More Talk of a New Potomac Crossing

Gov. Bob McDonnell and Gov. Martin O’Malley.Photo credit: Politico.

Governor Bob McDonnell recently broached the idea of a new Potomac River crossing with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, reports Toll Road News.

No other project in the Washington, D.C., metro area has comparable potential for improving mobility and taking unnecessary traffic off Beltway, the trade publication quotes Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton as saying. “We are starting the process. I’ve already had some discussion with them about a joint effort.”

It’s not clear where the crossing would be located, but Connaughton suggested it would be upriver from the Washington Beltway where it could serve as direct link between the Rockville-Gaithersburg-Germantown area in Maryland and Reston-Sterling-Dulles-Chantilly in NoVa.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved last year the development of a “Corridor of Statewide Significance” master plan that would cut through Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Although the corridor would terminate at Rt. 7, Smart Growth lobbyists fear that the corridor could be easily extended to the Potomac and converted to an outer beltway.

Hat tip: Larry Gross.


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  1. Make this a toll road with extremely few interchanges. Such a roadway would encourage drivers wishing to avoid metro D.C. to take it. I suspect business support would drop through the floor. I don’t agree much with the Smart Growth lobby, but this one is designed to open more areas for development. Schwartz and the Sierra Club are dead on point.

  2. constructionandlaborguy Avatar

    It is pretty shocking that if you want to cross the Potomac north/west of the beltway, you have to take a ferry off rt 15 northeast of Leesburg at White’s Ferry Road. And if you want to avoid the ferry issue, you have to take the rt. 15 crossing North of that, which is about an hour away from downtown Arlington with no traffic and almost two hours during rush hour.

    It is beautiful countryside in the region around the two proposed cites discussed in the article.

  3. I think this should be turned over the the MWAA to add to their toll road portfolio that would further bolster their rail-to-Dulles vision.

    The Smart Growth folks should LIKE tolls and should double like tolls that are used to finance more rail. Win-win-win!

  4. A new crossing could include rail…right?

  5. Run it along the ridge line of Bull Run mountain.

    Instead of the outer beltway, call it the inner skyline drive.

    It is no good for anything else and it is mostly conservation land which would prevent interchanges. One at 66 and one at Sterling, not route 7. Maybe Ox road.

  6. Use the tolls to buy up what is left of Fauquier and put it all in easement.

    Smart growth will love it in spite of themselves

  7. larryg Avatar

    The Smart Growthers tend to think (with some justification IMHO) that major roads that radiate out from urban job centers – promote sprawl – because the road itself is usually not paid for just by those who want to “sprawl”.

    But what does it mean when the road is tolled and paid for by those who use it?

    what does it mean when the tolls not only pay for that road but further – pay for other mobility infrastructure like transit and rail?

    I’m in a similar place to Jim Bacon on the sprawl. I do not think people should be restricted from making their own choices but I also think they themselves should personally bear the costs of those choices – not others.

    So while I’d oppose new, new location roads that clearly have the potential of promoting sprawl… if they are tolled… congestion tolled… then are the folks that use them not paying their personal location costs?

    1. I agree. If VDOT can figure out how to pay for an Outer Beltway with tolls, perhaps supplemented by Community Development Authority districts around the interchanges, but not subsidized by the state, I’d go along with the project.

      Before Don the Ripper has a fit, I would say the same of any major project anywhere in the state. VDOT should have put tolls on Rt. 288, Richmond’s southwestern Beltway. Even worse, a lot of the money came from a supplemental appropriation by the General Assembly. It was a travesty — and I blogged about it plenty.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        I give up – why can’t tolls be added to Rt 288 now? Oh right … because it’s in Richmond.

  8. larryg Avatar

    I had not explicitly considered the requirement of transportation districts around the interchanges.

    Should that be a VDOT requirement and is that intruding on the localities land-use decisions? Is that a Clown-show top-down approach?

    How come the Smart Growth folks don’t offer these mitigations but instead just outright oppose no matter what?

