New Potomac River Bridge Back on the Table?

Loudoun supervisors are putting plans for a new Potomac River crossing between Leesburg and the American Legion Bridge back on the county’s legislative priority list.

It’s an idea that has waxed and waned over the years, but it’s getting renewed attention in the business community. The county’s Economic Development Advisory Committee hosted a panel discussion Friday with developer Bob Buchanan, Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance CEO David Birtwistle, and Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance Vice Chairman Richard Parsons exploring the topic.

Those panelists had enough sharp criticism of governments in the DC metro area to go around.

“There seems to be a real disconnect between the decision makers in Congress and their care for their employees in the federal agencies around here,” Birtwistle said. He said the region also suffers from a loss in seniority in Congress.

“There needs to be something more than the (Metropolitan Washington) Council of Governments thinking about this,” Parsons said. “They don’t think top-down, they don’t think regionally.” He said COG is ruled by parochial interests and unable to form a truly regional transportation plan.

He said that in his surveys residents on both sides of the river overwhelmingly support a new bridge.

“The people who show up at the public hearing are not representative of the public, and a lot of local officials don’t really get that because they’re not very sophisticated in politics,” Parsons said.

Panel members said it would take pressure from businesses to make a new bridge happen. Buchanan gave the example of hotel giant Marriott, which won multi-million-dollar incentive packages from the Montgomery County and Maryland’s state governments when it was looking for new headquarters and threatened to leave the state entirely.

“The Marriotts have got to step up and say, ‘the bridge continues to be one of the biggest aggravations we have’… They moved here because of the workforce, they moved here because of the proximity to the federal government, and they’ve got to start acting like corporate citizens,” Buchanan said.

After the panel, Parsons said any realistic prospect for a bridge also includes a toll to cover the costs.

“There’s so much demand for that crossing that the revenues it would produce from even a modest toll would more than pay for the facility,” Parsons said. “So this isn’t a question of this taking away money from other projects. It’s actually a potential future funding source.”

But while Virginia’s government—including the Loudoun and Fairfax boards of supervisors and Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration—support a new crossing, Maryland leadership isn’t so sure. McAuliffe and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan have debated in the past which state should pay for the bridge, and Hogan and the Maryland Department of Transportation have said they are focusing on improving the existing bridges across the Potomac.

From the Virginia perspective, the most likely spots for a new bridge cross into Montgomery County, MD. Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen said the American Legion Bridge that carries I-495 across the river needs to be expanded. However, she doesn’t see the demand for a bridge that some in the business community claim to see.

“I’m one of the few people who believes that we should construct more roads, but at the end of the day, I don’t see a bridge over the Potomac as gathering any political traction,” Floreen said. She said that aside from a few business leaders, “I have not been approached by hordes of people from up the county saying ‘build that bridge.’”

Floreen pointed out that the official position of the Montgomery County Council has long been that any bridge construction work should be in Point of Rocks, MD—the site of Rt. 15’s bridge. She said the council hasn’t had a discussion on a new crossing in years. In fact, she said, Maryland might even stand to lose from a new bridge.

“Frankly, from my perspective, it would create a big sucking sound in terms of jobs in Northern Virginia,” Floreen said. “It would get people from that part of Maryland.”

Loudoun Economic Development Advisory Committee Chairwoman Sharon Virts said the panel plans to assemble an ad hoc committee to look at next steps to plan and lead initiatives for a new bridge crossing. But Virginia ends on the Potomac’s southern shore—and so far, so might any hope for a new bridge.

rgreene@loudounnow.com
@RenssGreene

7 thoughts on “New Potomac River Bridge Back on the Table?

  • 2016-11-11 at 1:46 pm
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    Mpolkey – while Mr. Reid has had 3 speeding tickets in the past 10 years (public records), he has none in over 3 years and has never had a DWI nor any criminal record and I am proud that he will be assuming responsibility for the oversight of my Town in a local government that I know firsthand is corrupt through a couple of members. He possibly supported the victor in the Presidential Election, Mr. Trump, a man that hopefully, I reiterate hopefully, will be a positive impact on my Town, County, State and Country, if the likes of you and others will give him a fair shake and allow him to govern the way that I did Obama for the previous 8 years. BTW, public records on the online general district court case files indicate you’ve had some previous issues of your own (a dog too?).

