- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2001

Traffic on the Capital Beltway was back to normal yesterday, a day after a tar spill paralyzed traffic for more than five hours on the Inner Loop near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. But some officials said the accident points up a need for more alternate routes and more ways to handle emergencies.
"You have got a whole region in gridlock when one of these things happens," said Reed Boatright, a spokesman for Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III.
Earlier this week, Mr. Gilmore reiterated his support for another Potomac River crossing north of the American Legion Bridge, and he has been receptive to an eastern bypass that would take traffic away from the Wilson Bridge.
Wednesday's accident happened about 7:30 a.m., when a truck filled with 500 gallons of hot tar turned over just west of the Wilson Bridge before the Route 1 exit going into Alexandria after being cut off by a red Mazda pickup. Virginia State Police troopers are still searching for the pickup, state police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said.
Thousands of motorists were trapped in their cars for hours on a day of 90-plus degree temperatures and poor air quality. A typical 30- to 45-minute commute on the Inner Loop took many drivers more than six hours.
The Virginia Department of Transportation removed the inch of hardened tar that coated a 130-foot stretch of the roadway Wednesday night and resurfaced part of the Inner Loop by the Route 1 exits by yesterday's morning rush hour.
Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, sent a letter to Mr. Gilmore on Wednesday in which he said he is "concerned that the frequency of accidents involving large trucks will only grow worse."
He cited several recent, relatively minor accidents that shut down the Beltway during peak travel times.
To respond to these accidents, Mr. Moran asked Mr. Gilmore to look at increasing police deployments in Northern Virginia, conducting more truck inspections to reduce weight violations, and forming a rapid-reaction force at points along the Beltway.
John M. Kane, an advocate for a Potomac River crossing dubbed the "Techway Bridge" — which would link high-tech areas in Fairfax County and the biotech areas in Montgomery County — said the "horrendous gridlock" caused by Wednesday's accident shows the need for more and better transportation planning.
"There are no options if one of our Beltway bridges is shut down," said Mr. Kane, chairman of the Greater Washington Board of Trade's Transportation and Environment Committee.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf had sponsored a $2 million study of a "Techway Bridge," but asked the Federal Highway Administration to cancel it last month, saying it would have destroyed too many homes and reduced property values.
Mr. Gilmore has continued to support a study of the bridge, and Virginia has $200,000 set aside for a study.
The speakers of both Maryland and Virginia's House of Delegates have been speaking about including money in their state budgets for a joint study, the Virginia governor said.

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