Along the Potomac

Virginia and Maryland took two different steps Tuesday that could come back to haunt Northern Virginia.

Maryland elected a new governor who is adamant about building a highway that connects Interstate 95 with I-270 in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Maryland Gov.-elect Bob Ehrlich ran a campaign promising to build the so-called inter-county connector as did his opponent Kathy Townsend. But Townsend critics felt she would renege on that promise just as her political mentor, Gov. Paris Glendening, did after he was elected. Ehrlich plans to have ground broken on the ICC prior to the end of his first term.

Northern Virginians went to the polls on Tuesday and voted down a measure that would have raised the region’s sales tax by a half penny to pay for $5 billion in transportation improvements. With that measure defeated, the region is hard pressed for any new sources of transportation revenue especially considering the commonwealth’s dire financial situation.

The Northern Virginia economy, while still sound, took some hits during the recent recession and continued highway gridlock will hurt the prospects for an economic boom similar to what was experienced in the 1990s. When businesses are looking to relocate or expand in the Washington, D.C., area, the state with the best highway network and transportation plan will hold the advantage. Northern Virginia’s reputation for gridlock won’t help and Maryland officials won’t hesitate to exploit the situation.

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