- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2001

Federal highway officials are considering several plans for another Potomac River crossing north of the American Legion Bridge, including a bridge that would link Northern Virginia to Frederick County, Md., and a Maryland-Virginia subway line.
"We need to look at a range of options. People get real uncomfortable when we talk about Point of Rocks [in Frederick County]," said George Schoener, director of metropolitan planning for the Federal Highway Administration. "Other groups get real uncomfortable when we talk about [a bridge connecting Fairfax and Montgomery counties]."
Rep. Frank R. Wolf ordered the highway administration last fall to do a $2 million feasibility study for a fourth link between Maryland and Virginia, asking the agency to concentrate on a potenital span — dubbed the Techway Bridge — between the high-tech area of Herndon/Reston in Fairfax County and the bio-tech area of Gaithersburg/Rockville in Montgomery County.
Administration officials said they are studying a bridges viability there. Other locations and options they are examining include:
* A MetroRail Purple Line between the Herndon/Reston and Gaithersburg/Rockville areas.
* A bridge linking U.S. 15 in Loudon County, Va., with another bridge landing at Point of Rocks.
* A Techway connecting the Fairfax County Parkway or Virginia Route 28 with Interstate-270 in Montgomery County.
"If you look at one alternative only, you dont get much of a sense of perspective," said Doug Laird, a community planner with the administrations office of metropolitan planning and programs. "We might say the Purple Line will do this and the Point of Rocks location option will do that."
Already there has been talk of a Purple Line that would run along the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the American Legion Bridge.
Mr. Schoener stressed that the administrations report to Congress, which is due in December, will not include any recommendations that favor one option over another. Instead, the report will lay out the best options for a crossing and could include multiple approaches, such as a subway line at one spot and a bridge at another.
"We dont come into this with any preconceived ideas that this one is better than that one," Mr. Schoener said, adding that the administration plans to have several "conceptual alternatives" for the public to review by next month.
But Mr. Schoener said the administration did start examining Point of Rocks for a crossing, which Mr. Wolf opposes, after Montgomery County and Maryland officials expressed concern that the location wasnt being considered.
"Were pleased that they are looking at it more broadly," said Patrick Lacefield, spokesman for the Montgomery County Council.
The study, Mr. Schoener said, is taking into account local land-use policies and environmental concerns. As part of the Wolf study, the highway administration is to examine ways another crossing can be built that will be parkway-like, prohibit heavy truck traffic, include a toll facility and have no interchanges. Mr. Wolf also instructed the administration to include mass-transit options such as rail, bus rapid transit and express bus service.
Mr. Lacefield said Montgomery County is still opposed to a bridge encroaching on its agricultural preserve. Residents in Loudon County, an area Mr. Wolf represents, have similar concerns about more traffic on Route 15.


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