Montgomery Requests Additional Time for DEIS Response

In a letter addressed to Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Greg Slater, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich requested additional time for the community to review and respond to the Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) for a Managed Lanes Study.

Elrich requested an extension of “at least 120 days,” but preferably longer for the community to review the DEIS, which is for the proposed managed lanes project for I-495 and I-270. Elrich explains the current 90-day study period is an inadequate period of time to expect “the community as well as volunteer organizations to read and digest almost 18,000 pages.”

From the letter:

And in the bigger picture, the crisis with the Purple Line Concessionaire indicates that we are not well positioned to construct a good public private partnership (P3) project. Without an in-depth analysis of what went wrong and what needs to be done differently, it is difficult to have confidence in the State’s ability to get into another P3 that will protect the state’s long-term interests. It is important to understand the current situation with the existing P3 before embarking on another one because it appears that there is not a clear solution to the current Purple Line P3 that wouldn’t gouge the State and taxpayers; one possibility would be to instead make it a State project—as it was originally intended—and bring the financing in-house to avoid excessive costs on the borrowing front. I realize that discussion of the Purple Line P3 may not seem obviously related to the issue at hand, but it does point to the need to understand all aspects of a project including the financing; apparently, somewhere in the 18,000 pages of the Managed Lanes DEIS, the possibility of a not previously known public subsidy is mentioned. For such major projects, decision makers and the public need the time to understand the proposals and react to them.

Elrich did offer that while the “current process may technically be in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidance,” he respectfully asks MDOT to extend the comment period “so that the process meets both the requirements and spirit of accepting public comment.”

See full letter and press release.