It was a historic first, folks agreed. Leaders from Fairfax and Montgomery counties met Wednesday to talk transportation and traffic — and work jointly on solutions to help their residents spend less time on roads so they could spend more time with loved ones.

Roger Berliner, president of the Montgomery County Council, and Sharon Bulova, chairwoman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, presided over the gathering, which included other board members and supervisors with special interest in transportation issues.

“We have never done this before,” Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) said. “That’s something we need to change. We need to do [these] on a regular basis. We owe it to our communities.”

The group listened to a briefing on the Silver Line rail project, but much of the discussion focused on what could be done to address congestion issues on the American Legion Bridge — a main commuter artery for residents from both jurisdictions. Ronald F. Kirby, director of transportation planning for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, walked the group through current and future traffic projections for the artery.

Policymakers were most interested in finding ways to reduce congestion on the bridge — a problem that has bedeviled many a commuter, politician and traffic engineer. The obvious solution — widen the bridge — is one that comes with a steep price tag, not to mention many other concerns.

Another solution? Give folks an alternative to driving. Those at the meeting were particularly keen on the idea of bus service. It’s been tried before and failed, they were told by Jack Requa, Metro’s bus guru. But Requa said that part of the reason it failed was because buses were stuck in the same congestion as regular commuters. Perhaps setting aside dedicated bus and high-occupancy commuter lanes could offer a possible solution.

“I think this has been a really good, candid discussion,” said Bulova (D). “I would be curious to see if and how much capacity could be provided on the bridge for at least one lane in each direction for bus and HOV.”
The group agreed to explore the possibility — and to continue to meet.