VDOT recently released a study of traffic on existing Potomac River crossings that did briefly mention a new bridge remaining a long-term option. But the study "results" strongly favored another option, the extension of HOT lanes along I-495 over the American Legion Bridge onto Maryland's stretch of the Capital Beltway. That's certainly a positive and common sense option that should indeed go forward, particularly to give Beltway drivers willing to pay the toll a faster route.
But HOT lanes on the existing bridge won't give Montgomery County the economic benefit of a more direct route to Dulles Airport, the preferred flight option of firms who do business internationally. Conversely, they won't help boost economic development in the Dulles area, either. And they won't solve the reality that about 25% of Legion bridge traffic is traveling to, or from, the Dulles area.
That latter figure, from a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments study, mysteriously appears nowhere in the report. Other figures that are in the report are questionable, such as the maximum speed claims for rush hour traffic in the area of the bridge on the Beltway. As bad as they sound, they're too fast for Legion bridge commuters to believe.
|22.5 MPH speed crossing|
from Tysons to Bethesda
during evening rush?
Traffic isn't moving
that fast in real life
Moreover, VDOT's downplaying of a new crossing is out of step with their own elected leaders, and the change in leadership on our side of the river. Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently endorsed a new Potomac River bridge at a conference called Dulles Matters. U.S. Senator Mark Warner favors a new bridge, as well.
Maryland has a new governor, too. But Virginia's transportation secretary apparently hasn't heard yet. In his usual dismissal of a new Potomac River crossing, the Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock quotes him as follows:
That's complete baloney. Gov. Larry Hogan has never publicly stated he's not interested in any additional river crossings. That was the previous, Martin O'Malley administration that stonewalled any attempt to discuss the matter by Virginia officials.
By all means, go ahead and extend the HOT lanes. But this is also the time to finally begin a legitimate dialogue on a new bridge between the two states, while common-sense governors who understand highways are the major transportation method of the majority of commuters, and will remain so in the future.