Loudoun leaders are again looking for a way to get another bridge across the Potomac River, but it turns out the group holding the purse strings on regional transportation funding may already be one step ahead.
In 2013, the General Assembly passed a bill that established a steady stream of transportation funding for Northern Virginia. The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority controls 70 percent of that money. In fiscal year 2017, the authority allocated $466 million of funding for transportation projects, including $20 million for the interchange at Rt. 7 and Battlefield Parkway in Leesburg.
To fund a project, the authority must first list it in TransAction, its long-range plan for the region. The authority is working up an update to TransAction. Supervisor Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said he was chairing an NVTA committee meeting on TransAction last week.
“I asked this question at the committee meeting, if there’s going to be a river crossing in TransAction,” Buona said. “And the answer kind of floored me. The answer was two.”
But supervisors have also hastened to point out that TransAction is a wish list that doesn’t take into account funding limitations—or political realities. Maryland and Montgomery County have long opposed the idea of a new river crossing, and no bridge is possible without Maryland’s cooperation.
Nonetheless, an ad-hoc committee of Loudoun’s Economic Development Advisory Commission is taking another run at getting a new bridge, preparing a position paper to be ready in July. That report will likely include a survey of the many studies on the possibility and benefits of a new bridge that have already been done.
Lately, those efforts have focused on getting Maryland’s business leaders on board to pressure Maryland government. Economic Development Advisory Commission Chairwoman Sharon Virts said the bridge committee was looking into three major areas: the possible impact on traffic, the national security implications, and “economic development on both sides of the river, and engaging the business community on the other side in terms of how this second crossing would impact them as positively as it impacts Loudoun and Fairfax.”
The draft update of TransAction will be publicly released June 8, and is scheduled to be adopted in the fall. Those projects will then flow into the authority’s new six-year improvement plan, which will consider funding constraints.
Loudoun is represented on the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority by Del. J. Randall Minchew (R-10), state Sen. Richard H. Black (R-13), Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk, and County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), who serves as vice chairwoman of the authority. The NVTA’s Planning Coordination Advisory Committee, which provides recommendations on the TransAction update, is chaired by Buona and counts among its members Leesburg Town Council member Ken Reid and Purcellville Town Council member Karen Jimmerson.
This article was updated on May 12, 2017 at 12:42 p.m. to correct an error regarding the role of the Planning Coordination Advisory Committee.