- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Area transportation officials yesterday warned of overcrowded trains, gridlock stretching beyond the Capital Beltway and crumbling bridges in the coming years unless billions of dollars in government funding is found.

Transportation chiefs from the District, Virginia and Maryland gathered at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) office yesterday to say that there was a “dire and urgent” need for $13.2 billion over the next six years.

“This is a crisis that folks need to take more seriously, folks in Annapolis, Richmond and in Congress,” said D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and a member of the COG’s Transportation Planning Board.

Board members said the region is short by $7.8 billion in highway funding and $5.4 billion for Metro and other transit projects.

The District needs $3.9 billion — almost half of which would go toward emergency bridge and road repairs, transportation officials said.

“You could see lane closes. You could see [more] weight restrictions” on bridges, said Dan Tangherlini, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation.

Maryland officials said they need $5.3 billion — $4 billion of that would go toward road projects, including the six-lane Intercounty Connector, which would link Interstate 270 in Montgomery County to Interstate 95 in Prince George’s County.

Maryland also is looking at rail or bus rapid-transit projects, including one that would run along the I-270 corridor from the Shady Grove Metro to Frederick.

Virginia transportation officials are asking for $4 billion. More than $2 billion is for the Dulles rail extension and other transit projects, including expanding Virginia Railway Express; $1.4 billion would help pay for road projects, including adding a fourth lane on I-95, south of the Beltway.

Included in that $13.2 billion funding shortage is $2.2 billion for Metro, which officials said is needed for more buses and subway cars.

The Bush administration has proposed $256 billion in transportation spending over six years. Last week, the Senate passed a $318 billion package. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young, Alaska Republican, is asking for $375 billion.

Area transportation officials said that even the $375 billion package would not meet the region’s funding shortfall. Transportation Planning Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said there also is legislation in the Maryland and Virginia statehouses to help close the gap.

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