Maryland’s Misguided Toll Highway Scheme

Gary Hodge
Vice Chair, Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition
President, Southern Maryland Alliance for Rapid Transit
December 10, 2018
 
The Washington Post editorial page's trademark ambiguity was on full display Sunday. “Maryland’s audacious toll road plan could work—if done right,” it wrote. The reader searches in vain for an unqualified declarative sentence that expresses the paper's opinion.
 
From the editorial: “...depending critically on the fine print of any deal...” “Still, Maryland officials must proceed cautiously...”. “If Maryland is smart about striking a deal...” “The devil, as usual, is in the details.” Hardly a confident endorsement of the Hogan-Rahn plan.
 
The Post strives on to provide cover for conventional answers to the region’s transportation crisis, when innovative multi-modal solutions are what’s urgently needed—with modern, efficient and accessible passenger rail service as the vital component. 
 
Yes, as the Post concludes, the devil IS in the details, and Hogan’s misguided $9 billion express toll-lane highway-building scheme is a serpent’s egg full of grim portent for the next generation of Marylanders. To quote a phrase from Robert Graves’ I, Claudius: “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud, hatch out.” 
 
When Governor Hogan’s second term is over, Pete Rahn has gone back to New Mexico, the construction of these privatized mega-projects is finally completed, and toll revenues fail to materialize, it will be the citizens of Maryland who are left to pay the IOU’s and clean up the long-term impacts—still dependent on a highway network that’s even more congested than before.
 
The Post editorial fails to make a dent in MTOC’s year-long analysis of the fatal flaws in Hogan’s “Congestion Relief Plan.” The tolls on I-66 hit $44 last week. The editorial identifies the problem, but is this the right long-term remedy? Is this the infrastructure investment we need now to build the foundation for Maryland’s future mobility, economic growth, competitiveness, equity of access to good jobs, sustainable communities and quality of life? 
 
That’s the real task facing our State’s leaders. The solution is not to “double-down” on the failed policies of the last century that created our automobile-centric monoculture—depleting the resources we will need to create a better-connected Maryland for all our citizens. 
 
The challenge is to take charge of our future, design and build a transportation system for the kind of place we want to live in—in the 21st century. The “audacious toll road plan” that received the Washington Post’s qualified support does not meet that challenge.