Chamber Insider Blog

Bridge to Prosperity

Without a new bridge across the Potomac River, the economy in Loudoun will hit a growth ceiling. Loudoun businesses need access to other points of DC and Maryland for employees and customers alike. 

Post written by Nancy Hiteshue, Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance

The National Capital Transportation Planning Board (TPB), comprised of elected officials from each of the region’s local jurisdictions, is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the Washington, DC region.  The TPB is tasked with coordinating regional transportation plans. 

Despite this designation the TPB has failed to produce plans that rise to the level of regionally significant, instead deferring to local jurisdiction’s wish lists.  Plans put forward by the TPB have failed to prioritize.

The TPB recently established a “Long Range Plan Task Force” charged with identifying unfunded projects of greatest regional significance. Thus far, the group has produced a list of approximately 500 unfunded highway, transit, and bike/pedestrian projects by including every project from local, regional and state plans. 

The Task Force has also developed a draft map of the Regionally Significant Transportation Network comprised of planned or existing commuter rail, fixed guideway transit systems (i.e. Metrorail, Streetcar and Light Rail), WMATA’s Priority Corridor Network (PCN), interstate highways and roadways on the National Highway System, and roadways on TPB’s Regional Freight-Significant Network. 

A quick look at this draft map shows an obvious deficiency in our regional network…..the lack of any planned connectivity along the 35 mile gap from the Route 15 bridge and the American Legion Bridge between Maryland’s Montgomery County (1,020,000 residents) and Virginia’s Fairfax (1,160,000 residents) and Loudoun (368,000 residents) Counties.

This wasn’t always the case.  Fifty years ago the TPB’s regional map showed two new bridges within this 35 mile gap. Today it shows none and none have even been discussed by the TPB for decades for lack of political will.

Regional transportation planners then and now recognize the need for one or more bridges in this gap.  One new Northern Potomac River Crossing would carry more than 100,000 vehicles a day, bring significant relief to the American Legion Bridge and Capital Beltway, and reduce trip length and travel time between two of the region’s more important economic corridors, Dulles and I-270.  A new bridge would also provide a major suburb-to-suburb transit connection and be a significant homeland security resource. 

The region’s residents on both sides of the Potomac overwhelmingly support such a solution, as seen in the results of the 2015 Greater Washington Transportation Survey

If the TPB and our region’s elected officials truly want to develop a long range transportation plan that advances projects of greatest regional significance, then it is time for them stand with experts and the people and restore a new Northern Potomac River Crossing to the plan, resolving the region’s single greatest regional transportation deficiency.

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Photo credit: National Parks Services Website

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