This week, we’ve been focused on the political divide facing the county. As the dust settles on the election, there appears to be new interest in addressing a long-standing regional divide—one called the Potomac River.
It has been decades since Loudoun’s local government leaders have seriously discussed the merits of building an additional river crossing. It was a hot topic—regionally and locally—in the early ’90s, but eventually it was shelved because of concerns it would spur development. Most recently, state transportation authorities last year conducted an assessment that concluded that regional commuters would be better served by adding more lanes—toll lanes—to the American Legion Bridge.
Transportation planners in the 1960s had more vision. That’s when a river crossing east of Point of Rocks was first penciled in on regional maps. Although other elements of those plans largely came to fruition, the new bridge was forgotten or erased.
The development came—and so did long backups on the roads leading to the existing crossings—on Rt. 15, which is ill-equipped to handle such volumes of interstate traffic, and the rush-hour parking lot called the Capital Beltway.
It is in Loudoun’s and the region’s interest to take a new look at the project. It is not just the potential for economic opportunities and a boost to Dulles Airport that should be a focus of the study, although they are powerful incentives. An additional bridge is needed to allow residents to get from here to there; that’s what transportation planning is supposed to be about.