The plan is generating opposition & support. .
Annapolis, Md. (KM) A plan to help relieve congestion on Interstate 270 and the Capitol Beltway (Interstate 495) was approved Wednesday by the Maryland Board of Public Works.
It’s called a public-private partnership, or P3, where private companies would submit bids for improvements for both highways. The winning bidder would bear all the costs of these improvements. The whole project is estimated to cost $11-billion
I-270 will be phase one of the project.
Frederick County Delegate Ken Kerr (D) is one of 90 legislators who signed a letter urging the Board not to go forward with this project. But instead wait until financial and environmental reviews are completed.
In reacting to the decision by the Board, Kerr says other alternatives are not being considered. “There is no look at public transit. No expansion of MARC service. No talk about triple tracking and getting all day, two way, seven-day train transportation between Frederick and Union Station,” he says.
Delegate Kerr also says there are other improvements that could be made on I-270 to relieve congestion. “There are areas on the highways where we could simply re-stripe the lines to increase capacity. We could make use of the shoulders for high speed bus transit. Those are not being considered in the Governor’s proposal,” he says.
And building the third lane on I-270 in both directors from Clarksburg to Frederick could also relieve congestion, he says. “We will continue to be a choke point and bottleneck in each direction as long we have our existing two lanes on 270 in each direction,” says Delegate Kerr.
Comptroller Peter Franchot is a member of the Board who voted in favor of the plan. He calls Governor Larry Hogan’s proposed plan “cutting edge proposal.” He noted that I-270 is the first phase of the project. “We’re going to start with that by asking for bids from the private sector to use their own money, their own debt, billions of dollars of it to build new roads, new bridges and pave the old roads,” Franchot says.
Also, says Franchot, Maryland taxpayers will not be on the hook if a contractor which is chosen fails to perform. “As the chief fiscal officer, I interrogated the Transportation people very closely before I voted to get assurances the taxpayers would not be left holding the bag if the developer, winner of the contract, fails to perform,” he says.
There will also be environmental reviews before one spade of earth is turned. “No land acquisition, or demolition of existing homes or anything can happen as far as a shovel in the ground until the environmental review is finished. And that’s going to go on simultaneously with this bid process,” says Franchot.
He also says the plan does include public transit, and possibly a monorail along I-270. “So I added an amendment to the proposal that will require the State Transportation Department to do a feasibility study to see whether there is anything practical to that idea,” says Franchot.
He points out that this decision Wednesday doesn’t mean a contract will be awarded to begin construction. . It only allows the Transportation Department to receive bids from the private sector which will be evaluated by the Board.
Franchot and Governor Larry Hogan voted in favor of the plan. Treasurer Nancy Kopp voted against.
By Kevin McManus