County Council Passes Resolution Opposing Plan To Study New Potomac River Crossing

County Council Passes Resolution Opposing Plan To Study New Potomac River Crossing

Regional transportation board is scheduled to weigh whether to study the bridge Wednesday afternoon

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The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday reiterated its stance that building a new Potomac River crossing north of the American Legion Bridge would not be in the county or state’s interest.

All nine council members approved a resolution opposing a plan by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Transportation Planning Board to study a new northern bridge crossing.

Council members said the state is not interested in funding a new bridge and that building one has the potential to hurt the economic interests of Montgomery County and Baltimore-Washington International Airport, while in turn possibly providing a boost to suburban developers in northern Virginia and Dulles Airport.

“We need to focus on what we can do to improve the American Legion Bridge,” council member Marc Elrich said. “A new bridge would have to be built by Maryland, but the beneficiaries would be in Virginia.”

Advocates of the new bridge crossing have said it could help reduce congestion on southbound I-270, the Capital Beltway, and the American Legion Bridge, all of which are often clogged during morning and evening rush hours. Supporters believe it could be part of an outer Beltway—connecting Virginia Route 28 to the Intercounty Connector in Maryland.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the state would not fund the project on its own and no federal funds have been allocated for it. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has refused to offer Virginia funds to help pay for the new crossing, noting the Potomac River is in Maryland and Maryland should be responsible for building the new bridge.

“There is no money for this,” council member Sidney Katz said Tuesday. “It’s not going to happen.”

Council members previously said the bridge has the potential to damage the county’s protected agricultural reserve and connecting roads may have to slice through established neighborhoods.

The Transportation Planning Board is scheduled to vote Wednesday afternoon on whether to include the bridge study as one of 10 initiatives in its long-range transportation plan. The study would examine the feasibility and cost of building the bridge and a final report would be submitted to the regional board at the end of the year, according to the board’s agenda.

Council President Roger Berliner said even though the transportation board is only considering studying the issue, the council remains concerned that a plan for a new bridge could re-emerge after several previous attempts to gain support to build it failed over the past 30 years.

“We do not need to study this a moment longer,” Berliner said. “It distracts us from things we need to do like fix the American Legion Bridge. That’s a real solution. That’s something that can happen. This will never happen and it shouldn’t happen.”

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