ACTION ALERT: Council Legislation Opposing New Potomac River Crossing – Write NOW to the Council in Support of the Resolution

July 11, 2017, Rockville, Md.—Today, Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner introduced a resolution asking the Council to formally take a stand opposing a new Potomac River bridge crossing. The proposed project would include extending Route 28 in Virginia to the portion of the Intercounty County Connector (ICC) that is in Montgomery County.

“Urgent action is needed to dissuade the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) from supporting a study of a new Potomac River bridge,” Council President Berliner wrote in a memo to his Council colleagues. “Montgomery County has long opposed another Potomac River bridge crossing from Northern Virginia to Montgomery County because of the severe negative impacts such a project would have on our environment, our Agricultural Reserve, established residential neighborhoods and for promoting sprawl.”

His memo also stated: “Based on the unanimous vote last month by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to direct county staff to identify potential corridors for a bridge routes and to include a statement of support for a new Potomac River crossing in the county’s Countywide Transportation Plan, the idea of an additional river crossing appears to be gaining momentum. We must once again make it clear that Montgomery County opposes another Potomac River bridge crossing.”

This resolution will be acted upon on July 18, 2017, so there is still time to write the Council in support. Contact all members of the Council through this web link. This is a collaborative effort with Montgomery Countryside Alliance partners, including SCA, CSG, PEC, Darnestown, West Montgomery, North Potomac, EPIC, and Montgomery County Sierra Club.

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Montgomery County Council:

We urge you to co-sponsor the resolution before you and to vote unanimously in opposition to the upper Potomac Bridge crossing.

The proposed bridge is a destructive, ineffective and wasteful idea that has been rejected a number of times before.

A)  We highlight three of the studies:

1. Wolf Study 2001: The community outcry in 2001 over the bridge was rightfully intense. Here is an extract from the Fairfax Times article of May 29, 2001 when Congressman Wolf cancelled the study which he had initiated (see also the attached map with potential routes across Montgomery County):

The Federal Highway Administration announced late last week that it was canceling its year-long, $2 million review of the so-called Techway at the request of U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th), who said it’s creating too much heartburn among area homeowners.

“I’m not going to be at war with the people I represent, saying this is better for you,” Wolf said to a gathering of Times reporters and editors Tuesday.

Wolf said communities in northern Fairfax and Loudoun counties and those in southern Montgomery County, Maryland–particularly on the proposed bridge corridors–were simply too densely packed with homes.

Wolf presented a map with a spaghetti-like maze of proposed routes for the new bridge and parkway, all bisecting mature communities. One proposal even had the road cutting across the heart of Great Falls before crossing the river near McLean.

But the threat of taking homes has always been a factor with this project, and Wolf couldn’t say why it’s taken so long for planners and elected officials to reach this conclusion.

Moving the route further west put the bridge into Maryland’s agricultural preserve and too far out to make a difference for commuters, Wolf said.

“I asked the Federal Highway Administration what the chances were of this road being built, and they said 10 percent was an optimistic figure,” Wolf said.

2) The Wolf study was followed by a joint VDOT/Transportation Planning Board study in 2003-2004 which tracked every license plate crossing the American Legion Bridge in the morning commute showed that only a small percentage of trips were the so-called “U-Shaped commutes” that might switch to a new bridge.

3) A 2015 VDOT study looking at Virginia trip origins and destinations reconfirmed the earlier findings that only a small percentage of trips today and in 2040 are making the “U-Shaped commute” as compared to the demand on radial commuter routes and for “L-Shaped routes” for which the American Legion Bridge will remain the most critical artery.

B) Harm to Montgomery County:

While just 2 miles of highway would have to be built in Virginia to reach the mid-point of the river, 13 to 15 miles of highway would have to be built through Montgomery County neighborhoods to reach I-270 at the ICC, imposing most of the cost and impact on Montgomery and the State of Maryland.

Impacted would be

1. the WSSC water intake (at risk from upriver bridge construction, hazardous spills from trucks, and a superfund site in VA that that might be disturbed),

2. the Piedmont Sole Source Aquifer,

3. the Agricultural Reserve,

4. parks and streams, and

5. neighborhoods.

C) Priority Needs:
The real needs for transportation fixes include the American Legion Bridge, Metro, I-270 transit and HOV, Bus Rapid Transit, MARC, and local roads.

D) Land Use and Transit:
Combining new transit with transit-oriented development is the best way to ensure future reductions in the amount of driving — as a larger and larger percentage of residents live in locations where they can drive less.

E) The NVTA/SMTA/2030 Group Poll:
The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance/Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance poll, which they will pitch to you, was funded through the 2030 Group founders that include Virginia developer John “Til” Hazel, and the head of NV Homes Dwight Schar. It lacks the independence necessary to be a basis for public decision making. It leaves critical information out in its framing to survey respondents. Specifically, it ignores factors such as costs, limited funding, tradeoffs, the role of land use, and the reality of induced demand.

Thank you for your consideration of these issues. We hope that you will co-sponsor the Resolution before you and oppose the latest push for an outer beltway (bridge and highway) through Montgomery County.