Connaughton’s Study is Part of Push for New Potomac Bridges

Joint release by


For Immediate Release:
November 20, 2012
Stewart Schwartz, CSG, 703-599-6437 (c)
Caroline Taylor, MCA, 301-461-9831

Connaughton’s Study is Part of Push for New Potomac Bridges
A Wasteful Idea at Odds with Goals of DC Region
State of Maryland, DC and Most Local Officials Agree that Real Needs are Congestion Management and Transit Solutions at the American Legion and DC Bridges

Today, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Connaughton issued a press release announcing a study of traffic across the Potomac. While seemingly an innocuous study, the Secretary’s intention — based on the news last spring that Governor McDonnell and Secretary Connaughton had been pressing Governor O’Malley and his staff on new Potomac River Bridges — is certainly to pursue new upriver bridges.

“We know that Secretary Connaughton is intent on pursuing new bridges, not only based upon his push in March but by his continued and recent pressure on the State of Maryland,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “He pressed Maryland to such an extent that it prompted a letter from the Maryland Secretary of Transportation containing the strongest and most definitive statement by the State of Maryland that they do not support new Potomac River bridge crossings and that they seek only to address transportation solutions at existing crossings.”

The D.C. Department of Transportation position mirrors that of MDOT, and recently, the leaders of Fairfax and Montgomery Counties met to focus on investment in transit at the American Legion Bridge to tie together the concentrations of jobs in Tysons Corner and North Bethesda/White Flint, linking the Silver Line and the Red Line.

“Secretary Connaughton has been relentless in pursuit of the wasteful Outer Beltway and associated bridge crossings, while ignoring Northern Virginia’s transit needs and the need to focus on fixing major commuter routes like I-66,” said Roger Diedrich, Transportation Chair for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club.

“Virginia’s blind pursuit is fiscal foolishness given that this issue has been studied and roundly rejected,” said Caroline Taylor, Executive Director of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance. ” The 2001 study initiated by Congressman Wolf showed any route for the new bridges and highways would cause huge damage to communities on both sides of the river, in Potomac, Great Falls, McLean, eastern Loudoun and the Agricultural Reserve.”

“The majority of traffic that has been projected for this bridge in previous studies is induced traffic – new traffic generated by the bridge itself. The increase in traffic on Route 7, and the damage to eastern Loudoun neighborhoods would be catastrophic,” said Barbara Wayne, a resident of eastern Loudoun. “We need investment in our east-west commuter routes, better and safer local street networks and transit connections. This new north-south highway would bring more long distance traffic into Loudoun and put additional strain on our roads and county services, raising our taxes and reducing our home values.”

After Congressman Wolf rejected the bridge idea, VDOT continued to seek justification for a new bridge through their 2004 VDOT “origin-destination” study. Yet this study, which tracked every vehicle crossing the American Legion Bridge during the morning rush, indicated that the vast majority of traffic needed a direct fix on the Beltway and American Legion Bridge and along radial corridors like I-270. Very few peak commuters were making the so-called “U-shaped commute” from Gaithersburg or Herndon/Dulles that might use an upstream bridge.

Secretary Connaughton nevertheless claimedlast March: “Imagine if you can get one out of every eight to nine cars off the [Beltway]. There’s not another improvement we can make with that sort of impact on traffic.” (Washington Examiner, March 29) “Now that’s hyperbole that we’ve heard before, when proponents promised that the $3 billion Intercounty Connector would relieve traffic on the Beltway,” said Schwartz. “Today the Beltway is as crowded as ever, and traffic demand on the ICC is so anemic they are spending scarce resources on advertising to get people to please use the highway.”

“It is very odd that Virginia officials keep pressing for new bridges upriver for that would divert scarce public dollars away from urgent needs like fixing existing roads, highways and transit. Maryland has consistently pointed out, as they do in their recent letter, that they have much more urgent needs, and this isn’t one,” said Dru Schmidt-Perkins of 1000 Friends of Maryland.

In a Fairfax Times article dated May 29, 2001, “[Congressman] Wolf said communities in northern Fairfax and Loudoun counties and those in southern Montgomery County, Md.,–particularly on the proposed bridge corridors–were simply too densely packed with homes.” He also said, “Moving the route further west put the bridge into Maryland’s agricultural preserve and too far out to make a difference for commuters.”

Chairman York of Loudoun County recently stated: “Somebody tell me which neighborhood in Loudoun you want to take out to put the bridge in,” noting that any river crossing option would pass near one existing community or another.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth and its partner groups will be tracking the VDOT study to ensure that it focuses on the real needs — better traffic management and transit for existing crossings like the American Legion Bridge.


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