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EDITORIAL: A bridge too far

Let’s say you want to get married on a kayak in the middle of the Potomac River where Route 15 crosses at Point of Rocks. It’s a lovely setting for a ceremony, especially if you fancy adventure. Just make sure you have a Maryland marriage license.

The Potomac River divides Maryland and Virginia, but Virginia does not own half of the river. The Maryland border stretches to the Virginia shoreline.

Geography is lost on members of Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors, who embrace a fantasy that they can bridge the Potomac with a new crossing from Loudoun County that eases traffic congestion and fosters an agenda for growth.

Maryland is having none of it. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) says the state has no inclination to build a new Potomac River crossing. Maryland won’t pay for it.

Neither will Virginia. “I don’t fund bridges that aren’t in our state,” says Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).

Across the river in Montgomery County, Maryland, County Council President Roger Berliner characterizes the crossing as a zombie bridge. “It keeps rising from the dead, ” says Berliner, who is leading opposition in the Free State.

Indeed, a new crossing across the Potomac has been studied and restudied, argued and dismissed for half a century.

Now, the idea for another crossing has regained support in some portions of northern Virginia, where there is extensive commuting to and around the Capitol District. Loudoun County Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) says that the crossing is his “number one for the region.”

It’s hard to predict what happens in the strange world that connects politics with public projects, but unless Meyer has acquired superpowers, a new plan to study the crossing won’t change outcomes.

Loudouners have learned to live with sprawl. Many are frustrated with miles-long backups on Route 15 between Leesburg and the Point of Rocks Bridge. But rather than widen the road to four lanes, most favor preserving a bucolic stretch of road that has been designated a National Scenic Byway.

The Route 15 corridor through Loudoun County is a favored pathway on both sides of the river. But it can be as dangerous as it is attractive. North of Leesburg, Route 15 persists as an undivided, two-lane road with a volume of commercial trucking, north-south travelers and, increasingly, local commuters who can attest to driving conditions that are tricky during the day, perilous at night and dangerous on weekends when tourists flock to wineries, festivals, riding events and destinations such as rivers, the Appalachian Trail and historic sites.

Loudoun County contains some of the most gorgeous and valuable land in the nation. Over the past 250 years, citizens have built structures in harmony and proportion with the land. But in just one generation, the manifestations of mismanaged growth, poor planning and careless land-use have created a predicament with apparently no way out.

With one transportation project -- the Silver Line extension into Loudoun -- bringing exponential growth into the county at a cost that spirals out of control, another massive public works project with a huge price tag seems ill advised.

No one wants to pay for it. Not in Maryland. Not in Virginia.


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