Maryland’s Board of Public Works on Wednesday voted to move ahead with Governor Hogan’s Traffic Relief Plan (after multiple amendments) by approving the proposed competitive solicitation for selecting a private party developer for the Program.
Following contentious debate, the Board voted 2-1 to approve a restructured plan, rearranging the timetable of its steps to place the efforts on Interstate 270 first, and delay work on the Washington Beltway and interstate 295 until later phases. The Governor and Comptroller each offered on-the-fly amendments to the plan before supporting it.
“This transformative project that we’re voting on today is about finally taking the first step to move forward and to finally take action on an issue that unfortunately elected officials have literally ignored for decades,” the Republican governor said. “It will result in less traffic, more peace of mind, cleaner air, and a much better quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Marylanders for decades to come.”
He added, “I’m moving forward with 270 because more people want to do 270.”
Delaying the bridge and Beltway portion by two years, he said, would give state transportation officials more time to work with leaders in Montgomery and Prince George’s to address their concerns.
The Hogan administration says the plan will provide residents with much-needed traffic congestion relief without having to pay for it with taxpayer dollars. Officials from the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) say the revenue from the tolls would pay for the construction, and a private company would operate the road for decades, eventually turning a profit.
The BPW heard from a number of residents and developers expressing support for the project citing reasons like ease of congestion and private sector job growth.
Montgomery County Council Member Tom Hucker asked the BPW to defer action on the managed lanes until the affected counties can work with the administration to come up with an alternative solution.
“Counties affected by this project want to be at the table, not on the menu,” Hucker said. With a few simple amendments [to the Traffic Relief Plan]… you will have a bi-partisan plan that will be the cornerstone of your legacy.”
The meeting drew wide attention, and caused a variety of stakeholder groups to express differing views on the regional transportation vision:
Documents from the Board of Public Works meeting, including the audio and video of the meeting, are available on its website.
Further discussion of the plan, and its route to adoption, is the first topic in this week’s Conduit Street Podcast.