JONES POINT, Va. – Officials from Maryland, Virginia and the District gathered at the foot of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Wednesday to ask Congress to pay the full construction cost of a replacement span.
Because the bridge is federally owned, officials argued the federal government should pay the estimated $1.6 billion cost to replace it.
“This is not Maryland’s or Virginia’s or the District of Columbia’s bridge,” said Rep. Al Wynn, D-Largo. “This is their bridge, and we think our request is reasonable.”
President Clinton’s fiscal 1997 budget, submitted to Congress Feb. 6, requested $40 million for the bridge replacement.
“This would be enough to keep us moving forward” on the design process, said David Winstead, secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation.
Funds would have to be authorized through the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, which is funded primarily through the federal gas tax, Winstead said. The bridge construction project is just one of many requests vying for some of the funding.
The last time the act went through Congress in 1991, about $6.1 billion was allocated for special projects like the bridge, said Jeff Nelligan, spokesman for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
He said he has no idea if the bridge project will awarded the full $1.6 billion.
Nelligan said the committee, which began holding hearings this week on transportation funding issues, will not know how realistic full funding is for several weeks.
A Senate committee began holding transportation hearings in February.
If full funding is granted, it would likely resolve the controversy over whether or not a new bridge would need a $1 toll.
Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening has repeatedly voiced his opposition to a toll.
If the bridge receives full construction funds from Congress, the governments of Maryland, Virginia and the District have agreed to establish a bridge authority to take over its maintenance and operation, said Robert Martinez, Virginia’s secretary of Transportation. That is expected to cost from $40 million to $50 million annually.
A new bridge is needed because the existing Wilson bridge, opened in 1961, is only expected to last another seven years. It was designed to support about 75,000 vehicles daily, but is now being used by an estimated 170,000 daily. The current plan to replace the aging bridge is to build two, six-lane drawbridges about 100 feet south of the existing span. -30-