Governor Announces Plans To Widen I-270, I-495, MD 295

Today Governor Hogan announced a plan to add four new lanes to I-270, the Capital Beltway (I-495), and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD 295). The anticipated $9 billion “Traffic Relief Plan” for these three major state highways is touted to reduce congestion for millions of drivers.

The MD 295 project involves selling the road to the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA), which primarily operates toll facilities and does not generally use any gas tax revenues for its projects. Parts of MD 295 are owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Governor indicated that he has entered into talks with the Department Secretary about the transfer. Baltimore City also owns the part of MD 295 that runs through the city boundaries, and it is unclear whether MdTA would take over ownership of that portion, as well.

The state plans to widen I-495 and I-270 by entering into a public-private partnership (P3), through which the private entity would design, build, finance, operate, and maintain new lanes on I-495 between the American Legion Bridge and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and on I-270 between I-495 and I-70.  That project is also anticipated to include express toll lanes. According to the Request for Information (RFI) MDOT released today, MDOT does not intend to use Transportation Trust Fund dollars for these projects, either.

From the Governor’s release:

The first step to build new express toll lanes on MD 295 will begin with the transfer of MD 295 from the U.S. Department of the Interior to the Maryland Transportation Authority. Governor Hogan has already personally started this process during a recent meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and has directed MDOT officials to move forward with the transfer negotiations. Following the transfer, the Maryland Transportation Authority would then build, operate, and maintain the new lanes and maintain existing lanes between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. …

In making this announcement today, Governor Hogan has directed MDOT to issue the Request for Information [(RFI)] to the P3 industry and continue the transfer process with the U.S. Department of the Interior.

MDOT issued the RFI today. From the document:

In lieu of an availability payment structure, MDOT is considering offering a toll
concession to developers for added capacity the developers provide to I-495 or I-270.
Under a toll concession for additional capacity, current capacity on I-495 and on I-
270 shall remain free. Only users of the additional capacity would pay user fees. The
desire of MDOT would be that any private agreement not require a financial
contribution directly from the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund and that the
agreement would provide a concession payment to MDOT upon financial close.
Assistance through federal funding resources and programs such as the
Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) would be
supported and pursued.