By: Diane Bernard, Public News Service
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A coalition of environmental and other groups greets the first day of Maryland’s 2020 General Assembly today with a protest of the state’s controversial plan to add toll lanes to busy highways in the Washington, D.C., metro area.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan wants to widen and add toll lanes to Interstate 270 and part of the Capital Beltway to relieve some of the worst traffic choke-points in the region. However, Brad German, co-chair of the group Citizens Against Beltway Expansion (CABE), said the project won’t relieve the traffic and will make it more expensive to travel on the roads.
“The toll business model is really designed to monetize congestion,” he said, “so it doesn’t relieve congestion; it requires congestion on the road in order to create demand for paying these high tolls to escape it.”
Hogan has touted the $11 billion public-private project as the most economical way to improve roads in the region without having to raise taxes, but German said some folks might end up paying more for costly tolls than they would higher tax rates. So-called “luxury lanes” on I-66 in Northern Virginia can run from almost $50 one way during rush hour, he said, or almost $100 for a round-trip commute.
German said similar public-private highway projects around the country have failed to help with rush-hour traffic.
“The histories of these projects in Texas and North Carolina and other states really do suggest that they don’t relieve congestion so much as turn it into a cash cow for the private companies that built and are running these things,” he said.
In a 2018 report, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group called Hogan’s proposal a “highway boondoggle” that would be one of the biggest and most expensive highway expansion projects in the country. That report is online at filesusr.com.