The American Legion Bridge is overburdened, but proposals for a new Potomac crossing raise concerns on both sides of the river. ( Chip Somodevilla /Getty Images)

A letter writer who read my interview with Lon Anderson, who retired from AAA Mid-Atlantic this summer, focused on Anderson’s hope that the region will build a new Potomac River crossing west of the American Legion Bridge. He reviews the options.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I appreciate Lon Anderson’s two decades dedicated to improving transportation in the D.C. region and his arguments for increased funding. I do question one of his wishes.

Anderson promotes the building of a Potomac crossing between Route 15 at Point of Rocks and the American Legion Bridge. The only problem with a 20-year old idea is that it is 20 years old. It was a good idea that is too late.

The section of Route 28 running north-south just east of Dulles International Airport at first seems like an ideal highway to extend northward, across the Potomac and into Maryland.

Back in the late ’70s, that would have been a great idea. Route 28 was a sleepy two-lane road, and there were still lots of fields and trees between the city of Fairfax and Dulles Airport. But now, the area is deeply embedded in suburbia, and that section of Route 28 between Interstate 66 and Route 7 has grown to six lanes and is jammed with traffic northbound and southbound, morning and evening.

Looking farther west: Expanding Route 15 from the Gainesville-Haymarket area, through Leesburg and up to Frederick might be good, but it would have been a lot easier 10 years ago. Today, the Northern Virginia suburbs extend out all the way to Route 15. The opportunity there might be gone.

Another option is to build a new highway somewhere, but that is tough to do if it hasn’t been on the long-range plans, because you now have to go in and cut a big swath right through the middle of all those developments that they just built in the last five years.

If the purpose of the bridge is to enable people who live in Maryland to scoot across into Virginia to work, then I don’t think I am interested anyhow.

I don’t want the extra traffic over here in Virginia. The backups on Routes 7 and 28 would be horrendous. If people want to work here, they can live and pay taxes here and have a shorter commute. Or perhaps Maryland and Montgomery County can change their anti-business policies and attract businesses to set up shop in Maryland.

I do not want my part of rural — now suburban — Virginia to become another Tysons Corner or Rosslyn!

The best solution might be to avoid the problem. So, to put a twist on Nike, “Just Don’t Do It.” Instead, telework more or live closer to work. If half of us teleworked half the time, then traffic would drop 25 percent, which is a big number. And don’t forget transit.

We need to get away from the idea that mass transit should be self-supporting. Instead, we should be cutting Metro’s bus and rail fares in half! Eliminate charges for parking at the garages. The local, regional, state and federal governments have to remember the bigger picture – and provide funding to support the transit systems.

— Graham Long, Herndon

Long makes a good case. The counterargument advanced by the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance is partly based on all that suburban growth that Long cites: The already large population and jobs centers outside the Beltway will get bigger, but almost all the Potomac crossings are at the Beltway or within it. There’s a 35-mile gap between the Legion Bridge and the Point of Rocks bridge, and the result is that the Legion Bridge is being asked to do too much for the region’s commuters.

This fall, the state of Virginia hopes to renew discussions with Maryland about cross-river commuting. But it probably won’t be the discussion about a new bridge that the alliance desires. It will be about fixing the old one, the Legion Bridge.

Virginia transportation officials acknowledge that there are political and practical issues on the Maryland side. There’s a great deal of opposition to a new crossing in Montgomery. And even if there weren’t, Maryland officials still would face challenges extending a highway where none exists today to meet the Virginians at the river.

Virginia also studied where that Legion Bridge traffic is going and found that a relatively small portion would directly benefit from a new crossing.

All sides need to consider Long’s final point about transit. The Potomac’s biggest people-mover during the morning rush is Metro’s Rosslyn tunnel, and, like the Legion Bridge, it also is overburdened and in need of relief.

Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer’s name and home community. Write Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or
e-mail drgridlock@washpost.com.