Needed green light for Wilson Bridge

Potomac span: Court ruling puts pressure on Congress to approve final funding piece.

January 06, 2000

IT TOOK a federal appeals court to get the $2 billion, 12-lane Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement project back on track last month -- just in time for the Maryland General Assembly to approve this improved Potomac River crossing.

The undertaking is vital to the region's drivers. The existing bridge is crumbling. Without a replacement by 2007, truck traffic will have to be banned from this vital link of Interstate 95. What a transportation nightmare!

The court ruling puts pressure on Congress to come up with the remaining $600 million for the project. The Maryland and Virginia delegations should push for an early commitment from Congress.

Some anti-growth groups in Virginia have tried to stop this project, as have officials from Alexandria, Va., who fear the replacement bridge will prove an eyesore. They also have been fighting a major development planned just south of the proposed bridge in Prince George's County. In both cases, the critics are wrong.

The new Wilson Bridge may not be, in the appeals court's words, "our beau ideal of a bridge design," but efforts have been made to make it aesthetically pleasing. Similarly, developers of the $1.5 billion National Harbor resort have taken pains to protect the Potomac shoreline.

National Harbor could help Prince George's attract the upscale businesses and retailers it now lacks. The new bridge would permit easy access to the site.

Trying to stop this bridge project is wrongheaded. The deterioration on the current span cannot be ignored. Nor can we ignore the congestion that would be eased by a wider crossing.

The appeals court ruling was an important step in efforts to take sensible steps to attack Maryland's unacceptable highway gridlock near population centers.

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