July 18, 2018

The Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition  today demanded public release of drawings showing the extent of damage that proposed toll lanes on the Beltway and I-270 will inflict on nearby neighborhoods.

The Maryland State Highway Administration has shown drawings, some giving the width of future roadway cross-sections, to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. At an MNCPPC meeting this morning, chair Casey Anderson asked SHA to make these drawings public. SHA refused.

According to an MNCPPC press release, SHA is studying impacts extending as far as 300 feet on either side of the current highway centerlines. But when SHA was asked this morning about the width of the widened highway, it said that commenting on width would be “irresponsible." MNCPPC Commissioner Natali Fani-Gonzalez responded “How can the public understand and comment unless it knows the impact?”

In a letter sent to Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn this afternoon, MTOC demanded immediate release of all relevant drawings. “Keeping this basic information secret makes a mockery of the legally required public participation in the environmental impact statement,”  MTOC chair Ben Ross wrote.

“The information SHA refuses to release is vital to understanding the biggest infrastructure project to hit Montgomery and Prince Georges counties in decades. SHA must share this information so the entire affected public, not just those threatened with the immediate loss of their homes and businesses, can provide serious comment. Otherwise there is no reasonable way to know how extensive the damage and disruption from this project will be,”  said Brad German of the Citizens Against Beltway Expansion, a coalition of neighborhoods in Montgomery County.

“Commissioner Fani-Gonzalez asked the biggest question this morning: Who really benefits from this boondoggle?" Ross added. “Contractors expect big profits, while Marylander commuters will have the choice between outrageous tolls of $41 and up, or being held hostage by traffic gridlock.” Ross pointed out that the state has already been forced to cancel a $68 million consulting contract to plan this project when it was revealed that Rahn bypassed normal state procurement procedures to award it to his former employer.