  9. larryg Avatar

    these transportation districts are basically long term bonds, to be paid back from supplemental property taxes. In Va, they TYPICALLY have to have 51% of the landowners approval in order to put into place.

    My understanding is that VDOT is restrained by law to only involving itself in the actual acquisition of property and ONLY what is necessary for the actual footprint of the interchange.

    This would likely require a change in the law. You can bet that landowners and local govts would line up against it in the GA.

  10. I’ve read the CTB’s analysis in support of this project. If any Virginia high school student turned in the two CTB resolutions as home work or as answers to a test, the student would be lucky to get a “D.” There will be growth in counties west and south of Fairfax, so we need this road. This load of sophomoric crap justifies nothing. Where are the location-specific growth studies? What are the assumptions underlying the studies? Where are the traffic studies? What alternatives were studied? Where does this project rank vis a vis other proposed projects? How do the supporters address the opposition of the Clark, Fauquier and Loudoun county boards of supervisors?
    Build the road as a self-sustaining toll road with limited interchanges.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      But TMT … VDOT should have dominion over local land use planning according to Sean Connaughton (and many of the participants on this blog). Are you implying that the state transportation gestapo might need remedial training in ROI calculation?

  11. larryg Avatar

    Many of VDOT/CTB new location road proposals speak of “projected” growth that “needs to be served”.

    they accept commuting from exurban places to jobs in urban centers as a legitimate “need”.

    this is why I believe that any proposed new location road should ALWAYS have an investor grade toll study done – to determine just how much people would be willing to pay to use that road – and by adding up the revenues – see if those revenues are sufficient to pay off bonds to finance the road.

    If it is sufficient to fully pay for the road – then there is a true quantifiable need.

    If it is not, then it indicates the road essentially needs to be subsidized and cannot sustain itself on people willing to pay to use it.

    So that’s the very first thing that VDOT/CTB should do with this proposed road. Get the cost estimates then do an investor grade study – done – NOT by VDOT but by an independent entity that does this as their business.

  12. I support counties having land use decisions and responsibility for local roads. The problem with transportation is that localities approve more density and development than the roads can handle. If the local governments don’t want to do the job, I am not troubled by VDOT having a veto. It makes no sense for citizens and businesses to pay higher taxes if transportation doesn’t actually improve. To improve transportation, we must both raise money and postpone land use changes until the transportation network has improved.

  13. larryg Avatar

    to be honest though, local responsibility for local roads does not totally fix the land-use issue because VDOT will retain responsibility for primary roads and localities have land-use powers that affect primary roads also – i.e. Route 7.

    VDOT has become much tougher though on access management on primary roads – especially with regard to curb cuts and median crossovers.

  14. larryg Avatar

    re: who has responsibility and how come more roads are not tolled?

    VDOT SHOULD have responsibility for all state roads of state-level significance just as the FHWA is responsible for the Interstates.

    Can you imagine the localities like Fairfax deciding where to put interchanges on the Interstates? Total chaos would rein. Each ramp would be chock-a-block with commercial development and traffic “flow” would be an oxymoron.

    What VDOT is doing is basically saying that the localities do not have the right to crap up roads whose primary purpose is to move traffic through the state.

    VDOT is also saying that local roads that the locality wants to locate development on – should be the responsibility of the locality so that when they make decisions that impact that road – that they bear the responsibility for the decision – and the consequences – not the taxpayers of Va.

    As I say over and over … this is how almost 98% of the rest of the states in the US work when it comes to roads. Va is an outlier and it has caused great harm to the state as DJ asserts – it has harmed ED. But DJ says it’s the state that has done this when in reality, it’s bad planning by the localities who then blame VDOT for the transportation messes they create. DJ thinks it’s a money issue. It’s a land-use issue as well. Bad land-use planning leads to very costly transportation consequences – that VDOT does not have the money for and if we gave them more money – the localities would continue to crap up roads and suck up the additional money and no good would come of it at all.

    Tolls are coming to more and more roads. Most new roads (not all yet) are tolled and many existing roads – like I-95 through North Carolina – will be tolled.

