- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2001

Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III yesterday urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta to reconsider the Federal Highway Administrations decision to cancel a $2 million feasibility study on building a Potomac River crossing north of the American Legion Bridge.
Mr. Gilmore said in a statement he told Mr. Mineta of "the importance of establishing the need for such a crossing and pointed to the potential positive outcomes a new bridge could have for Northern Virginia and Maryland commuters."
"The study was only intended to nail down all of the facts and maybe get an idea of what the possible location was," Mr. Gilmore told The Washington Times, adding that his staff is looking at ways the study of a fourth river crossing could go forward.
"The need for a new crossing ought to be quickly and objectively determined before anyone begins talking about alternative routes," Mr. Gilmore said in his statement.
The highway administration last week canceled the feasibility study after its sponsor, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, asked for it to end.
Mr. Wolf asked the highway agency in October to study the feasibility of a "Techway" bridge linking the high-tech sector of Herndon/Reston in Fairfax County to the biotech area of the Gaithersburg/Rockville in Montgomery County.
Officials in Montgomery County and Maryland have long opposed the Techway, saying it would destroy their agriculture preserve and neighborhoods. They prefer a bridge from Point of Rocks in Frederick, Md., to U.S. Route 15 in Loudoun County, Va., which is part of Mr. Wolfs congressional district.
Mr. Wolf asked for the study to be canceled after reviewing maps that showed up to 20 different routes that would have wiped out homes and businesses.
The chances of Mr. Mineta reversing the highway administrations decision and defying a congressmans wishes are slim, congressional sources said. But a Gilmore spokesman said Mr. Mineta told the governor he would "keep an open mind."
Virginia could go forward with the study on its own or work with Maryland through the Transportation Planning Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG).
Virginias six-year plan has $400,000 dedicated to the study of another Potomac River crossing in anticipation of matching any funds for a federal study.
Maryland has set aside no money for a study in its transportation plans.
Fairfax Mayor John Mason, chairman of the COG transportation board, said examining a host of potential river crossings, not just the Techway, is part of an overall regional transportation mobility study. If there is to be a larger study on the Techway involving his group, the states will have to cooperate, he said.
"Thats not very realistic to do it on their own," Mr. Mason said. "You need so much data, it seems very unrealistic to do it from the perspective of one state."
Meanwhile, the Montgomery County Planning Board Task Force yesterday recommended the Techway be studied, while excluding the Point of Rocks option.
"If we are ever going to solve our transportation problems, we have to be willing to study all of the options," said John Kane, chairman of the Greater Washington Board of Trades Transportation and Environment Committee, in response to the task forces decision.


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