WASHINGTON — Critics of plans to expand the American Legion Bridge say you should prepare for more traffic beyond just the Capital Beltway.  

"This is really just short-term, they’re not looking at the big picture," Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth said. 

The Governors of Maryland and Virginia are partnering to build a new bridge next to the existing Potomac River crossing. Transportation officials predict that the project could cut some commute times in half.

"Cars don’t just magically teleport themselves to their new, 12-lane beltway and HOT lane facility, they have to get there somehow."

Transportation planners call the concept "induced demand." In simple terms, if you build it, they will come. Critics say over time, say so will new congestion—and not just on the bridge or even the Beltway.

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"So if you’re generating more driving because you’ve increased capacity every connecting road is going to have traffic on it as well," Schwart said.

George Washington Parkway in Virginia and Clara Barton Parkway in Maryland are common for drivers trying to bail out of bridge backups. Think back to March when a tractor-trailer jackknifed, closing the entire bridge. It slowed traffic, region-wide.

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Critics of the planning say there are alternatives—like spending the billion-dollar bridge price tag on bringing affordable housing closer to jobs and mass transit.

"By not taking a systems approach, they’re basically creating a magnet for more driving especially during the peak hour and they will crowd every single road in Maryland and Virginia coming to the Beltway," Schwartz said. 

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