Wednesday, November 13, 2019
MD, VA agree on Capital Beltway Accord, American Legion Bridge widening
The accord also puts the backburnered Hogan plan for Express Lanes on the Beltway between the Legion Bridge and I-95 back on the table. No details on the staging of the that project in relation to the bridge widening were put forward Tuesday. The bridge changes would almost certainly fail to solve congestion if the new Express Lanes end at River Road instead of I-95, as they would only create another choke point there.
Adding Express Lanes to the Beltway and I-270 won't take the place of a new Potomac River crossing, which would take about 25% of rush hour traffic off of the Legion Bridge, according to a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments study earlier this decade. They won't provide the direct access to Dulles International Airport from Montgomery County that international businesspeople have made clear they require to consider locating their headquarters here.
In fact, without a new Potomac River bridge north of the Legion Bridge - and major changes to County and Maryland tax and regulation schemes, Tuesday's accord would simply be another victory for Virginia and the crafty Northam from an economic development standpoint. Improved travel times for non-Dulles-related traffic on the Beltway would certainly help all of us, and are absolutely worthy of public support. But without direct Dulles access and a competitive business climate, the Beltway accord will simply reinforce our position as the bedroom community for the booming job centers in Northern Virginia.
The accord is a win for Hogan, however, as he considers a surprisingly-strong bid for the U.S. Senate. If he stands his ground on the Potomac-to-I-95 Beltway Express Lanes this time, Hogan will have delivered a start on major traffic relief on both failing interstates in Montgomery County in time for the 2022 election. Hogan was also the governor to finally get the new Nice Bridge project moving after decades of delay; that structure is scheduled to be well under-construction by the time he would take on Van Hollen.
Hogan hasn't even been grandstanding to the extent he could on transportation. He has quietly delivered new improvements on I-270 - such as new feeder lanes that allow entering vehicles from some ramps to proceed on the freeway without having to merge - over the last year. Surprisingly, he hasn't called a press conference to crow about these small but significant traffic flow upgrades.
Considering Van Hollen's weak legislative record, scandalous history of conspiring to reduce African-American turnout in his 2016 primary run against Congresswoman Donna Edwards (earning a rebuke from Hillary Clinton herself in the process), and Hogan's bipartisan support, this could be a top-tier contest. Neither man excites the core base of his party. But if these transportation projects move forward, Hogan will have done something Van Hollen hasn't in over a decade - deliver actual change for his constituents.