ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland lawmakers and environmental groups rallied Wednesday for new legislation they say would improve the process of the state’s contentious plan to add toll lanes to highways in the Washington, D.C., metro area.
House Bill 67 would ensure the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) follows through on plans for Gov. Larry Hogan’s $11 billion project to widen and add toll lanes to Interstate 270 and part of the Capital Beltway.
Del. Marc Korman, D-Bethesda, who co-sponsored the bill, said because of broken commitments since the project was approved last year, the public is losing faith officials will be honest about its impact on the environment, and their homes and pocketbooks.
“Early in the process, Gov. Hogan said no homes or land had to be taken. That we now know is false,” Korman contended. “We were told last year the data would be shared with our local governments. That has not happened, they have not gotten the origin and destination data that they were promised.”
The MDOT Promises Act would make sure Maryland taxpayers aren’t charged for construction, and 10% of toll revenues are set aside for public transportation projects in two counties.
Supporters of the toll lanes believe the public-private plan would help reduce one of the biggest traffic bottlenecks in the nation without raising taxes.
Lindsey Mendelson, transportation representative for the Maryland Sierra Club, said the bill is also important because state officials are fast-tracking the deal.
Just last week, she noted, MDOT chose two companies to develop the project, even though it pledged an environmental review had to be completed first.
“Gov. Hogan’s plan has shaken the public’s confidence in our government,” Mendelson argued. “And the state has kept local government agencies and the public in the dark when it comes to traffic data, toll-revenue projections and the decision-making process altogether. That is unacceptable.”
Reducing traffic congestion is often proposed as a solution for curbing vehicle emissions.
But a University of California-Davis study found spending billions on widening highways can actually make congestion worse because it increases travel.