The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which finances hundreds of millions of dollars in construction projects each year, has unveiled its priorities for the next quarter century—including a spot for a new bridge over the Potomac River in Loudoun.
TransAction, a list of projects the authority would like to see get done, is not attached to any funding or political reality. However, projects need to be listed in that long-term plan before they can be added to the authority’s six-year plan, which does include funding. That long-term wish list is now open for public comment.
Before TransAction was released last week, NVTA staff members had already revealed that there would be plans for two new Potomac River bridges in it. Now there are details: One, the Outer Potomac River Crossing, would connect Rt. 28 in Loudoun to I-270 in Maryland. The other, the East Potomac River Crossing, would connect I-95 to US-301 in Maryland.
Todd Pearson, vice chairman of Loudoun’s Economic Development Advisory Commission, said there’s not yet a need to identify a particular location for a new bridge.
“Right now the task is getting political support on both sides of the river to agree a new bridge crossing is absolutely critical for our region,” Pearson said. “Once we have this support our elected officials can identify the best and most beneficial location for a crossing by working with consultants, staff, and their constituents.”
Del. J. Randall Minchew (R-10), who serves on the authority, said the Rt. 28 crossing makes more sense than other spots for a lot of reasons: there are fewer homes in the way, less distance to the Potomac—and it opens up the possibility of a new interstate.
“People don’t know it, but Rt. 28 is already built to Eisenhower interstate standards between Interstate 66 and Rt. 7,” Minchew said. “So if we’re ever looking at the possibility of taking advantage of some federal interstate highway monies, you can only get interstate highway monies for construction if you connect two parts of the interstate system.”
The proposed bridge would create a connection along Rt. 28 from I-66 in Virginia to I-270 in Maryland.
While Virginia’s elected leaders have been supportive of a new crossing; Maryland’s elected leaders have been near unanimous in their opposition. The Loudoun Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution reaffirming its support for a new crossing between Leesburg and the American Legion Bridge, which would encompass a Rt. 28 crossing.
Minchew said a new Potomac River crossing is the most important thing the region can do for congestion relief—including taking pressure off of Rt. 15—and would be a boon to the economy.
“Virginians will be able to have jobs in the wonderful biotechnology jobs up in Maryland. Marylanders can be part of our great information technology job base here in Virginia,” Minchew said. “Guys like you and me can actually go to BWI (Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport) to grab those cheap flights. Marylanders can come down to Dulles to take flights to Paris and Moscow.”
Minchew said he’s heard Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne has had “productive” back-channel discussions with his counterparts in Maryland.
In total, TransAction lays out more than 300 projects across Northern Virginia. In Loudoun, many road widenings made the list, including the Leesburg Bypass, East Market Street, and Loudoun County Parkway. It also proposes more pedestrian and bike trails, a grade-separated interchange at the Leesburg Bypass and Battlefield Parkway, more east-west connectors, and a new link between Battlefield Parkway and Crosstrail Boulevard.
The full, 191-page draft is available for public comment at thenovaauthority.org. The authority’s first six-year funding plan, which will attach dollar figures to that wish list, will come out after TransAction is finalized.
This article was updated June 16, 2017 at 2:08 p.m. to correct an error about Todd Pearson’s title.