RELEASE: Another Potomac River Bridge Study?

Coalition for Smarter Growth, Piedmont Environmental Council Sierra Club – Virginia Chapter

FEBRUARY 6, 2014

Contact: Stewart Schwartz, CSG, 703-599-6437 (C)
Chris Miller, PEC, 540-347-2334

Another Potomac River Bridge Study?
Proposed Legislation Could Inject a Hot Potato into Congressional Race

Proposed legislation by Delegates Tom Rust and Randy Minchew threatens to throw a hot potato into the middle of the pending race to succeed Congressman Frank Wolf, igniting a repeat of the neighborhood outcry that followed past bridge proposals. Citing an in-house study quietly initiated by the former Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, the bill (HB1244) would effectively endorse continuation of the Connaughton study and encourage VDOT to recommend a location or locations for new bridges, if needed.

The bill is currently before the House Appropriations Committee which could hear it Friday, February 7th.

The patrons are proposing that the state spend additional staff resources on the study even though the State of Maryland has reiterated its opposition to new bridge crossings in an October 2012 letter to former Secretary Connaughton. Moreover, in 2012, the House Rules committee rejected a similar bill, HJ131, after having confirmed that the State of Maryland remained strongly opposed to new Potomac River bridge crossings.

“Back in 2000 and 2001, after Congressman Wolf funded a federal study of new bridge crossings, the proposed alignments were found to have significant community impacts and generated a firestorm of community opposition,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Congressman Wolf had the study discontinued, noting that because of existing land uses a new bridge and connecting highways could not be built without significant impact on neighborhoods in the path.

A subsequent “Origin/Destination Study” study in 2003-2004 by VDOT tracked every license plate crossing the American Legion Bridge and those entering and exiting the Beltway from every entrance/exit between Route 50 in Virginia to Georgia Avenue in Maryland. The results showed that very few vehicles were making the so-called “U-shaped” commute from Reston and beyond to the Rockville/Gaithersburg area and vice versa. The vast majority of commutes needed to use the American Legion Bridge and Beltway or were making strictly radial (in-out) trips.

“Based on past studies, we are convinced that these bridges would waste scarce transportation dollars, have no effect on congestion on the Beltway and other major highways, harm water quality and the historic C&O Canal and open up the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve and other rural land to development,” said Douglas Stewart, Transportation Chair for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “This region has made a strong commitment to transit and transit-oriented development including investment in the Silver Line and Tysons Corner. Outer Beltways undercut that investment, diverting private development to areas that are far removed from infrastructure and amenities, generating significant new traffic,” said Chris Miller, President of the Piedmont Environmental Council.

In their letter the State of Maryland makes clear that they to not intend to “revisit the years of debate over new crossings of the Potomac River” and instead want to focus on potential improvements to existing crossings including the American Legion Bridge, the Route 301 Henry Nice Bridge and transit on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Since 2012, Fairfax County and Montgomery County elected officials and staffs have been discussing how to improve transit in the American Legion Bridge corridor.

“We believe the proposed studies are unnecessary, wasteful and a diversion of time and attention from fixing the American Legion Bridge corridor and other key commuter corridors with multimodal solutions,” said Schwartz. “The region should continue its focus on implementing key transit projects like the Silver Line, Purple Line, Montgomery County Rapid Transit Network, streetcars and mixed-use transit-oriented development. The benefits will be significant in terms of maximizing transit, walking, biking and carpooling and reducing the number and length of vehicle trips region-wide.”

About the Coalition for Smarter Growth

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies needed to make those communities flourish. To learn more, visit the Coalition’s website at



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