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As Northern Virginia prepares for summer driving season, local businesses and residents are benefiting from the General Assembly’s bipartisan passage of last year’s landmark transportation reform and funding legislation. With long overdue financial resources now flowing to Northern Virginia transportation projects, Fairfax County and the region must determine how to most effectively improve our infrastructure. It is time to look again at a new Potomac River crossing which could be a bright spot in bringing much needed traffic relief to Northern Virginia and the entire Washington, D.C. region.

The Potomac River crossing is a bipartisan project with support from many policymakers in Richmond. These legislators are willing to break down barriers and work together to achieve the common objective of improving transportation. This year, Delegate Tom Rust (R-Herndon) and 10 other legislators from Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William introduced legislation directing the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to consider the results of an ongoing transportation study concerning Potomac River crossings between Virginia and Maryland. If this study reveals the need for an additional crossing, the legislation would require VDOT to analyze the costs, feasibility, and transportation impact. Such a crossing could be located in a number of places along a span from the Point of Rocks Bridge in Virginia to Route 301 in eastern Maryland.

Many in the business community, including the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, believe that the lack of an adequate number of Potomac River crossings is the area’s single greatest regional transportation deficiency. Opening the region inspires new company formation and greater connectivity and has the potential to drive significant net new job growth. There is no reason a new Potomac River Crossing couldn’t utilize a number of transportation methods, including bus rapid transit or light rail. The possibilities are, in fact, endless.

This river crossing would also provide relief for the region’s commuters. The lack of bridges outside the Capital Beltway forces tens of thousands of area residents to make lengthy round-about trips. According to the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, more than half the region’s population now lives outside the Capital Beltway and by 2020 that number is projected to grow to nearly two-thirds. In the future, two of every three trips in the region will be suburb-to-suburb, yet eight of the region’s ten Potomac River bridges are located inside the Beltway.

If we plan on continuing to nurture opportunity in our region, we must consider new solutions to our transportation challenges. A new Potomac River crossing will help ensure this region remains the best place to live, work and start or grow a business.

Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock)