Appropriately, it appears it will be a collection of regional leaders who will revive the discussion about the future need for an additional Potomac River bridge crossing.
It has been nearly three decades since the topic was given serious attention, with the political divides at that time proving too broad to cross. More recently, a Virginia Department of Transportation study dismissed the need for a crossing, while instead offering up plans for yet another set of toll booths to siphon money from the weary commuters being funneled over the American Legion Bridge. That approach—sadly one all too typical in Richmond in recent years—would likely work out well for some foreign-based infrastructure investment company, but it’s not the long-term solution the region needs.
Getting the concept of a new river crossing into Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s TransAction long-term transportation plan is an important step. Regional planners starting in the 1960s recognized the need. In later years, political weakness and growth debates eroded that sound transit strategy. With clear direction from regional leaders supporting the concept, planners in Loudoun and Fairfax counties can begin to take a new look at those options.
Those around the table now as part of the Envision Loudoun comprehensive plan update effort also should have this project on their to-do list in some form. They’re looking at what Loudoun can look like 20 years from now. In that timeframe, there may not yet be another bridge between Point of Rocks and Cabin John, but that future generation of residents and business owners would be well served by plans that establish a firm foundation on which to build one when the need is critical and the money is available.
The most important element of the long-running battle on the river crossing is that it will not be today’s governmental leaders who will build the bridge. It won’t be today’s residents or businesses that will be asked to pay for it. Their only role is to preserve the opportunity. That’s how good planning works.