“Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s plan to widen the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 could be pushed back for a year if the General Assembly adopts a bill that would require the state to complete an environmental assessment before moving forward,” a report today in Maryland Matters details. As we see here, it's just the latest in a cascade of pushbacks against the proposed "Lexus Lanes."
/PM BlogSpace Report/ Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed “Lexus Lanes” on the MoCo section of I-495 (Beltway) and I-270 are piling up roadblocks in the General Assembly session as hyperlocal resistance, evidence from proponents of a superior mass-transit alternative and deep skepticism of public-private partnership “pixie dust” embedded in the Hogan scheme for financing the project (in the range of $10 billion or more) accumulate.
The state transportation agency, whose chief Pete Rahn is still living down a collusive episode involving a former employer, has recently gotten approval for a design stage overseen by several well-connected consultants.
Several bills working through the Assembly would require a complete environmental impact study before the design phase begins work, as Bruce Depuyt reports in Maryland Matters.
“Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s plan to widen the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 could be pushed back for a year if the General Assembly adopts a bill that would require the state to complete an environmental assessment before moving forward,” Depuyt’s article outlines.
“House Bill 91 would require all “pre-solicitation reports” for Public-Private Partnerships — or P3s — to be held until an Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] is finished.”
Under the Hogan plan, two new lanes would be added to I-495, I-270 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. “The new capacity would come from ‘express’ lanes financed by private-sector firms that would foot the upfront costs in exchange for the right to charge tolls,” Depuyt’s report says.
Dels. Alfred C. Carr Jr. (D) and Marc Korman (D) have filed the bills delaying the “pre-solicitation reports” until after the EIS. Korman said the public private partnership had a "pixie dust" quality. An earlier effort by freshman Del. Vaughn Stewart would explicitly require a report assessing the carbon footprint of widened lanes compared to other solutions, such as applying the proposed public funds to mass transit to reduce Interstate congestion.
“The goal, Stewart said, would be to ensure both that ambient air quality standards for ozone would not be exceeded and that the project would allow the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030, as laid out by the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2016,” Maryland Matters reported in early January.
And Del. Brooke Lierman of Baltimore has filed HB 102, a bill extending statewide a prohibition against building toll roads without explicit assent from local county governments.
Ben Ross, a longtime mass transit advocate, has argued since the project was first broached that more highway lanes would invite more congestion, and more recently pointed out in this space that, based on Northern Virginia’s comparable experience with “Lexus Lanes,” a round-trip from Frederick to DC could wind up costing $82 – well beyond the reach of all but the very rich.
Researchers for the regional Sierra Club chimed in that where Maryland has compacted with other eastern seaboard states to collectively reduce transportation-related carbon emissions, the Hogan highway plan runs counter to those goals.
Elsewhere the present writer has argued that the happy parallel of the nine seaboard states in the transportation carbon-reduction with a longtime power-decarbonization effort means “the Transportation & Climate Initiative explicitly joined a planned transportation decarbonization effort with the work of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative coalition, which has been for a decade or more using a cap-and-trade system to ratchet down the fossil-fuel sources of electric power in states from Vermont to (recently joined-up) Virginia.” There’s some real convergence opportunity here, it was argued, “as the struggle for a functional Green New Deal plays out in Congress, the dual initiative – committing the Atlantic seaboard states to serious decarbonization of electric power sources and local transportation – should provide an existing, exemplary framework for it.”
Examined from the perspective of national transportation policy standards – with concerns for justice and equity built in – Hogan’s Lexus Lanes plan has more than a whiff of racism embedded, writers in the transportation blog Streetsblog suggest.
So the efforts of the MoCo delegates have a chance to be in synch with these wider initiatives, whereas the Hogan Lexus Lanes plan appears to have few fans outside of Pete Rahn’s inner circle and the hungry flock of consultants anxious to make a public-private partnership look like something other than the profiteering boondoggle that it has often proved to be.
Article compiled by Woody Woodruff
Map: States in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (Virginia and New Jersey have agreed to join; Pennsylvania is included in the transportation decarbonization compact.