Larry Hogan's GOP instinct for paving the world emerged unmistakably in the latest move by his state transportation department -- "Hogan admin rejects transit options preferred by public, limits I-495, I-270 plans to adding lanes -- announcement bulldozes public comments, concerns of highway neighbors," says a /Feb. 14 2019 news release from the MoCo citizens group Don’t Widen 270/.
Hogan admin rejects transit options preferred by public, limits I-495, I-270 plans to adding lanes -- announcement bulldozes public comments, concerns of highway neighbors, says a /Feb. 14 2019 news release from the MoCo citizens group Don’t Widen 270/:
The Hogan administration has announced its intention to limit its analysis of I-270 and I-495 options to those that add as many as four new lanes to one or both highways, and abandon consideration of rail, bus-rapid transit and bus-only lane options.
The announcement came just days after the transportation agency quietly published a summary of public comments that showed that the most preferred options are for any changes to stay within the existing footprints of the highways, and that transit solutions are preferred over adding lanes. It isn’t clear from MDOT’s announcement what the implications are for homes and businesses adjacent to the highways, but many have questioned how as many as four lanes could be added without having to pave over neighboring homes and properties.
“What does this mean for homes and neighborhoods by the highway? We still don’t know, and by throwing transit under the bus and limiting its focus to adding lanes, Governor Hogan’s administration is bulldozing over public opinion and raising the anxiety and uncertainty that nearby residents are experiencing over the future of our communities,” said Pete Altman of DontWiden270.org, a local citizen group opposed to widening the highways beyond their existing footprints.
Earlier this week, DontWiden270.org discovered an MDOT summary of public comments which clearly showed opposition to any approach which would go beyond the existing roadway footprints, and preference for transit solutions. Earlier this month, volunteers delivered over 500 signed petitions (now over 600) to Delegate Kumar Barve opposing plans to widen the highway and urging support for legislation to protect nearby communities. Last October, the Washington Post and University of Maryland published a poll showing 54% of Montgomery and Prince Georges County voters oppose adding toll lanes to the two highways.
Some statements in MDOT’s materials also raise questions about what evidence was used to justify narrowing the options for consideration. For example, MDOT stresses that “studies” show transit alone will not address the existing and long-term growth in the region. But this is used to justify dropping serious transit options from consideration, which is counter to the finding they cite. In addition, MDOT isn’t pointing to any analysis specific to the I-270 and I-495 corridors that justifies dropping stand-alone transit options.
“This underscores the importance of our state legislators taking action to create more local oversight over the project, protect local residents and make sure MDOT is doing its homework correctly before putting out contracts to bid,” said Altman. “In addition, our state and local legislators should be asking the Hogan administration some detailed questions about the evidence supporting the state’s decisions and the process used to reach them. For example, what data specific to I-270 and I-495 justifies dropping rail bus rapid transit from consideration? What data led MDOT to ignore decades of studies and experience showing that adding lanes isn’t a viable, lasting solution to congestion?”
DontWiden270.org supports HB 102, which would require consent of a majority of affected counties before toll roads could be built through them; HB 663 , which would prohibit taking homes in order to widen I-270 and I-495; and HB 91 , which requires completion of the Environmental Impact Statement before submitting project bidding plans to the Legislature for review and the Board of Public Works for approval. [And see our many PM BlogSpace posts on this issue.]
MDOT’s overview of the screened alternatives is here: https://495-270-p3.com/environmental/alternatives/screened-alternatives/ and a short video on the subject is here: https://495-270-p3.com/screened_alternatives_video/
“Don't Widen 270” can be contacted at [email protected] or at P.O. Box 10461, Rockville, Maryland 20849