Now, on to the next stage: Tomorrow, from noon – 2 pm, the Transportation Planning Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, our regional planning authority, will be considering whether or not to include the bridge in a long-range study plan.
Click here to send them a comment today about how important it is to say NO to an Outer Beltway Bridge!
The Board has many great things on its agenda for study: Bus Rapid Transit, commuter rail and metro, land use, transit fare reductions, and more. And, the Council of Governments and much of our local region is committed to fighting climate change. But, if they study the Outer Beltway Bridge, that could be a first step down the road to approving it–and a sprawl-inducing Outer Beltway Bridge is the last thing our region needs as we work to reduce emissions, protect our drinking water supplies, and prevent unnecessary sprawl into our rural lands and habitats.
Supporters of the bridge say that environmental groups are trying to hide potential benefits from the public by saying that a study is unneeded. That couldn’t be further from the truth–this bridge has been studied many times before and not advanced, in 1980 as the “Washington Bypass”, in 2000-2001 as the “Techway”, in 2003-2004 by Virginia Department of Transportation, and again by VDOT in 2015. Each study found that such a bridge was either unneeded or unworkable.
Are there infrastructure needs in our region? Absolutely! Montgomery and Fairfax Counties have made clear that fixing the American Legion Bridge is their first priority. Beyond that, our limited transportation dollars should go to Metro and fixing other existing infrastructure so that it can continue to support our communities where they already exist, not out in the outer reaches of our region that are farmland or forest today.
Finally, this project cannot be considered in isolation from other important impacts on water supplies, recreation, and conservation throughout our region. Especially at risk is our drinking water supply–the water intakes for much of Northern Virginia, DC, and suburban Maryland are all downstream from the possible routes of the proposed bridge. Our drinking water would be at risk during construction and after, from toxic pollution from runoff and spills. And over time, our water treatment infrastructure won’t be able to keep up with the increased pavement and development that more sprawl would bring. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Corporation is already planning to spend tens of millions of dollars to upgrade its drinking water treatment plant to better handle sediment in the Potomac. We don’t want that to have to happen again as a result of more unplanned development.