Last week, state transportation officials released 15 different options for its plan to add lanes to I-270, as Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) plan to spend $9 billion on adding lanes on I-270 and other major roads moves forward.
In September, Hogan announced at a press conference in Gaithersburg that the state will spend $9 billion on reducing traffic in the County, among the nation’s most traffic-congested areas, by adding lanes on I-270 and I-495 through a P3 public-private partnership.
Last week, the Maryland Department of Transportation released the 15 different alternatives for the governor’s plan to add lanes to I-270, which included plans for toll lanes and plans without toll lanes.
The alternatives that MDOT officials released include plans to adding one lane, two lanes, using tolls, adding bus lanes using the shoulders as additional lanes.
In September, Hogan said the state would add four toll lanes to I-270, promising that the $9 billion plan in state transportation projects to add lanes on I-270, I-495 and State Route 295 would not cost the taxpayers anything.
“These three massive, unprecedented projects to widen I- 495, I-270, and MD-295 will be absolutely transformative, and they will help Maryland citizens go about their daily lives in a more efficient and safer manner,” Hogan said when he announced his plan in September.
But while Hogan has set the project in motion, MDOT is still operating in the preliminary stages, first studying the 15 potential options – meaning, the final project could look different from what the governor proposed back in September.
County politicians have criticized the governor’s proposal, saying that adding lanes isn’t necessary, and instead should concentrate on creating reversible lanes that can flow north or south, depending on the time of day to accommodate rush-hour traffic.
Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large) said he could not comment on any of the alternatives state officials released last week, saying County politicians have not changed their minds on wanting reversible lanes, rather than four additional lanes.
“There’s still a lot of information to be gathered here, but when we get clearer here on what they’re looking at, we will consider whether there’s any change in the county position,” Riemer said.
Since he was elected governor, Hogan has proposed incremental fixes to I-270, such as an interchange at I-270 and Watkins Mill Road, but Hogan’s latest proposal – to add lanes on I-270 and I-495 – is his biggest transportation project for Montgomery County during his tenure as governor.
While local leaders praised Hogan’s plans to add an interchange at Watkins Mill Road, along with other improvements to the highway, his proposal to add lanes to I-270 is more controversial.
Hogan said his proposal to add lanes to I-270 and I-495 would be a P3 public-private partnership, meaning it would be largely financed through tolls charged to commuters who take the new express lanes. Since Hogan’s administration can finance the project through a public-private partnership, he argued that he does not need approval from the General Assembly, which has a lot of power over the state’s budget, to fund the plan.
State delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18), said Hogan has not consulted members of the County’s Annapolis delegation about his proposal for I-270.
“We never asked for this proposal; it is totally driven by Hogan,” Gutierrez said.