Wilson Bridge replacement gets support from White House

Additional $600 million to be sought for project

June 15, 1999|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

The Clinton administration tried to jump-start stalled plans to replace the Woodrow Wilson Bridge yesterday, saying it would push for Congress to set aside an additional $600 million for the project and appeal a federal ruling that has threatened to delay it.

In a meeting yesterday with Washington-area lawmakers, Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said he would ask Congress for the extra money beyond the $900 million approved.

"It is a very, very big step forward," said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a Southern Maryland Democrat. While a bipartisan group of public officials from the area supports the new funds, congressional aides said they did not know whether the plan would attract wider support.

Last year, Congress appropriated $900 million over six years to replace the aging six-lane bridge, which connects Prince George's County with Alexandria, Va. On a typical day, the 39-year-old bridge carries more than twice its intended capacity. Slater said he would ask Congress for the $600 million over four years, starting in fiscal 2004. Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia would have to find $300 million for the new bridge.

In addition, the Justice Department said yesterday that it would appeal part of a federal judge's ruling that the Federal Highway Administration had run roughshod over requirements that the agency show how the proposed 12-lane structure would affect the environment and historic structures.

The judge's ruling may delay the start of the renovation by 18 to 24 months, officials said.

Taken together, yesterday's announcements by the transportation department showed a renewed enthusiasm for a project that had been seen as foundering.

"We have done all that we can to move this bridge forward," said Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a Prince George's County Democrat.

Pub Date: 6/15/99

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