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Hecht helps broker Potomac bridge

December 26, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

Hecht helps broker Potomac bridge



A Washington County lawmaker is helping plan for the possibility of a new bridge to span the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia.

No one doubts that a new or expanded crossing is needed to help relieve traffic congestion in the Washington metro area, said Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington.

Coming up with a location that will please residents of both states could be difficult, she said.

Hecht has been appointed to a task force made up of lawmakers from Maryland and Virginia. The group met three times in the fall to begin to tackle the thorny problem.

Hecht asked to be involved because one location being discussed is Point of Rocks in Frederick County, Md. The U.S. 15 bridge that crosses the river there carries only two-lane traffic.

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There are already safety concerns about U.S. 15 and nearby U.S. 340, Hecht said. And Virginia officials are protective of farmland on their side of the river in that area.

"They call it a sacred cow," Hecht said.

Virginia officials would prefer the crossing to be south of Frederick County to link their Dulles Toll Road and technology corridor with Maryland's I-270 technology corridor.

But doing that would run through the heart of protected agricultural land in Montgomery County, Md., Hecht said.

"It's not an easy one. I think it's going to be a long discussion," she said.

The problem is not only location, but also funding for the project. Maryland's transportation fund is projected to face deficits into the millions of dollars in upcoming years.

Discussions about the bridge have begun largely because the Federal Highway Administration is undertaking a year-long study.

Congressman Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., was instrumental in getting $2 million for the study in the federal government's 2001 transportation spending bill.

"The metropolitan Washington area is the second worst traffic congested region in the nation, just behind Los Angeles," Wolf said in a prepared statement. "We are at a traffic choke point. Traffic congestion on I-270, the Capital Beltway, the American Legion Bridge and the Dulles Corridor continues to worsen."

Hecht said she got a sharp lesson about traffic on her way to the task force's first meeting. Because of an accident on I-270, it took her more than three hours to travel from her home in Frederick to the meeting near Union Station in Washington, D.C.

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