- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2000

The sponsor of a $2 million federal study of another Potomac River crossing intends for the span to connect Maryland's bio-tech corridor and Virginia's high-tech corridor, over the objections of Montgomery County, Md., officials.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, has asked the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to conduct a study of building a bridge between the Gaithersburg and Rockville areas in Maryland and the Reston/Herndon areas in Virginia.
"This study, that [Montgomery County is] not paying for, is to look at connecting the two population centers," Mr. Wolf told The Washington Times recently. "That's where the jobs are, that's where the people are. They can't hijack this study, because it's done in a fair and objective way."
He said a crossing connecting the two points, known as the Techway Bridge, would enhance the quality of life of residents who now have to make a two-hour, 30-mile trip around a horseshoe-like loop to get to either side.
But officials in Montgomery County say any bridge in that area would jeopardize land preserves and disturb now-peaceful neighborhoods.
"I'm opposed to it," said Howard Denis, a Republican who represents the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area on the Montgomery County Council. "It's contrary to about 40 or 50 years' worth of land-use policy. We didn't ask for this study."
David Weaver, a spokesman for Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, said Mr. Duncan supports the study but not a bridge.
"He believes that such a study will show that a crossing into Montgomery County will not be feasible," Mr. Weaver said. "He's not afraid of the facts."
Patrick Lacefield, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Council, said the entire council stands behind a letter sent in October to U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater expressing its opposition to a crossing.
Montgomery County officials and Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening previously have said they would prefer a study to look at another crossing at Point of Rocks in Frederick County, which would connect with U.S. 15 in Loudoun County.
Mr. Wolf whose district includes Loudoun County ruled that out, saying it wouldn't make sense to build a bridge that was a 39-mile drive from the Gaithersburg-Rockville area.
"Nobody's going to cross" a bridge so far up the river, Mr. Wolf said.
Mr. Glendening's spokesman, Mike Morrill, said the governor is open to the study as long as it follows criteria in keeping with the state's "Smart Growth" initiatives, including consideration of local land-use laws.
Mr. Morrill and others have said that it will be up to the FHA to determine the best possible place for a bridge.
Mr. Wolf acknowledged that was true, but he said the agency has been instructed to look at the best way to connect the heavily populated areas.
"They can't take liberty with the study," Mr. Wolf said.
If built, the bridge would provide a fourth crossing at the outer reaches of the Washington metropolitan area. A similar crossing already exists to the east on Route 301 between southern Maryland and Dahlgren, Va.
Mr. Denis said excluding Point of Rocks as an alternative would negate the value of the study.
"I don't think the study would mean much if it didn't include all options," Mr. Denis said.

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