The Washington Post

Maryland, Virginia revisit talks on possible new Potomac River crossing, officials say

Maryland and Virginia’s transportation officials met earlier this month to explore the possibility of building another Potomac River crossing, reviving a discussion of the idea of an outer Beltway loop that has been booted about for decades.

The aim remains the same: siphon traffic away from the Capital Beltway so that travelers from outside the region who want to bypass Washington and its suburbs could motor up I-95 in Virginia, cross the Potomac over a new link upriver from the American Legion Bridge in Cabin John,.and connect with Route 270 in Maryland.

But a key problem also remains: namely, where exactly?

Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton disclosed the new push for a second crossing while talking with reporters Wednesday following a luncheon hosted by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce to discuss Dulles rail. Such a link could eliminate 15 percent of rush-hour traffic on the Beltway.

“We’ve started to engage in discussions with the state of Maryland,” he said. “It may not have support with all the special interests.”

A spokesman for Maryland’s Department of Transportation said Thursday that Maryland and Virginia transportation officials met March 9 to follow up a general discussion between Gov. Martin O’Malley and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.

“These discussions are very preliminary,” said Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation. “We’d like to keep the dialogue going. . . This has been on the radar screen for many decades.”

In the past, Maryland has refused to consider a link that would land in Montgomery County’s agricultural preserve. It has long insisted that a bridge north of the Beltway should land no farther south than Point of Rocks in Frederick County, where a bridge already carries Route 15 across the Potomac.

Virginians have traditionally viewed that location as too far west, arguing for a link between western Montgomery County and Loudoun County that could serve as a “techway” between Interstate 270 in suburban Maryland and high-tech offices near Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia.

Fredrick Kunkle runs the Tripping blog, writing about the experience of travel. Freddy's also covered politics, courts, police, and local government. Before coming to The Washington Post, he worked for the Star-Ledger and The Bergen Record.

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