- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2001

Old planning maps of the Washington metropolitan area are covered with the colored lines of never-built roads.
Included on a 1967 plan for Montgomery County is a dotted line wrapping around the Capital Beltway and plunging across the Potomac River into Virginia near the scenic Great Falls.
Dubbed the "Techway," the road promised to link the high-technology industry in Northern Virginia with the thriving biotech firms in Montgomery County. A new bridge would ease traffic on the choked American Legion Bridge, supporters said.
Those plans vanished this month when a federal study of a proposed techway was halted at the request of U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican. The Techway seemed destined to join all the other roads that have been erased from planning maps.
Or maybe not.
"Weve nicknamed this the vampire road, because it wont die easily," said Stewart Schwartz, president of Coalition for Smarter Growth, a group that has fought the proposal for years.
Backed by powerful business interests on both sides of the Potomac, proponents of a new bridge are scrambling to find new ways to revive the project.
"This issue is not dead, the techway will be built," said Bobbie Kilberg, president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council. "This is one of the few viable options remaining to do something about the traffic gridlock. It has to be built."
Techway supporters are looking to other studies, other roads and other members of Congress to breathe new life into the project.
A study of the regions transportation needs by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments still could demonstrate a significant need for a second bridge, said John Kane, transportation chairman for the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
A proposal to widen the existing bridge on U.S. 15 at Point of Rocks in Frederick County, Md., would be considered, but is too far out of the way to be realistic, Mr. Kane said.
Supporters also are looking for an out-of-state member of Congress who would not suffer the political damage and withering constituent pressure that dogged Mr. Wolf after he proposed a study of the plan.
"Im in the transportation business. When you get to a roadblock, you go over it, around it or under it," said Mr. Kane, who runs a light trucking company.
All sides agree that something needs to be done to alleviate the crush of traffic that stalls every morning and afternoon on the American Legion Bridge. The only span to Virginia in Montgomery County, the bridge handled an average of 204,000 cars each day last year, according to the Maryland highway department.
Mr. Wolf persuaded Congress last year to spend $2 million to study several options to ease traffic, including mass transit and widening the Point of Rocks bridge.
However, Mr. Wolf killed the study, saying public confusion about the studys purpose had spiraled out of control.
That decision rankled Techway supporters, who said the study was doomed by environmental groups who stirred up opposition among homeowners by giving specific routes for the road. The Wolf study was meant only to be conceptual, not concrete.
"The money has already been appropriated, the contractors have been hired. Why not continue?" said Ken Reid of the citizens group Marylanders for a Second Crossing.
But Techway foes say the Wolf study was just a formality for business groups and a necessary step to build the bridge rather than an unbiased survey of transportation needs.
"The way proponents have been treating studies are that they are just an incremental step to getting the project built," Mr. Schwartz said.
Evidence also is mixed about whether the Techway would have any effect on gridlock.
Techway supporters have seized on a recent Montgomery County planning study that suggests the new road would carry about 102,000 vehicles per day.
But much of that volume would be new traffic, not vehicles siphoned off the American Legion Bridge, said Charlie Loehr, director of the Montgomery County Department of Park and Planning.
"It would only reduce congestion on the American Legion Bridge by about 6 percent," he said. "The question is, 'Do you want to spend a couple billion dollars to reduce traffic by that amount on the existing bridge?"
However, the planning board has decided to continue its own look at a techway as part of a long-term transportation study.
Efforts are under way by Techway foes and friends to revive the Wolf study.
Miss Kilberg plans to write U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and question whether it is legal to cancel a study that has been approved and funded by Congress.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth wants to use the federal money to look at transit-friendly options, including focusing office development around Metro stops.
Mr. Schwartz says Techway supporters want the road simply for business reasons: to help sprawl in Montgomery County and Northern Virginia and to make it easier to get to Washington Dulles International Airport from Maryland.
But Mr. Kane said he is more worried about growing traffic headaches.
"This isnt a business issue, its a quality of life issue," he said.


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