Before the Board of Public Works vote on beltway expansion, the Rockville Mayor and Council have called on Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to reconsider his plan to add lanes to I-270 and I-495.
On June 3, its Mayor and Council unanimously approved a letter addressed their issues to Hogan and State Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn. They call on both officials to weigh the negative impacts of the plan on Rockville before pushing it further.
“The City remains strongly opposed to any alternatives that will negatively impact residences, businesses or infrastructure, or include multi-parcel takings, or any potential loss of City property to add lanes or widen I-270 in either direction through Rockville,” the mayor and members of the Rockville Council wrote in a letter.
In 2017, Hogan announced a plan to fix traffic congestion in the D.C. metropolitan area by adding additional lanes to I-495 and I-270 through a P-3 private-public partnership. Under the governor’s proposal, the new lanes would charge a toll to help pay for the cost of construction.
However, elected leaders in Montgomery County are united against the plan, saying to add additional lanes, the state would have to use eminent domain. Also, County Executive Marc Elrich has said that adding lanes would do little to stem the traffic issue in Montgomery County.
At the moment, state transportation officials are conducting studies of alternative plans, including the governor’s proposal, to determine the cost and feasibility of each plan. In Rockville, officials say that residents at the I-270 interchange with Falls Road, as well as residents along the western portion of I-270 between Falls Road and MD 28, would be negatively impacted by the construction.
“It is essential that the state understands that leaving a home untouched, while potentially taking a portion of a yard, playground, park, or other amenities – even during construction – would dismantle our community,” the mayor and council wrote in its letter.
Over the past few months, state transportation officials have been holding open houses and town halls about the alternative plans. While many residents fear that their homes or communities could be disturbed by Hogan’s proposal, public opinion is still split. According to a recent Washington Post poll, 61 percent of Montgomery County residents supporting highway expansion.
“Maryland needs to address congestion in the D.C. region,” said State Highway Administration Administrator Greg Slater in a statement. “If we don’t find a solution now, Marylanders will be sitting in traffic for many years to come and that would be unfortunate.”
Since his first term, Hogan has given a great deal of attention to fixing traffic in Montgomery County. While funding for an interchange or improvements to I-270 were applauded by local leaders, his plans to add lanes was not.
Hogan has called I-270 and I-495, along with MD 295, the three most-congested highways in the state, and said that something needs to be done to mitigate traffic congestion. Local leaders have encouraged Hogan to opt instead for reversible lanes on I-270 or more funding for mass transit. However, the governor said his plan is the most-innovative and cost-free way to deal with traffic congestion in Montgomery County and around the state.
“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 in a 2017 statement.