Thursday, December 17, 2015
Head of MoCo Economic Development Corp. backs new Potomac River crossing
Buchanan says MoCo
businesses are "solidly
behind" a new bridge
Buchanan, a Montgomery County resident, has long been an advocate for completing this missing piece of our region's transportation infrastructure. But he told the CTB that Montgomery's business community is squarely behind a new bridge, as well. It is refreshing that Buchanan was willing to openly divert from the party line of the County Council, which has strongly condemned even talking about the needed bridge, much less building it. A truly independent MCEDC, able to talk sense as Buchanan did, will be in a position to address the factors which have crippled our County's economic growth since the turn of the century. (County Council term limits wouldn't hurt, either)
Calling for greater regional cooperation, a theme stressed at recent business events in Tysons and in MoCo's newly-branded Pike District, Buchanan asked the CTB to "open negotiations with Maryland regarding another river crossing." A new river crossing "will be a game changer," Buchanan predicted, citing our current "broken transportation system."
Our congested roads have not only scared away businesses, but raised costs for those already here. They even made your online holiday shopping more expensive, with shipping rates calculated using congestion and travel delay data. Equally troubling: the lack of a direct highway connection between Montgomery County and Dulles Airport has been a deal breaker for international firms considering moving here. All of this, along with MoCo's tax and regulation scheme, have led to a moribund County economy.
"The business community - I speak for Montgomery - is solidly behind another river crossing to alleviate the congestion," Buchanan told the CTB. He recalled that a survey of local businesses found the number one project universally responded to was a new bridge connecting Montgomery with Northern Virginia. Buchanan said businesspeople told him that they are afraid to be too vocal about their support for the bridge because "the politics are so great" on the issue. "Let's not let politics stop what we know needs to be done," Buchanan said.
This is truly a sea change from the usual boilerplate of our County government. It's clear the tide is slowly beginning to turn. No councilmember has stated support for a new bridge, and the long-delayed M-83 Highway has been tabled again. But councilmembers who were claiming Bus Rapid Transit was the solution for the American Legion Bridge just a few years ago, are now advocating extending Virginia's Express Lanes into Maryland. Instead of the bus-and-carpool-only lanes they promoted in 2012, they're now endorsing toll lanes that solo drivers could use.
That change comes at a time when Virginia's transportation secretary has thrown out a 2012 Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments study which showed around 25% of traffic on the Legion Bridge to be headed to, or from, the Dulles area. Replacing it, is a fake study with totally different numbers, that claims a fake average speed on the Inner Loop crossing the bridge during evening rush, and cooks the books to make it seem no one is going to or from Dulles.
Fortunately, heavier political weights like Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Mark Warner are solidly behind a new Potomac crossing. Now is the time to address this critical transportation project, while Maryland also has a governor who wants to improve highway capacity, and now has a bridge advocate such as Buchanan in a position of power in the County.
As Buchanan advised the CTB, "We should never be afraid of talking."
The CTB later approved a resolution directing Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne to initiate discussions with Maryland on existing and potential new river crossings, including a new bridge west of the Legion crossing, and a replacement Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge in Southern Maryland.
Our phone is ringing. Will our leaders finally answer?