(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) Tysons area commuters heading to and from Maryland on the Beltway may see some relief from the constant traffic woes.
The governors of Virginia and Maryland announced an agreement Tuesday morning that would see the construction of a new American Legion Bridge.
The agreement to rebuild the bridge is being billed as “historic” and “a big win for Northern Virginia, the metro region, and our entire Commonwealth” by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D).
The new bridge will “relieve congestion at one of the country’s worst traffic chokepoints,” according to a press release, below. “The project is expected to cut commuting time in half for many travelers, reduce congestion in the regular lanes by 25 percent, provide 40 percent more lane capacity over the old bridge, and include bicycle and pedestrian paths across the Potomac River.”
The new bridge will be build on largely the same footprint as the existing bridge, but with two new express lanes in both directions. The initial stages of construction could begin as early as 2021.
Proud to stand with @GovLarryHogan to announce our new, historic Capital Beltway Accord. Finally, our two states have come together to rebuild the American Legion Bridge—a big win for Northern Virginia, the metro region, and our entire Commonwealth.https://t.co/lamx5p3zqr pic.twitter.com/av4wOhzYjI
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) November 12, 2019
More via a press release from the governor’s office:
Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) and Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) today announced a bi-state, bipartisan accord to create a new, unified Capital Beltway, replace the aging American Legion Bridge and relieve congestion at one of the country’s worst traffic chokepoints. The two governors made the announcement at the annual Capital Region Transportation Forum in Washington, DC.
“A new bridge means commuters will get to work and back home faster,” said Governor Northam. “Our teams have identified a way to fix one of the worst traffic hot spots in the country. This demonstrates what can get done when leaders come together to find shared solutions to tough regional problems. This is about helping people see their families more, grow their businesses, and further unlock the region’s vast economic potential.”
“The ‘Capital Beltway Accord’ is a once-in-a-generation achievement for the capital region,” said Governor Hogan. “A bipartisan, commonsense, interstate agreement such as this has eluded elected leaders throughout the region for many decades. Together with our partners in Virginia, we are building a foundation for even greater economic growth, greater opportunity for our citizens, and advancing real, lasting, transformative improvements for the entire Washington metropolitan region.”
The project complements ongoing plans by both governors in their jurisdictions–advancing a region-wide vision for a seamless network of reliable travel options around the Capital Beltway, and along Interstates 270 and 95, 395, and 66.
The project is expected to cut commuting time in half for many travelers, reduce congestion in the regular lanes by 25 percent, provide 40 percent more lane capacity over the old bridge, and include bicycle and pedestrian paths across the Potomac River.
The American Legion Bridge has been operating beyond its capacity for nearly four decades. Daily traffic has grown 390 percent since the bridge opened in 1962, with 235,000 vehicles using it daily. More than 40 percent of the region’s population travels this segment of the Capital Beltway, and the region expects to grow by another 1.2 million people by 2040. Both governors have made it a top priority to identify a long-term, seamless solution for the Capital Beltway.
The project will replace the existing lanes in each direction across the Potomac River and add two new Express Lanes in each direction for approximately three miles between the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia to the vicinity of River Road in Maryland. New bicycle and pedestrian access will connect trails on both sides of the Potomac River. The project is being designed predominantly within the footprint of the existing bridge and right-of-way to minimize impact to travelers, the environment, and surrounding communities. No homes or businesses are expected to require relocation.
“This is once-in-a-generation project that will improve accessibility throughout the region,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “This is a milestone in regional cooperation. We in Virginia look forward to working hand-in-hand with Maryland to deliver this transformative transportation solution.”
Virginia announced plans earlier this year to leverage its existing public-private partnership with Transurban, the operator of the 495 Express Lanes, to extend the lanes approximately two miles north toward the American Legion Bridge and add new connections at the Dulles Toll Road and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Construction on what is known as “Project Next” could begin as early as 2021.
Maryland’s Board of Public Works has approved advancing a bold and innovative Traffic Relief Plan that includes improvements to I-270 and I-495. It is the largest public-private partnership of its kind in the world.
“Our transportation network cannot function without fixing the American Legion Bridge, I-495 and I-270,” said Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn. “Without these improvements, our horrendous congestion will only get worse. I commend Governors Hogan and Northam for reaching this historic agreement that will have lasting benefits for our region for decades to come.”
The new American Legion Bridge will be delivered in coordination with these other projects and will leverage private capital through public-private partnerships to reduce the need for public funding and shift key traffic and construction risks to the private sector.
The states have agreed to a bi-state funding plan to accelerate the delivery of these critical improvements, including all of the infrastructure needed for connections between George Washington Parkway and MD-190/River Road.
Maryland will cover 79 percent of the General Purpose Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, 50 percent of the Express Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, and 100 percent of the southbound Express Lanes and General Purpose Lanes from MD-190/River Road to the George Washington Parkway.
Virginia will cover 21 percent of the General Purpose Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, 50 percent of the Express Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, and 100 percent of the northbound Express Lanes and General Purpose Lanes from the George Washington Parkway to MD-190/River Road.
The head of the D.C. area group Coalition for Smarter Growth derided the proposal to add new express lanes as “costly, destructive, not a long-term solution like transit-oriented development.”
Focus on American Legion Bridge is good if funded, expanded transit a core component BUT verdict still out re HOT lanes- costly, destructive, not long-term solution like transit-oriented development @betterDCregion @ggwash @luzcita @McCartneyWP https://t.co/LPzWYjpsaP
— Stewart Schwartz (@csgstewart) November 12, 2019
Meanwhile, the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, an industry-led group that advocates for transportation improvements, cheered today’s announcement, in a statement.
The Alliance applauds Governor Hogan and Governor Northam for working together to address one of the region’s worst bottlenecks.
This agreement exemplifies the importance of regional collaboration and public-private partnerships in solving our region’s transportation challenges.
Expanding the American Legion Bridge and the regional express lanes network have been long-standing priorities of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance. These improvements will:
- Enhance Regional Connectivity – connect the two most populous jurisdictions in the region.
- Increase Reliability – enhance regional economic growth and competitiveness
- Reduce Congestion and Delays – help drivers in both the free and congestion managed lanes.
- Create New Travel Options – allow drivers to pay for a faster trip while incentivizing more HOV and transit ridership using the managed lanes.
Built in 1962, the American Legion Bridge currently carries around 235,000 vehicles per day with that number expected to increase to 280,000 by 2040.
It is the only bridge connecting Fairfax and Montgomery Counties – the two most populous jurisdictions in our region and home to nearly 40% of the region’s population and jobs.
Photo via Google Maps