomac River crossings exists. It was amply demonstrated in the American Legion Bridge study I presented to you here in exhaustive detail months ago.
VDOT boss Sean Connaughton and Governor Bob McDonnell support a new crossing, and have taken substantive steps toward that goal. Maryland is in the grip of an anti-highway legislative majority in Annapolis and Rockville. But economic and congestion reality make their begrudging cooperation inevitable. Lack of direct access to Dulles Airport, and timewasting commutes, cost Montgomery County jobs every day the status quo persists.
Foolish decisions in the past canceled many bridges, including the Rockville Freeway-Fairfax County Parkway bridge at Riverbend Park, the I-266 bridge into Georgetown, the Arizona Avenue bridge, and two Outer Beltway bridges.
Have an arterial blockage like that in a human, and you would require immediate surgery. But in this case, politicians are willing to let you and Montgomery County's economy suffer.
Stop the studies. That money could be better spent on the hungry and homeless.
Start building the highways! We know they're needed. Instead of having a theatrical BRT/gas tax summit in Annapolis, we should have a real crossjurisdictional summit on solutions that actually work: highways and bridges.
Gov. McDonnell is a key player in forcing that, but Sen. Mark Warner is the real heavy-hitter needed to get fellow Democrats on board.
Warner should extend a high-profile invitation to Gov. Martin O'Malley, and transportation officials, to join Virginia in such a series of meetings. The senator has already announced his support for a new crossing. Warner is not one who can be ignored, as he is highly respected nationally, and just happens to have deep pockets and 2016 aspirations. Getting the Outer Beltway done would improve Warner's and O'Malley's presidential resumés. It's hard to argue against jobs and the tax revenue they generate.
The sun rises every day. 2+2=4. And yes, Virginia, we need an Outer Beltway.
No study necessary.