JUNE 6, 1997

Mr. Chairman, thank you for providing this opportunity to appear before you and the subcommittee to present comments on behalf of Fairfax County regarding the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Fairfax County has a major interest in ensuring that this project is advanced at the earliest possible date so that this major river crossing is replaced with a facility that is designed and constructed to accommodate future demand in terms of the citizens who live in this region as well as for those who use this bridge as part of travel in the I-95 corridor on the eastern seaboard. Fairfax County has been involved in the study and development of the project recommendations related to this project.

On September 9, 1996, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed this 12-lane replacement as the preferred and technically warranted option to improve regional mobility and economic stability in the I-95 corridor. The County supports a twelve-lane bridge and has taken no position regarding the overall width of the structure. This recommendation has also been endorsed by the regional Transportation Planning Board in January 1997.

On September 26, 1996, following more than three years of detailed study and analysis, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Coordination Committee, a body made up of major regional stakeholders including federal, state and local leaders, selected the 12-lane, side-by-side drawbridge concept as the preferred alternative for replacement of the aging Potomac River span. This alternative was selected following exhaustive input and analysis by citizens and transportation professionals.

Studies conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments have indicated a need for 16 to 18 lanes on the Beltway to allow for regional growth. However, through the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Study, regional leadership has already agreed to compromise from 18 lanes down to 12 lanes. Further compromises on the number of lanes will place even more constraints on the ability to balance interstate travel and commuter traffic needs in Fairfax County, from which 30% of Wilson Bridge traffic originates.

A twelve lane bridge, in a local/express configuration, will provide superior safety and merging operations. Such a facility will remove traffic bottlenecks, improve carrying capacity, reduce travel times, improve safety, and provide the flexibility for future HOV/transit operations. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Coordination Committee's own studies have shown that the 12-lane express/local configuration is needed to reduce congestion during peak periods and save travel time for commuters. It is also essential that the interchanges encompassed in the study area be improved to enhance local and interstate access to businesses and residences in the corridor.

We must build for the future. The Council of Governments has projected a 43% increase in regional population and 1.1 million new jobs over the design year of the new bridge. Also projected is a region-wide 60% increase in total vehicle trips, but only a 20% increase in planned highway capacity. The Wilson Bridge as part of the Capital Beltway is the only major facility in this corridor with the ability to expand with reasonable environmental impacts.

I urge you to endorse and provide full federal funding for the Wilson Bridge Coordination Committee's Preferred Alternative without reducing the number of lanes across the bridge or eliminating access improvements at interchanges. Unlike any other bridge in the country, this bridge is owned by the federal government. Therefore, it is essential that the federal funding made available for this project should not be counted against regular federal funds that are allocated to Virginia or Fairfax County for other critical transportation projects.

Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments on behalf of Fairfax County on this critical project which is of regional as well as national significance.