As county supervisors gathered to hash out the county’s transportation questions, one thing was clear: they feel it’s time for a new Potomac River bridge.
Supervisors voted unanimously last week to add in the Countywide Transportation Plan a statement of the board’s support for a new Potomac River crossing. That river crossing would be east of Goose Creek and Leesburg.
Supervisors also directed the county staff to identify potential corridors for a bridge route. This year’s draft TransAction document from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority suggests connecting to Rt. 28.
Speaking at the board’s June 29 transportation summit, David Birtwistle, CEO of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, said “decades of study document a clear need” for a new bridge. He referred back to a raft of studies laying out a plan for more river crossings—back as far as 1950, before any current member of the Board of Supervisors was born. Birtwistle said it’s time now to make bridges a regional priority, and start working on finding a route and getting right-of-way.
Although the idea of a new bridge has been studied time and again—Birtwistle highlighted nine of those studies—the idea has never gained momentum, attributable in large part to resistance from Montgomery County, MD.
But Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) said, “I believe that the critical mass of support for this is there.”
Studies have shown broad support among residents on both sides of the river for a new bridge, with relatively few in opposition.
“Looking at some of those maps that have been drawn many, many years ago, if we’d done some of the things that are on there, our traffic situation would be a lot better,” Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) said.
And County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said she was concerned about environmental impact, but considering all the time cars spend idling in traffic now: “I have to think that the environmental impact of not having this bridge is probably far more harsh than having the bridge.”
The idea also garnered public support at the summit from Will Turner, chairman of the Economic Development Advisory Commission’s ad hoc bridge committee, and the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce.
“This takes political will, and in my view that political will has not been there for the last 40 years,” said Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), who introduced the motion to include a bridge in the Countywide Transportation Plan. “No matter where you put it, there’s going to be some people that are upset, but at the same time—I always talk about the greater good. This is the greater good on steroids. This crossing would help hundreds of thousands of people in the region, and that’s not exaggeration.”