- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2000

The Northern Virginia Technology Council, the region's largest group of high-tech companies, decided yesterday to jump into the debate over the proposed "Techway."

The council's board of directors will send a letter to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' Transportation Planning Board urging it to place the Techway on its long-range plan. The technology council, a group of 1,400 high-tech companies, had backed lobbying by other groups, including the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.

"This will be a priority for us. It is at the top of our list now," said John Backus, a venture capitalist at Reston-based Draper Atlantic and chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

Getting the project on the Council of Governments' long-range plan would qualify it for money to fund studies of the proposed road.

High-tech companies envision the Techway as a limited-access toll road connecting Interstate 270 in Maryland with Northern Virginia near Reston. It would span the Potomac River, but business leaders haven't been able to bridge differences with Maryland officials on the road.

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening opposes new roads over the Potomac River because of environmental concerns and wants to limit transportation efforts with Virginia on building a new Woodrow Wilson Bridge and improving the two-lane U.S. Route 15 bridge in Frederick County, said Erin Henson, Maryland Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

The technology council is sending the letter just as the Council of Governments begins a review of its long-range plan, which lists projects officials in the District, Maryland and Virginia want at least to consider over the next 25 years.

The Council of Governments will have an updated list of 25-year construction projects by mid-October.

Opposition from state and Montgomery County officials is responsible for keeping the Techway off the 25-year list, said Ron Kirby, director of transportation planning at the Council of Governments.

But the region needs to ease traffic and the Techway would remove an estimated 150,000 cars from the Beltway, said Pat Herrity, chief financial officer of Alexandria-based Dimensions International Inc. and chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council's transportation committee.

"Our employees are getting fed up," Mr. Herrity said.

The Northern Virginia Technology Council will organize a grass-roots campaign and ask companies to begin an e-mail campaign to voice support for the road. About 185,000 people work at the 1,400 companies in the technology council.

"The reason we have leverage to make things happen is because we have hundreds of thousands of employees. But they aren't activists. We haven't done a good job at that," Mr. Backus said.

Mr. Herrity said executives at Dimensions International asked the company's 400 workers last week to get involved in the debate over the Techway.

"We're not telling them what side to take in the debate. We're just asking them to participate," he said.

A poll by AAA Mid-Atlantic in February found 75 percent of those surveyed support building the Techway.

The Techway could cost an estimated $500 million, Mr. Backus said, but it could be built with private money, rather than state or federal funds.

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