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

The newly-formed Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation may have a chance of actually accomplishing something after all. Its chair, Bob Buchanan, has already bucked the County's political machine, which has failed to attract a single major corporation to Montgomery in over a decade. Speaking to the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board on December 9, Buchanan strongly urged them to open dialogue with Maryland on a new Potomac River crossing west of the congested American Legion 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?


Anonymous said...

abundant moribundity!

Anonymous said...

Why is the second study "fake... with fake numbers"? Simply because you don't like what it says?

And why do you oppose widening the Beltway leading to the American Legion Bridge? That's a much more direct route for most commutes and airport trips.

Anonymous said...

I bet these new lanes and highways will solve all our problems!

Anonymous said...

So where would this crossing be? If VA route 28 is extended north it would cross right into the MC Agricultural reserve. Further downriver would deliver the road into the heart of Potomac; I'm sure residents will fight destroying multi-million dollar mansions for a highway. Further down is all parkland. So shall we destroy land set aside in perpetuity for future generations so we can pave our way to temporary traffic relief? Should we consider one solution used in LA, double decking on parts of the beltway? Express lanes, much like on the Wilson bridge, say, from 270 to the Dulles access road with no intervening exits above the current roadway.

Anonymous said...

Glad others are joining Robert in discussing this issue.
We're going to be at total gridlock on the Legion bridge corridor very soon.
I wish our elected officials would pay some attention.

Anonymous said...

The same situation as that in Potomac, applies on the Virginia side of the river, in the entire area between the river and Route 7.

Anonymous said...

Extend the Purple Line to McLean.

And right over Dyer's and Dan Snyder's houses.

Anonymous said...

Thanks County Executive Ike Leggett for creating this independent economic development group!

Robert Dyer said...

6:59: Do you seriously believe that traffic patterns between Maryland and the Dulles area changed as drastically as the 2015 study claims in only 3 years? The MWCOG is hardly pro-highway; the effort now led by Layne in VA is highly-political and ideological, as is his I-66 plan. When an anti-highway body like MWCOG acknowledges need is there for new bridge, that's far more credible than a study with results that don't match what commuters are actually dealing with on the Beltway and I-270 each day.

I don't oppose extending the Express Lanes. But that project alone won't solve the problem, nor the Dulles access issue.

Robert Dyer said...

7:28: Narrow portions of that "parkland" were "set aside in perpetuity" as highway facilities. That's how they were set aside to begin with. Even Little Falls Stream Valley Park was created originally as a highway facility. The right-of-way is available for the highway all the way from I-270 to Potomac. I wouldn't oppose double-decking, but my guess is our current elected officials would.

Anonymous said...

There was a meeting two weeks ago with the VA and MD governors (or maybe Hogan sent a deputy) and Bowser from DC. It was where the VA governor gave details on the $50mln to Dulles Airport. Anyway, he said VA is ready to improve the Am Legion Bridge, but they need MD to act. VA added lanes leading up to it (express lanes) but now it bottlenecks near 193 since the MD side is only 4 lanes.

The bridge has been this wide for the past 20 years at least. Something desperately needs to be done.

Robert: How would the new crossing work? I guess it would extend 28 in VA, then up by Gaithersburg where 370 is? Or something else? I'm having trouble visualizing it, but a 370 connection seems logical as that provides ICC access also. It would be a great bypass around DC and close-in MoCo and VA.

Anonymous said...

So like Westbard, if the folks living there don't want it, it will still get pushed through anyway, and Dyer will complain against it? Wait what? He's so confusing how he flip flops. Which is he for again? Development? No development? People's desires? Developer's desires? Huh.

Anonymous said...

Don't studies show that more roads lead to more traffic?

And per opinions that MoCo is a bedroom community, wouldn't adding more roads make that moreso the case?

And isn't VA traffic worse?

So what's the reasons for again?

Anonymous said...

I'm not for or against another crossing by any means. Can you help me understand better. What would the bridge do exactly? What are the pros and cons? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

And once again Dyer throws up wild opinions and doesn't stick around to back them up.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Mr Dyer, can you help explain how a crossing would impact Montgomery County and provide some data and examples implying success? And what qualifies success?