  • 2016-11-11 at 10:47 am
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    If a bridge were built, it would greatly enhance the biotech industry for NOVA and the Rockville, MD area. The notion that the exurbs will remain rural for the next 100 years even as the population expands is ridiculous. You are denying property owners their full asset values (from selling at higher prices) and denying opportunities for more high-tech jobs.

    I wonder if the folks who lived on the other side of Wall St back in the day held these same anachronistic views. I’m sure some of you believe it was a shame to ever allow development of “rural” midtown.

  • 2016-11-10 at 7:28 pm
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    Ken, if you attempt another fact- and data-free effort for “truck enforcement” area for Route 15, expect the same reaction, in spades, from the fact-heavy and data-heavy 400+ residents in the Lucketts area who will double down on what they did to you and Geary Higgins last time. Think pitchforks and torches.
    You have been opposed for at least a decade (funded by wacko lobbyist contributions) to any context-sensitive ACTUAL improvements that traffic engineers with ACTUAL expertise have put on the ground in Loudoun (e.g., Gilbert’s Corner roundabout), for which the subsequent statistics on congestion improvement are undeniable. You could, Trump-like (your favored Presidential candidate) claim that you never said it, but, of course, it is all on tape.
    And then there is the matter of your long, long record of speeding and reckless driving tickets. Not exactly an advertisement for a reasoned voice. Then there is that matter of your refusal of Congressman Frank Wolf’s invitation to learn actual facts about road design, safety, and congestion reduction at the Fairbank-Turner Highway Research Center in McLean years ago. Have you bothered to learn ANYTHING about this subject since then?

    Former Catoctin Supervisor Sally Kurtz forwarded the bus to the Point of Rocks Train station (so don’t try to claim credit, Ken). Maryland is pretty much decades ahead of Virginia when it comes to multimodal transportation.

    But, efforts are afoot to drag Maryland backward. The development industry (Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, and their new clone, the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance) wants it, but they want citizens to pay for it, so as to not cut into their profits.

    Ken, we’ll be examining your campaign contributors.

  • 2016-11-10 at 12:21 pm
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    I see we are back to the same ol’ Ken Reid. He spent four years on the Board of Supervisors, and only now does he have an idea of a bus service into Maryland. And, of course, Ken Reid is VERY concerned for everyone, but those who live in Leesburg. Maybe we need something from Ken Reid that he is unable to deliver. Actually doing his job, when he is suppose to, and not keep passing the buck to someone else.

  • 2016-11-10 at 11:50 am
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    Loudoun County’s legislative agenda, “(NEW) New River Crossing – Support actions
    for the creation of a new river crossing over the Potomac River between the American Legion
    Bridge and no points further west than the powerline east of the Town of Leesburg.” And, i mentioned this at the meeting. However, Montgomery County is just opposed to it, and its not likely to happen there any time soon. So, I believe working with Frederick County , MD, might be more fruitful, though that’s not what the Board of Supervisors approved. Might not hurt to talk to them, at least about truck enforcement and having a bus from Leesburg to the MARC station, which may get some cars off the road and help our county and town employees who live in Maryland.

  • 2016-11-10 at 10:56 am
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    Another great photo by Mr. Graham.

    MD will never agree to a bridge. Just take the ferry across from Leesburg and you will know why. That side of the river is bucolic and that is the way they like it. I believe it is designated an agricultural zone. They don’t want it developed and they took steps to make sure that doesn’t happen. A bridge would destroy that serenity and development would be explosive, which is why the developers want it. It isn’t Maryland’s fault that Virginia can’t manage growth.

    How about more ferries instead? They don’t move nearly as many people so you might get MD to agree to something.

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