Showing posts with label new Potomac River crossing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new Potomac River crossing. Show all posts

Friday, January 15, 2016

MoCo fails again as General Dynamics chooses Reston for new headquarters

The first weeks of 2016 in Montgomery County have been dominated with promises of new tax hikes and perpetuation of the County's liquor monopoly by elected officials, exaggerated claims of miracle solutions to homelessness, and the discovery that yes, your kids in Montgomery County Public Schools are still being zapped by radioactive gas over the EPA limit - and that County officials hid this from you for some time. But across the river in rival Fairfax County, they've spent the month doing what they do best - cleaning MoCo's clock in economic development.

The first big win by a regional jurisdiction this year is the winner of the competition for the next General Dynamics headquarters - Fairfax County.

A search that considered hundreds of sites around our region and the nation ended at a piece of property at 11011 Sunset Hills Road in Reston. Right off the Dulles Toll Road.

No public effort was made by Montgomery County to win over General Dynamics. Neither the County Executive, nor the County Council, made any public overtures to General Dynamics. That, and offering incentives, are about the only tools Montgomery County could employ, considering that officials are still refusing to build the long-delayed Potomac River crossing west of the American Legion Bridge.

Without direct access to Dulles Airport, and with a severely-unfriendly business climate, it's difficult to appeal to a major defense contractor like General Dynamics.
Fairfax site has what none in
Montgomery have -
direct access to coveted
Dulles International Airport

Loren Thompson, a defense consultant, said it was no surprise that the company decided to stay in Northern Virginia, close to the Pentagon and Washington Dulles International Airport.

“I think the business climate in Northern Virginia is generally more favorable to corporate headquarters than the District or Maryland...if you’ve followed GD over the years, you know the financial implications would have been paramount in their decision of when to move and where to move.”

- The Washington Post, January 12

GenDyn is the third-largest Pentagon contractor, and will bring 200 high-wage jobs to this corporate headquarters, with two future 30,000 SF additions planned for more jobs.

The headquarters could easily have been accommodated by any of several supposedly-struggling and vacant office parks in Montgomery County. Many of these are currently being put to such sexy uses as cookie-cutter townhomes and self-storage facilities, as Montgomery County has failed to attract a single major corporate headquarters in over a decade.

GenDyn's plans also completely contradict the talking points given by the Montgomery County political cartel, who have told us that corporate tenants are all downsizing, and have no interest in suburban campuses (never mind that the top companies in the world like Facebook, Google and Apple all operate out of suburban campuses).

Oops. General Dynamics is increasing its square footage from 175,000 SF in its current headquarters, to 250,000 SF when its new headquarters is completely built out, according to current plans. Its choice was - a suburban office park, which at over a mile from the nearest Metro station, won't get many millennials to walk to work. But count on those millennials to still apply - and drive - in droves, because GenDyn has what they really want - high-wage jobs, something the moribund MoCo economy has failed to generate in the private sector over the last fourteen years.

Imagine the outcome of the General Dynamics race had our leaders wisely built the Dulles access planned for decades ago. Several perfect sites in the I-270 corridor would suddenly have been on the table. GenDyn wouldn't have worked for locations like downtown Bethesda, downtown Silver Spring or Pike & Rose, because they need a secure campus away from urban bustle.

When the next corporate HQ race begins, will we have those sites left, or will they all have been converted to residential? Will we still be no further toward a new Potomac River crossing to provide the Dulles Airport access international firms demand?

As impotent as Montgomery County has been in these private sector contests, our elected officials are even dropping the ball in attracting government jobs in recent times. County Executive Ike Leggett recently told the Washington Post that he decided unilaterally to pass on the tens-of-millions of dollars in economic development the FBI headquarters would have provided MoCo, solely so that his personal friend could reap the political windfall in Prince George's County.

Does that make you angry? It should. It raises, at a minimum, serious ethical questions. Have you heard anything about Montgomery pursuing the Transportation Security Administration headquarters, now that it's back on the regional table again?

How about a bid for the new Washington Redskins stadium? We just passed on D.C. United, despite having likely the largest concentration of United fans in the region within Montgomery County.

The Redskins won't change their name, and District officials have - to our advantage - decided to cut off their nose to spite their face, by requiring a name change before wooing them back to DC. Putting politics over the economic best interests of your constituents? Hmm....that sounds familiar.

Loudoun is already negotiating. Where is Montgomery County?

The same place we always are under the "leadership" of the Montgomery County political machine. Asleep at the switch. Ninth runner up. Last place. Loser.

"If you're not first, you're last."

