Lexus Lane Scheme in Chaos After BPW Vote

No One Knows What Comes Next

Press Release
June 6, 2019
 
In a travesty of transportation planning, the Maryland Board of Public Works cooked up a new multi-billion dollar toll lane scheme on the fly yesterday and voted 2-to-1 to approve it -- even though no one, least of all themselves, had much of an idea what they were voting for.
 
After a long, contentious hearing, Governor Hogan moved to widen I-270 before the Beltway, upending the schedule worked out by the Maryland Dept. of Transportation. MDOT has divided the I-270 work into two separate phases, with the segment south of I-370 coming before the longer northern section, and no one was able to say which will now be first.
 
“Can we see in writing what was voted on?” asked Treasurer Nancy Kopp. “The exact sequencing needs to be worked out,” MDOT spokesperson Erin Henson subsequently told the Washington Post. “I think that’s all going to be sorted out down the road,” added Comptroller Peter Franchot. 
 
“The organizers of this scheme now have several options, but all of them break earlier promises,” commented Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition chair Ben Ross. “It's getting clearer and clearer that the real objective is not better transportation, but getting money into the hands of Wall Street financiers and highway contractors.” 
 
Widening I-270 between the Beltway and Shady Grove will only make congestion worse, as even toll lane supporters agree. It would dump more traffic into the bottlenecks where the main backups occur -- southbound approaching the Beltway and American Legion Bridge, and northbound where lanes merge as the highway narrows to two lanes in each direction.
 
Toll lanes north of Shady Grove are sure money-losers, as Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn has admitted, and will require a taxpayer subsidy. Environmental studies of this segment are just starting, and building it first will delay the schedule by at least 18 months.
 
Building the two segments at the same time likely brings the downsides of both choices -- heavy financial losses and traffic backups at the Beltway. And combining both segments in a single study -- as MTOC believes is legally necessary in any case, and as the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission recommended today -- could delay the project by as much as two years.
 
I've been a close observer and participant in Maryland transportation planning and policy-making for nearly a half century,said MTOC vice-chair Gary Hodge, a former Charles County Commissioner and regional council executive. This is not the caliber of decision-making Maryland deserves.