A Virginia congressman yesterday announced a $2 million study on building a new toll bridge between Montgomery County, Md., and Northern Virginia to cut traffic in the region.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf said the Federal Highway Administration’s yearlong study will examine the feasibility of erecting a bridge across the Potomac River, north of the American Legion Bridge and linking the Dulles Toll Road and Interstate 270.
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.
Congress approved funds for the study as a part of the recently passed $58 billion transportation bill.
Mr. Wolf said the study would look at constructing a bridge to ease the congestion faced by commuters in the Dulles-Reston and Gaithersburg-Rockville areas.
“Area residents … know that more time spent in traffic means less time with their families,” the Virginia Republican said. “They also know we have a crisis on our hands, and, most of all, they know that more needs to be done and done now.”
The proposed span has been dubbed the “Techway Bridge” because it would link two centers of the region’s high-tech industry. Currently, area commuters must take a 30-mile, horseshoe route that can take up to two hours during rush hour.
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater, Mr. Wolf asked for the highway administration to examine:
n A toll facility to help fund the project.
n Banning heavy trucks from using the bridge.
n Use of the bridge for public transit and vehicular traffic.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan expressed concern that the study will not examine every available option for locating a new bridge.
“If [Mr. Wolf] has already decided where to go, then why do a study?” Mr. Duncan said. “It’s not a study, it’s a design.”
Mr. Duncan said the study should look at Point of Rocks and Prince George’s County for a location. A northern placement of the bridge, he said, could endanger green space in Maryland.
“It’s good to save their farmland and just let roads be built in ours,” he said.
Mr. Wolf rebuffed such criticism, saying the study will look at how to preserve open spaces, establish wide conservation easements and not allow interchanges to be constructed.
Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s spokesman, Mike Morrill, said closing the door on other options for a location of the bridge is a waste of time and money.
“If the money is limited to a crossing between Northern Virginia and the agricultural preserve in Montgomery County, we can save the taxpayers $1,999,999.65 [with] a 35-cent phone call,” said Mr. Morrill.
“The study would find [neither] Maryland nor localities in Montgomery County will support a crossing that is inconsistent with our long-term transportation plans.”
Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III said in a press release that Maryland should support the study. “Although Maryland has not been supportive of this crossing, I urge Governor Glendening to reconsider his opposition,” Mr. Gilmore said.
Maryland should set aside its opposition to the bridge, Mr. Gilmore said, because a new bridge would be a boon for commuters and businesses alike, especially in the “technology centers of Tyson’s Corner and Dulles corridor.”
A spokesman for Rep. Connie A. Morella, Maryland Republican, said she still supports the state’s and localities’ opposition to the construction of any new bridges connected to her district, Montgomery County.
“The congresswoman wasn’t expecting any of this,” said Jonathan O. Dean.
Mr. Wolf said he realizes there will be differences of opinion between the states, but the study only provides information on building another bridge not money to build it.
“I think it will be very difficult for people to oppose this study,” Mr. Wolf said. “But if they do, I think they are burying their head in the sand.”