- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hundreds of transportation projects across the region got the green light yesterday as the Transportation Planning Board voted unanimously to approve the region’s long-term transportation improvement plan.

High-occupancy toll lanes for the Beltway in Virginia, a study of a Techway across the Potomac River and the Intercounty Connector are in the plan, clearing the way for state and federal funding.

The board also added a regional communication network called CapCom to the plan. Modeled after a system in New York, the center will allow transportation departments in the District, Virginia and Maryland to share information automatically in an emergency.

The idea has been discussed since 2001. The board’s action yesterday added $400,000 in local funding to move the idea forward. Congress has approved $1.6 million in federal funds.

“While it is significant and to be congratulated, it is underfunded. This is not going to be 24/7, and we need it to be,” said board Chairman Phil Mendelson.

Mr. Mendelson compared it to the inadequate funding for the levees in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit.

Although the region may cooperate more in emergency communication, tensions were high between Virginia and Maryland over some of the larger road projects.

Among the largest is a Virginia Department of Transportation plan to widen the Capital Beltway to 12 lanes, with four HOT lanes in each direction. A private developer is expected to finance the $899 million for 2006 and 2007.

The lane widening will come to a halt on the Maryland line.

That wasn’t the only project that upset Maryland board members.

Several spoke out against VDOT’s plan to spend $400,000 for a feasibility study for a Techway across the Potomac, linking Fairfax to Montgomery County.

The Montgomery County Council is unanimously opposed to it, said board member Michael Knapp. He and others questioned where the road would go if it didn’t cross the Potomac into his jurisdiction.

“Virginia is funding a study on a road to nowhere basically,” said Andrew Fallows, a member of the College Park City Council. “The frustration is, it’s a waste of money. Meanwhile, there is a high need for transit dollars and improving existing roads.”

Some Maryland members of the board were happy, however, with the addition of the Intercounty Connector to the region’s long-range transportation plan. The Maryland Department of Transportation plans to spend $2.3 billion for construction of a highway linking Interstate 95 near Laurel to Interstate 270 near Gaithersburg.

The Washington Board of Trade and the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance applauded the road improvement plans.

Environmental groups said the measures will encourage urban sprawl.



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