THE UNREADINESS of Virginia, Maryland and the District is sure to freeze more traffic for longer chunks of commuter life in the year ahead. All the talk about mass transit, telecommuting, better land use and new lifestyles--valuable as they may prove someday--won't undo the stop-in-your-tracks traffic jams just ahead.
Road relief can't come fast enough; and with it must come a new look at the Great Regional Divide: the Potomac River. That more crossings are needed is a given. But the most important missing link is a political bridge between Maryland and Virginia to locate, finance and build the necessary spans.
However much the motoring public and businesses clamor for help, elected officials on each side of the river have found ways to disagree, back off and stall whenever a plan is put forth. But now perhaps they may start to listen: Business groups are teaming up to press state and local leaders for a new joint approach. Rallying to an initiative of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, business leaders in Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs have drafted a transportation proposal to be introduced in both state legislatures this year. The resolution would establish a joint legislative commission to identify projects and seek to address obstacles in the way of their progress.
The idea is not to create a super-government, which wouldn't go anywhere anyway. Nor would the commission get in the way of Metro or other existing transportation agencies with specific responsibilities. The purpose would be to get governors and legislators working together with a fresh eye on interstate travel. High on the Virginia business groups' list, for example, is a Northern Techway Connector linking the Dulles-Reston area with Rockville-Gaithersburg. Individual commuters as well as commercial interests in both states see the value of this link, but Montgomery County officials are strongly opposed. They cite environmental damage and a draining of Maryland jobs to Virginia. Some support a new bridge at Point of Rocks in Frederick County.
Agreement won't materialize merely with the formation of a regional commission. But if the executive and legislative branches of the two states, with their counterparts from the District, can start focusing on mutual, unavoidable transportation problems, then serious movement--political and concrete--might occur.