Eastern Bypass/US Route 301 Corridor – A Homeland Security Priority
The I-95 corridor is the United States East Coast’s “Main Street” and one of the nation’s busiest interstate highways. With the nation’s population projected to increase by another 100 million in the next 30 years, this corridor is destined to become even more congested. An upgraded US Route 301 is essential for national as well as state and regional mobility, prosperity and homeland security. Any act of terrorism or major accident that renders the Wilson Bridge and Capital Beltway inoperable for any significant period of time would be catastrophic to the region’s and nation’s economy and security. Creating such a route would likely take several decades. However, a cooperative federal/state initiative with such an objective is most definitely in the nation’s and region’s interest.
The Eastern Bypass is part of what regional planners in the 1960s proposed as a third or outer Beltway. Planners envisioned three circumferential highways in the metropolitan area with the outermost one serving in part as a connector from I-95 to the US Route 301 corridor.
The Eastern Bypass’ primary function is to divert north-south interstate traffic, heavy trucks in particular, moving up and down the East Coast off I-95 to the US Route 301 Corridor, and thereby away from the Capital Beltway and Woodrow Wilson Bridge/Springfield Mixing Bowl and the metropolitan core.
Potential corridors, benefits and feasibility were last examined in the late 1980s in a joint Maryland-Virginia (Bellomo-McGee) Study. This Study examined six possible corridors ranging from 57 to 91 miles in length. It estimated travel demand of 60,000 vehicles per day by 2010 and costs between $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion (in 1988 dollars) depending upon the corridor.
Other documented benefits include:
- Increase Potomac River Crossing Capacity
- Reduce Truck Accidents and Related User Costs
- Divert through Trucks and Autos from Congested Interstate Use
- Increase Commerce between Maryland and Virginia
- Serve Key Economic Centers including BWI, the Port of Baltimore and Local Activity Centers
- Generate Additional Employment in the Vicinity of the Corridor
The study also determined that – “From an engineering perspective, construction of an Eastern Bypass is feasible.”
In 1991, Maryland declared it was no longer committed to an Eastern Bypass and studied improvements of the US Route 301 corridor ending at the Potomac River.
The Northern Virginia 2040 Transportation Plan includes an Eastern Bypass linking I-95 and US Route 301 and estimates the cost of this link at $1.231 billion.
The Governors of Maryland and Virginia should pursue a bi-state dialogue with a goal of developing a coordinated approach to planning additional capacity and limiting access throughout the length of the MD-VA US Route 301 Corridor.