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Board Tables Potomac Bridge Discussion

Members divided on options during conversation about 2013 legislative agenda

Last week, Loudoun County's Board of Supervisors found themselves at odds over the possibility of a study for a bridge across the Potomac, disagreeing over which locations should be considered for a potential connection between Virginia and Maryland.

On Tuesday, as the board wrestled with what it would ask state delegates and senators to bring to Richmond in 2013, members found themselves no closer to a resolution, resurfacing discussions about a tunnel crossing instead and wondering if Maryland counterparts were willing to work on expanding the area's transportation network at all. 

The board ultimately voted 7-2 to table its position for further discussion or send it to the transportation committee for review. Sups. Shawn M. Williams (Broad Run) and Eugene A. Delgaudio (Sterling) voted against stalling the discussion.

"Where we are tonight with this is not a place that is going to give much clarity to our team [that's going to Richmond]," Matthew F. Letourneau (Dulles) said.

Earlier this year Del. Randy Minchew (R-10) proposed the state study the possibility of extending Route 28 north across the Potomac to connect with Maryland's Interstate 270 with Interstate 66 in Virginia. And while that proposal died in committee, supervisors Tuesday continued discussion of whether to support renewed legislation next year to study the span, and what exactly that study should entail.

A position proposed by Williams on Tuesday to study the feasibility of a Potomac River Crossing — using the Route 28 corridor through Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William Counties north to Montgomery County, Md. — was too vague for Board Chair Scott York (At-large) and Vice Chair Janet Clarke (Blue Ridge).

"Somebody tell me which neighborhood in Loudoun County you want to take out to put in the bridge," York said. "What I'm not willing to sit here and do is [say] I want a study from Leesburg to Route 28 or even the Fairfax-Loudoun line, because we're leaving a lot of people in limbo with this potentially hanging and it's a huge concern for me."

A friendly amendment offered by Kenneth D. Reid (Leesburg) to expand the position's language to include a possible study of a tunnel didn't sway most board members.

"I feel like there needs to be some sort of a process where [the study scope] is more specifically defined. Otherwise ... that's going to alarm folks," Clarke said. "I just feel like it's too general and I don't want to alarm people unnecessarily." 

Suzanne M. Volpe (Algonkian) continued her defense of the Hidden Lane Landfill and historic areas that had been considered by the board in the past.

She doubted Del. Tag Greason (R-32) would put the bill through, and said board documents show "no interest on behalf of Maryland to work with Virginia at this time."

Many of those who have contacted the board privately or in the meeting's public input portion asked, "Why are you looking at North-South solutions when we have an East-West problem?"

Letourneau said drivers have to move east-west in order to go north, and that doesn't "mean there's not a need for a north-south connection," but that the board didn't have a clear enough view on how exactly to get there.

"I'm hoping that a lot of folks don't get upset again: This is a conversation worth having for the economic development possibilities we have in 10, 20, 30 , 40 years. I would hate for us to be shortsighted and not have the conversation [at all]," Williams said.

Supervisors plan to meet with state legislators in November this year to discuss the upcoming General Assembly session.

The board has until early December to amend any of its legislative positions, county staff said Tuesday night.

See also: 

Potomac Bridge Study Divides Loudoun Board

Do You Support a Potomac River Crossing at Route 28?

Dusty Smith contributed reporting for this story.

Richard Spida September 19, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Without representatives of the State of Maryland and Montgomery County, these unilateral meetings in Virginia seem to be planning a bridge to nowhere. But, recent history tells us to expect that from today's Republicans.
Jonathan Erickson September 19, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Besides a bridge to nowhere we have taxed a non-existing baseball, soccer and concert tickets at 10%. Way to go!
Dave September 19, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Montgomery County in MD is simply not even going to do a study in the current climate to consider site crossings for another bridge for two big reasons - one, it would have to go through their "Agricultural Preserve", and that's highly unlikely; two, there are many affluent landowners on the MD site of the Potomac holding large plots of land (the NIMBY factor). It's sorely needed, and as Supervisor Letourneau stated, there are a lot of people going east-west to get to the American Legion Bridge (and Point of Rocks) to get to/from MD - but it's just not going to happen. It took Montgomery County 40 years to build the ICC, and that was with an actual right-of-way reserved for most of the highway - next to no chance a study will ever even see the light of day in MD. Nice try though.

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