Friday, July 21, 2017

MoCo Council bodyslammed by regional leaders on new Potomac crossing

Regional leaders delivered a stinging rebuke to the Montgomery County Council this week, approving a new Potomac River crossing study over MoCo councilmembers' objections. The County Council had unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday opposing a new bridge, or even a study of a new bridge. On Wednesday, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) met to consider the crossing and 9 other items for study.

In addition to delivering the resolution to the board, Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich participated in the meeting, expending political capital to try and stop a bridge that would provide an economic boon to Montgomery County. The politically-suicidal move left many on the Board scratching their heads. It also again proved that the Council is impotent, even among their Democratic colleagues at the state level, and across the region. Elected officials on the TPB from the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg, including Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton (who chairs the TPB) all backed studying the bridge.

Even one of the Council's war-on-cars fellow travelers, Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, was perplexed as to why MoCo councilmembers would oppose objective study of a new bridge. Fisette said he too opposed the bridge, but thought it should be studied like the other projects. COG's own 2012 study showed that 25% of traffic on the American Legion Bridge during rush hour is traveling to, or from, the Dulles area. In addition, 27% of Virginia drivers crossing into Maryland are heading to I-270.

During discussion of the Council resolution earlier this week, Elrich had stated a new crossing was "not in the County's economic interest." This is simply not true, as many CEOs whose firms chose Virginia over Montgomery County have cited our county's lack of direct access to Dulles Airport as one of the deciding factors. Elrich said he wanted to prevent competition with BWI Airport, but BWI - like National Airport - doesn't offer the frequency and scope of international business flights that Dulles does. The largest and most-luxurious aircraft can't even land at BWI and National, but can be accommodated by runways at Dulles.

Councilmember Craig Rice said there was "not any benefit for the upcounty" in building a new bridge. Damascus, Clarksburg and Germantown residents who work in the Dulles area, and parts of Fairfax County, would vehemently disagree. Not to mention that offloading a quarter of the traffic on the American Legion Bridge benefits everyone using I-495 and I-270 during rush hour.

Another false impression was given by Councilmember Sid Katz, who declared, "the reality is, there's no money for this." With a private firm building the highway and bridge as a toll facility, the beauty of it is, very little taxpayer money would be needed. Since the road would most likely be an extension of the ICC/Sam Eig Highway, the private operator could also take control of the ICC, and lower tolls along the length of the route within Maryland.

Of the ten projects approved for study by the TPB, the Potomac River crossing would move the most people in the shortest time, for the least dollar amount per-person. In opposing it, the Council not only again declared war on their own constituents, but are actively trying to prevent congestion relief and job creation within Montgomery County, at the behest of their developer masters who want to use office zones for residential development. Protecting BWI, which can't compete on business flights with Dulles, at their constituents' expense? It sounds like Berliner, George Leventhal and Elrich are running for Baltimore mayor, not Montgomery County Executive.


  1. These councilmembers are either complete morons or they're doing an outstanding job working for someone else's interests. The American Legion bridge has been a major bottleneck for over 20 years, all you have to do is try to drive across it +/- 2 hours of either rush hour and it's painfully obvious. Or look at Google Maps traffic. We are so far behind in econonic development and infrastructure (which affects the first) and they don't seem to care. No funding? Sure, have it run like the ICC or maybe cut back on frivolous expenses like certain welfare programs or prioritizing sanctuary policy. Unbelievable. What's their next move - pass a resolution to dismantle the existing bridge and have NO Potomac river crossing at all?

  2. The Montgomery County Council are working for their contributors, many of whom line the path this bridge and highway would take. Even IF somehow the bridge was to move forward legislatively, at $2M to $20M per property, it could cost BILLIONS in eminent domain payouts just to acquire the land. I don't see how this will ever happen (at least economically or politically).

  3. I'm sure it would be expensive and could be the possible reason it doesn't move forward. But currently the position they seem to take is that there is not even a need for a second bridge (i.e. denying the traffic problem). They do not even seem interested in studies. Why not look at expanding the capacity of the existing bridge (in collaboration with VA of course)? That would cost much less in eminent domain and cause the least amount of churn. The traffic problem is not going to just go away. It is getting worse and worse. At some point, something has to be done.