- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2001

The fight over whether to build a bridge connecting Northern Virginia and Montgomery County has become more than a business issue. At least that's what six daily commercials on radio station WTOP-AM (1500) say.

The man behind the message is John M. Kane, owner of the Kane Company, a family business that for 30 years has been offering storage, moving and distribution services.

"This has become less and less of a business issue and more a dead-center family issue," he says. "I commute from Howard County down to Potomac, Maryland. Ten years ago, it used to take me 35 minutes. Now on average it takes me about an hour and 10 minutes. I'm only 40 years old, but I know that by the time I'm 50, it's going to be an almost two hours' drive."

Supporters of the bridge, referred to as the Techway, envision it as a limited-access toll road linking Interstate 270 in Maryland with Northern Virginia near Reston spanning the Potomac River. They say it will cut commute times from 28 miles to 16 miles and speed the driving time by at least 20 minutes.

But the proposed bridge has met strong opposition from members of the Montgomery County Council, who fear that it would disturb local communities and use land now preserved for agriculture.

"The council is opposed to any new river crossing over the Potomac in Montgomery County," a county official says. "That is the unanimous position of the last four or so councils, going back into the 1980s."

The council voted in the fall 9-0 to block a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) feasibility study of the bridge. Then in February, the council began considering a "Potomac Master Plan" for development, a study with four versions, only one of which includes the Techway.

A third study is being conducted by the National Highway Safety Administration. The agency is spending $2 million of the $58 billion federal transportation bill to study the Techway.

Mr. Kane says the purpose behind his 18-week advertising campaign is to encourage the Montgomery County Council to wait until the results from all the studies come out before they pass legislation prohibiting the building of a Techway-like bridge.

"If the three studies come back and say no, this bridge should not be built in my county … then I'd pull my commercials off the radio and go about my business," says Mr. Kane, who also serves as head of the Transportation and Environment Committee on the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

When it was first proposed last year, Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening expressed strong opposition to a new bridge. But by the end of the year he took a more neutral stance and is now awaiting the study results.

The strongest support for the Techway is in Virginia, where, led by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the technology community has heavily lobbied for the new bridge.

The business community has argued workers are choosing jobs in other regions instead of Northern Virginia because they want to avoid the congested traffic in the high-tech-heavy Reston and Montgomery County areas.

"I think John Kane is doing a tremendous service by sponsoring these ads," says Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "His business can only be as efficient and effective as his trucks are mobile. The more he has to pay drivers stuck in gridlock traffic, the more he has to charge the public for his services."

Mr. Anderson also points to a AAA survey done in February, which shows that more than 75 percent of area residents support construction of the Techway.

"Eight out of 10 people in Montgomery want this bridge built," he says. "They recognize the need for it."

Mr. Kane's radio commercials, which will last 14 more weeks, urge people to check out the Internet at www.endgridlock.com. At the site area residents can sign on to letters that are sent to the Montgomery County Council, urging members to wait for the study results before taking any action.

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