What's In It for Us?
Proponents of a new Potomac River bridge and highway in Loudoun County have yet to explain how it benefits Loudoun.
Western Transportation Corridor proponents say the WTC would relieve Beltway traffic, but studies show it wouldn't. About 300 Virginians cross the American Legion Bridge and proceed to the Interstate 270 corridor, and about 1,600 Marylanders cross the American Legion Bridge and go somewhere west of the Beltway. Only some of these 1,900 are Gaithersburg-Dulles "horseshoe commuters" who would find the new road useful. It hardly makes sense to spend billions to reduce Beltway traffic on the American Legion Bridge by something less than 1,900 cars.
Techway proponents say the new road would benefit us by linking the high-tech centers in Dulles and Gaithersburg. How? Don't techies have e-mail, phones and conference facilities?
Developers want a new north-south highway because west-east commuting is becoming more difficult because of exploding residential development. They hope that by offering a new north-south commuting pattern, they can build more new homes while west-east commuters will continue to suffer.
Some members of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority say it will increase business at Dulles International Airport. My experience is that Baltimore-Washington International Airport is cheaper and better than Dulles. Unless the Dulles airport people are planning a one-way bridge, easier access could cause them to lose business to BWI.
Even ignoring negative impacts such as tearing down homes, dividing communities, damaging neighborhoods with a noisy and smelly highway, inducing residential development and promoting more long-distance commutes, a new Potomac crossing and highway benefits few Loudoun residents.
A new Potomac crossing would suck up billions of rare transportation dollars and make our commuting worse by making it easier for Maryland commuters to use our east-west commuting roads (Route 7, the Greenway and Route 50).
If developers and airport executives want a new road, they should pay for it and come up with a plan to compensate people who are dislocated or suffer reduced property values. Meanwhile, Loudoun County should use all available resources to help our beleaguered commuters and to make our roads safer.