Jason Stanford is executive director of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance. Rick Weldon is president and chief executive of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce. Margaret “Peggy” Jeffers is executive vice president of the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington.
The March 28 accident near the American Legion Bridge that crippled the entire area clearly demonstrated that our major regional transportation infrastructure is woefully lacking. Despite large transit investments on the Metro Silver Line extension in Northern Virginia and the Purple Line in Maryland, more investments need to be made to our transportation system. If our region is to remain economically competitive with other large cities, we must increase the capacity on our primary roads and add more transit opportunities to reduce congestion.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) Traffic Relief Plan represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make significant improvements to our transportation network. It is a bold plan that needs the region’s support. The plan addresses one of our region’s worst bottlenecks, the American Legion Bridge, while implementing an Interstate 495/Interstate 270 managed-lane network that would produce tremendous regional benefits while minimizing risk to taxpayers through an innovative public-private partnership approach.
The governor’s plan is so important that an unprecedented coalition of 30 regional business and transportation advocacy organizations from Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia representing thousands of businesses and employees have come together to advocate for it.
Of the Maryland Department of Transportation’s recently released screened alternatives, we believe that Option 9 — adding two managed lanes in each direction on the American Legion Bridge, I-495 and I-270, combined with improved regional transit and high-occupancy-vehicle connectivity on the managed lanes — represents Maryland’s and the region’s smartest investment.
By creating new choices and relieving congestion on existing lanes, managed lanes are clearly the best way to provide a reliable trip for Maryland, Virginia and D.C. travelers in rush hour and throughout the day.
Allowing high-occupancy vehicles (HOV), including transit vehicles, free use of the managed lanes would create a seamless managed-lane network between Maryland and Virginia and would encourage HOV use and increased transit opportunities along one of the most heavily traveled corridors. Currently, there is little incentive to carpool or use transit between Maryland and Virginia as the trip takes the same length of time as it does for those in single-occupancy vehicles.
The need for and benefits of the American Legion Bridge, I-270 and I-495 improvements have been extensively studied and documented. Further delay will only increase the cost and jeopardize Maryland’s ability to provide long-overdue, cost-effective congestion relief. The governor has demonstrated real leadership. The time for action is now.