April 23, 2018

The Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition, the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club, 1000 Friends of Maryland, and allied Maryland transportation, environmental and civic groups are strongly criticizing the Maryland State Highway Administration for failing to include mass transit in its Environmental Impact Statement plan for Governor Larry Hogan’s proposed toll lanes on the Beltway and 1-270.

“What was wrong with the consultant procurement that blew up last week, is wrong with the EIS,” said MTOC chair Ben Ross. “They both avoid a thorough comparison of alternatives and rush to a favored conclusion.”

“We were glad to see Governor Hogan change his mind about fast-tracking this contract. We now strongly urge him to expand the scope of the EIS to study mass transit, and not just expensive privatized toll roads.” Ross said.

The alliance plans to submit comments on Friday that will criticize the EIS for excluding transit options.

Silver Spring civic activist Woody Brosnan pointed to a statement in the public notice of the EIS that “motorists on I-495 and I-270 do not have an option for efficient travel during extensive periods of congestion.” “This is wrong on the facts,” Brosnan said. “What’s more, it effectively blocks major commuter lines, like Metrorail, Metrobus, MARC, and light rail, from the biggest study of commuter relief options in years. All viable options deserve serious consideration, especially transit.”

“Excluding mass transit from the SHA study would be a great leap backward from the General Assembly's vote creating dedicated transit funding in the Washington and Baltimore areas, including $167 million a year for WMATA,” said Brian Ditzler, chair of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club. “While a third of Maryland's climate pollution comes from transportation, Metro annually saves over 40 million gallons of fuel. Clean public transit offers serious options for helping people get to work and school while also reducing congestion and pollution and fighting disruptive climate change.”  

Ross adds that by excluding mass transit, the EIS “will not be objective, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. This means the findings will be suspect, likely distorted, and almost certain to make it harder to connect our communities with affordable, accessible transportation.”

The organizations also criticized the public notice for  failing to include the Maryland Transit Administration, which they said should work with SHA on the analysis of transportation options for central Maryland.

Other comments criticize SHA for including only the southern half of I-270 in the proposal and planning a separate study of the northern half at another time. “This means there will not be a fair, accurate or comprehensive comparison of the MARC line, as a whole, with Governor Hogan’s designs for I-270, as a whole,” says Kimberly Brandt of 1000 Friends of Maryland.

 The comment period for the scoping period of the proposed Environmental Impact Statement that will analyze Governor Larry Hogan’s I-495 and 270 “Managed Lane” project ends on May 1, 2018.