- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — The governors of Maryland and Virginia said yesterday that they will participate in a joint study on easing gridlock on the Capital Beltway and the bridges that connect their states.

The plan, which focuses on the Beltway and the Woodrow Wilson and American Legion bridges, was announced by Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner at a State House meeting of regional leaders that included D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat.

It was the fifth such meeting since Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, took office in 2003.

“Our public knows that transportation problems don’t end at these bridges and that these are essential transportation corridors,” said Mr. Warner, a Democrat. “We hope that we can … make sure that we have a coordinated approach to how we make the necessary improvements on the Capital Beltway to ease congestion.”

Transportation officials said the study will take about 18 months to complete and will explore such options as express-lane tolls and mass transit over the Potomac River bridges.

Virginia will lead the study on the Wilson Bridge and the surrounding 14 miles of highway. Maryland will take charge of a similar study of traffic on the American Legion Bridge. Each study is expected to cost about $1 million.

The three leaders also discussed efforts to provide homeland security, clean up the Chesapeake Bay, improve air quality and promote tourism in the region.

“The level of respect and cooperation is hopefully quite evident,” Mr. Ehrlich said.

This was the last such meeting for Mr. Warner, who soon will leave office.

“It was a shame that for more than a decade the leaders of Maryland, Virginia and the District did not sit down on a regular basis,” he said. “We don’t always agree, but we agree to disagree respectfully. … These are good partners to work with. In a whole host of areas, we have made progress.”

Mr. Williams has announced that he will not run for re-election, so yesterday’s meeting also could have been his last or one of his last.

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