By Kate Alexander
WASHINGTON – A new survey says that 80 percent of Montgomery County motorists support the construction a new Potomac River crossing, striking a stark contrast with the county council’s unanimous opposition.
The results of the 2001 Transportation Poll, by American Automobile Association Mid-Atlantic, show a slight growth since last year in Montgomery County approval for the so-called “Techway” and even greater support in Northern Virginia counties. The survey was released Tuesday.
The proposed Techway would connect the Interstate 270 corridor with the Dulles International Airport area, providing a link between the two high- technology hubs of the region.
But the Montgomery County Council has repeatedly voiced ardent opposition to the bridge. Last fall, the council voted unanimously to block a Federal Highway Administration study of the river crossing, citing the probable damage that its construction and ensuing development would bring to the county’s northern agricultural reserve.
AAA rebuked the council’s “head-in-the-sand” approach to the proposed bridge.
“Elected officials who oppose the construction of a new Potomac River crossing are clearly out of touch with their constituents on this issue,” said Lon Anderson of AAA Mid-Atlantic.
For the council, though, opposition to the Techway is a `no-brainer’ because of the county’s longtime master plan, said Lou D’Ovidio, aide to Councilman Michael L. Subin, D-At Large. That plan calls for preservation of open and agricultural spaces in upper Montgomery.
“Unless the community is prepared to change the master plan. . .they (the council members) are not going to support it,” D’Ovidio said.
He also noted that Subin has received few calls from constituents decrying the council’s opposition to the bridge.
AAA officials could not say Tuesday how many Montgomery County residents were polled in the 451-person survey, which included licensed drivers from as far away as Baltimore and Richmond, Va. They conceded that the Techway findings could have a larger margin of error than the overall study, which had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
Despite the council’s opposition, the study is moving forward with the tepid support of County Executive Douglas Duncan and Gov. Parris Glendening. Aides to Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., an advocate of the road, said a contract should be signed by March 1 and the study completed by the end of the year.
The AAA poll interviewed randomly selected licensed drivers from throughout the mid-Atlantic on issues such as congestion, traffic safety, and cellular phone use while driving. The poll, which was taken Jan. 4 to Jan. 9, also found that:
— Nearly two-thirds of Washington-area drivers rate the region’s traffic as bad.
— Aggressive driving and congestion top area drivers’ concerns about highway threats.
— While almost 90 percent of the respondents said using a cell phone while driving is a safety hazard, more than half of the said they believed that the safety benefits exceeded the dangers caused by their use.