County board backs Maryland’s push for funds to replace American Legion Bridge

Traffic heads from McLean into Maryland on the American Legion Bridge (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has thrown its support behind Maryland’s pursuit of federal funding for a long-awaited replacement of the American Legion Bridge.

At the request of Chairman Jeff McKay and Dranesville District Supervisor Jimmy Bierman, the board approved a letter on April 16 urging U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to fulfill the Maryland Department of Transportation’s expected grant request for its American Legion Bridge and 270 Corridor project.

In addition to replacing the 60-year-old bridge, the only direct connection between Fairfax and Montgomery counties, MDOT is considering adding toll lanes on its side of the Capital Beltway from I-495 to the I-270 western spur, along with transit, pedestrian and bicycle improvements.

According to McKay, the department’s State Highway Administration informed county officials that it will apply for the federal Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant Program, which has $5.1 billion to allocate to transportation infrastructure projects nationwide. Applications are due by May 6.

“We know this is an emergency situation. We applaud Maryland for getting this going again,” McKay said during the board meeting.

Maryland went back to the drawing board on its plans for the Beltway last year after private express lanes operator Transurban withdrew from a project championed by then-governor Larry Hogan. Then called Op Lanes Maryland, the proposed road widening and bridge replacement encountered fervent opposition from residents and local officials, leading to delays and lawsuits.

Virginia has pushed ahead with its own effort to widen the Beltway with toll lanes, known as 495 NEXT, but some community members, including elected officials, have worried it won’t offer much congestion relief without Maryland’s involvement, instead merely pushing the existing chokepoint at the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons north to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean.

In his letter to Buttigieg, McKay notes that capacity improvements for the American Legion Bridge have long been a priority for Fairfax County.

The American Legion Bridge, as a direct connection between the region’s most populous counties, is one of the most heavily used. It is also the most congested, with traffic volumes expected to increase. The chokepoint created by this bridge requires long-term solutions to help those traveling between Maryland and Virginia.

The Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant availability provides an opportunity to advance a project that is an important regional conduit for travel and economic activity between Virginia and Maryland, which will ensure the continued economic vitality of the Metropolitan Washington region.

In addition to adding toll lanes, the new bridge will feature a shared-use path and allow for planned bus routes between Tysons and Bethesda.

At community open houses last fall, MDOT officials touted potential benefits for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users, though limited details and a need for funding left some skeptical. The project could break ground by 2026, which would put it on track to finish construction by 2031, Maryland Matters reported.

After breaking ground in spring 2022, the Virginia Department of Transportation anticipates starting operations for the new I-495 toll lanes in December 2025 and fully wrapping up 495 NEXT in May 2026.

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