    Every person will soon have to have an EZ-Pass affixed to their windshield and be prepared to pay their fair share based on their actual road usage.

    You know.. DJ promotes himself as a conservative businessman but here lately he sounds JUST LIKE a tax&spend Democrat! DJ.. you sneaky guy, you!

  15. larryg Avatar

    re: toll roads and ‘diverting’ onto local roads.

    I’m a skeptic on this. I think it is JUST as LIKELY that high tolls will encourage people to take mass transit, carpool, change/alter work hours, etc.

    Having said that – I DO AGREE that there is a point where toll revenues will peak and start to drop.

    I wonder what it would take for the DTR to go to a HOT Lane type tolling?

  16. DJRippert Avatar

    “Every person will soon have to have an EZ-Pass affixed to their windshield and be prepared to pay their fair share based on their actual road usage.”.

    Yes, just like in Singapore today.

    No single change ever contemplated for transportation would do more to fix our transportation and land use problems than that.

    1. ????? !!!!! ????
      Did Don just renounce all of his previous pronouncements regarding the evils of toll roads…. or is he being purely sarcastic here?

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        Don is not being sarcastic at all. My only real problem with tolls is that they only seem to appear in NoVa and Tidewater. The proposed Rt 81 tolls, for example, were tossed aside as people using Rt 81 decided that they didn’t want to pay tolls.

        Once you put tolls everywhere they are not tolls anymore. They are a milage based tax system – applicable to everybody. In fact, they would help a lot with land use decisions. One would hope that the Fairfax County BoS would declare what the per mile tolls would be going into and out of Tyson’s Corner after the density was increased and new roads built. That might cause the landowners to wonder if they could really attract that many people at (for example) $2/mi. They might have to think long and hard about how the Metro could be a more viable transportion option for people who will work in their mixed use buildings (but live elsewhere). Maybe they would band together and run a free bus service for workers to get them from the Metro stop to the offices – like colleges do for students. Who knows?

        And when it costs $1/mi to drive down an overbuilt road in RoVa where there are too few miles being driven to pay for the maintenance, maybe some roads will be simply abandoned.

        Of course, once you know what miles are being driven where, there is no reason to delay devolution. Monies for state highways go to the state and monies for local roads go to localities. From there, the localities can either run their own VDOTs or pay the state VDOT to take care of things for them.

        But … the key is fairness. EVERYBODY pays to drive. Not just the people in NoVa and Tidewater.

  17. larryg Avatar


  18. larryg Avatar

    I concur about I-81. The localities along I-81 were spooked by the trucking interests who said they would go elsewhere but it was a bluff (that worked).

    I think at some point VDOT will revisit the I-81 issue because a 2-lane interstate with a high percentage of truck traffic is a nightmare and most travelers are going to want the 3rd lane with trucks out of it.

    I’m truly heartened by DJ epiphany on tolls and land -use and the developer-preferred practice of opening up new land with new highways.

    It’s been a disaster for exurban communities who are slammed by commuters looking for cheap housing, good schools, but don’t want to pay for more/better roads.

    everyone and their dog queues up for I-95 in the morning … and of course the vast majority have “no choice” but to drive solo because they “might” have to return home quickly for an “emergency”.

    Meanwhile VRE is selling $20 per trip seats to the localities who pay for it by charging gasoline purchasers an additional 2.1% on their purchases.

    Stafford wants to build MORE UDAs for the commuters (with new single family subdivisions encircling them) and the plan is for those commuters to use I-95 and VRE – both of which are maxed.

    Of course the developers don’t care about that as long as they can develop more land.

    The HOT lanes will change all of this. There will be a location cost and the further you drive – the more it will cost you ( yeah I know..that’s a filthy concept, eh).

    Of course the ultimate irony to all of this is that this commuter crazed stampede for land development is fueled by, of all things a Federal Govt that is 15 trillion in debt and headed for financial disaster if they don’t go on a diet.

    I have no trouble with tolls. I consider them the individual mandate of transportation. Time to get the free-riders to pay their fair share!

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