A coalition of Alexandria residents and environmentalists who successfully sued to block the 12-lane Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement project charged yesterday that the Federal Highway Administration is not making a "good faith" effort to consider their 10-lane alternative as directed by a federal judge.
Members of the Coalition for a Sensible Bridge, at a news conference below the bridge, said they provided the federal agency with their design proposal for a new span but have no indication that it is being seriously considered, as ordered in April by U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin.
They also said the agency has not responded to their request to explain how it will comply with the ruling.
"They are not giving the required `hard look' at the 10-lane alternative," said Bert Ely, chairman of the coalition's legislative committee. Instead, he said, highway officials are trying to come up with the financing needed for a 12-lane span. "They are promoting creative financing schemes that are politically unfeasible," Ely said.
Judy McVay, co-chair of the coalition, said highway officials asked her group if they could proceed with plans for a 12-lane design while at the same time considering smaller structures. "We said no," McVay said.
John R. Undeland, a spokesman for Potomac Crossing Consultants, which is working on the design and management of the bridge project, said highway officials have every intention of sitting down with the plaintiffs. He said no decision has been made about whether to appeal Sporkin's ruling.
Sporkin dealt a staggering blow to the replacement of the deteriorating bridge, blocking construction until further environmental review is conducted. He said the government had not properly evaluated any increase in air pollution from vehicles using a 12-lane bridge or the project's impact on historic sites in Alexandria.
Lon Anderson, the spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic who also was at the news conference, pointed to yesterday's truck accident at the Springfield interchange on Interstate 95 as "powerful and vivid" evidence that highway officials should expand, not reduce, the capacity of the bridge.
"This morning we had a single-vehicle accident, and it brought our regional transportation system to its knees," Anderson said. "This is our region's transportation nightmare come true."
In another development, Virginia and Maryland transportation officials have filed motions in the last week seeking to intervene in the bridge suit and, if the court allows, to appeal Sporkin's decision.
"It is clear that constructing a new bridge is crucial to the future of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia," Virginia Attorney General Mark L. Earley (R) said in a statement yesterday. "If this project is not allowed to proceed, the region will become mired in traffic congestion that would bring commuting there to a virtual standstill."