Term limits, anybody?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Head of MoCo Economic Development Corp. backs new Potomac River crossing

Buchanan says MoCo
businesses are "solidly
behind" a new bridge

The newly-formed Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation may have a chance of actually accomplishing something after all. Its chair, Bob Buchanan, has already bucked the County's political machine, which has failed to attract a single major corporation to Montgomery in over a decade. Speaking to the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board on December 9, Buchanan strongly urged them to open dialogue with Maryland on a new Potomac River crossing west of the congested American Legion Bridge.

Buchanan, a Montgomery County resident, has long been an advocate for completing this missing piece of our region's transportation infrastructure. But he told the CTB that Montgomery's business community is squarely behind a new bridge, as well. It is refreshing that Buchanan was willing to openly divert from the party line of the County Council, which has strongly condemned even talking about the needed bridge, much less building it. A truly independent MCEDC, able to talk sense as Buchanan did, will be in a position to address the factors which have crippled our County's economic growth since the turn of the century. (County Council term limits wouldn't hurt, either)

Calling for greater regional cooperation, a theme stressed at recent business events in Tysons and in MoCo's newly-branded Pike District, Buchanan asked the CTB to "open negotiations with Maryland regarding another river crossing." A new river crossing "will be a game changer," Buchanan predicted, citing our current "broken transportation system." 

Our congested roads have not only scared away businesses, but raised costs for those already here. They even made your online holiday shopping more expensive, with shipping rates calculated using congestion and travel delay data. Equally troubling: the lack of a direct highway connection between Montgomery County and Dulles Airport has been a deal breaker for international firms considering moving here. All of this, along with MoCo's tax and regulation scheme, have led to a moribund County economy.

"The business community - I speak for Montgomery - is solidly behind another river crossing to alleviate the congestion," Buchanan told the CTB. He recalled that a survey of local businesses found the number one project universally responded to was a new bridge connecting Montgomery with Northern Virginia. Buchanan said businesspeople told him that they are afraid to be too vocal about their support for the bridge because "the politics are so great" on the issue. "Let's not let politics stop what we know needs to be done," Buchanan said.

This is truly a sea change from the usual boilerplate of our County government. It's clear the tide is slowly beginning to turn. No councilmember has stated support for a new bridge, and the long-delayed M-83 Highway has been tabled again. But councilmembers who were claiming Bus Rapid Transit was the solution for the American Legion Bridge just a few years ago, are now advocating extending Virginia's Express Lanes into Maryland. Instead of the bus-and-carpool-only lanes they promoted in 2012, they're now endorsing toll lanes that solo drivers could use.

That change comes at a time when Virginia's transportation secretary has thrown out a 2012 Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments study which showed around 25% of traffic on the Legion Bridge to be headed to, or from, the Dulles area. Replacing it, is a fake study with totally different numbers, that claims a fake average speed on the Inner Loop crossing the bridge during evening rush, and cooks the books to make it seem no one is going to or from Dulles. 

Fortunately, heavier political weights like Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Mark Warner are solidly behind a new Potomac crossing. Now is the time to address this critical transportation project, while Maryland also has a governor who wants to improve highway capacity, and now has a bridge advocate such as Buchanan in a position of power in the County.

As Buchanan advised the CTB, "We should never be afraid of talking." 

The CTB later approved a resolution directing Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne to initiate discussions with Maryland on existing and potential new river crossings, including a new bridge west of the Legion crossing, and a replacement Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge in Southern Maryland.

Our phone is ringing. Will our leaders finally answer?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


The Virginia House Transportation Committee voted Tuesday to send a bill requiring further study of a new Potomac River crossing to the House Appropriations Committee. Bill HB-1244 would require the Virginia Department of Transportation to review the results of an ongoing demand study for a new bridge. The study area is between existing crossings at Point of Rocks (US 15) and the Harry Nice Bridge (US 301). A new crossing would be constructed within that area.

Historically, new Potomac River bridges had been planned at several locations. Most notable were those to connect the unbuilt Rockville Freeway to the Fairfax County Parkway at Riverbend Park, and the unbuilt Outer Beltway (I-370 extension) to VA 28. Other bridges were considered at Arizona Avenue in the District, and in relation to the George Washington Parkway. Failure to build some - or all - of these crossings is a major factor in today's congestion on the American Legion Bridge in Bethesda, and on I-495 and I-270. A recent Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments study concluded that about a quarter of all traffic on the American Legion Bridge is heading to or from the Dulles area.

If the study shows a need for a new crossing (duh!), the bill requires VDOT to furnish recommendations for specific crossing sites to the Virginia General Assembly, and VA Secretary of Transportation, by December 1, 2015.

HB-1244 is co-sponsored by Del. Thomas Davis Rust and J. Randall Minchew. There is some urgency regarding the bill, as the House Appropriations Committee has only three meetings scheduled before all non-budget House bills must be finished.

A new crossing has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia).