The governors of Maryland and Virginia on Wednesday largely dismissed the idea of building a new bridge across the Potomac River to help alleviate traffic on the American Legion Bridge.
Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe discussed the idea of a new bridge briefly at a business forum in Washington, D.C.
The two leaders met at the Capital Region Business Forum that also featured Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser. The event consisted of a ranging discussion about economic priorities for the jurisdictions as well as regional cooperation to achieve mutual economic goals.
The moderator brought up the possibility of the two governors cooperating to build a new bridge to stem traffic on the existing bridge in Cabin John that connects Northern Virginia with Montgomery County.
Hogan said Maryland should look into the possibility of building a new bridge, but admitted there currently wasn’t a funding mechanism to pay for one. He also took issue with the phrasing of the question that suggested “everyone agrees” a new or improved Potomac River crossing is needed.
“I wouldn’t agree… that everyone agrees that it needs to happen,” Hogan said. He added the state is working to improve its existing bridges as well as studying whether to build a new bridge across the Chesapeake Bay to reduce congestion on the Bay Bridge.
Hogan said if McAuliffe was willing to have Virginia build a new Potomac River crossing, Maryland would be “happy to go along with it.”
But McAuliffe pushed back against his state having any responsibility for building a new span. He said the crossing is in Maryland and is that state’s responsibility.
McAuliffe said if he were the governor of Maryland, he’d pay for a new bridge “tomorrow.”
Google streetview of the American Legion Bridge.
In an interview with Bethesda Beat after the forum, McAuliffe said the American Legion Bridge does not touch the Virginia border, making it Maryland’s responsibility. The Maryland line is on the western edge of the Potomac River.
“I don’t fund bridges that aren’t in our state. It doesn’t touch our border. That’s your simple answer,” McAuliffe said. “I take responsibility for bridges in Virginia.”
When asked whether something needs to be done to relieve traffic congestion on the bridge, he replied, “I think they [Maryland leaders] need to seriously look at doing something with us. It’s their responsibility, it’s in their territory.”
Last year, the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board found the bridge has the worst congestion of those bridges that cross the Potomac in the Washington, D.C., area—with drivers traveling 40 percent to 60 percent of the posted speed limits during evening rush hours—and is most in need of improvement, according to The Washington Post.
What didn’t come up during the discussion was what local leaders were doing to try to lure Marriott International to their jurisdictions. The hotel giant is looking to move its headquarters from Fernwood Road in Bethesda to a location that’s more urban and has access to public transportation. Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson told Bethesda Magazine last year he’s considering options in Virginia and D.C. as well as a new location in Maryland.
McAuliffe said he would not discuss “private negotiations.” However, he added that he wants “every company” in Virginia.