Maryland governor proposes privatization, tolls to widen highways

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, October 05, 2017

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has announced the administration’s plans to add lanes to three key transportation routes. Privatization deals would be tapped to get the work done.

Specifically, plans detailed late last month call for adding four lanes to Interstate 270, the Maryland portion of the Capital Beltway, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

The Republican governor’s office says the $9 billion traffic relief plan is “delivering on his commitment to provide innovative transportation solutions for Maryland.”

“These three massive, unprecedented projects to widen I-495, I-270, and MD 295 will be absolutely transformative,” Hogan said in prepared remarks. “These projects will substantially and dramatically improve our state highway system and traffic in the region.”

The announcement also officially began the process to solicit interest from private developers to design, build, finance, operate and maintain new lanes on I-495 between the American Legion Bridge and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and on I-270 between I-495 and I-70.

Developers would share some of the toll revenue with the state.

Once completed, the traffic relief plan is touted to deliver new express toll lanes, in addition to existing lanes, on all three highways.

The state’s only existing toll lanes are an 8-mile stretch of Interstate 95 north of Baltimore.

Hogan’s office says the state needs to act now. The administration reports that in 2015 the statewide cost of congestion based on car and truck delay and wasted fuel and emissions was estimated at $2 billion. The figure shows a 22 percent increase from the $1.7 billion estimated cost of congestion in 2013.

Not everyone is on board. Critics of the plan say it is a misguided approach to resolving congestion issues.

“While no one wants to sit in traffic gridlock, building more pavement is at best a temporary fix, which will cost billions and require extremely expensive tolls for drivers,” stated Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George.

Instead, Pinsky said, the state would be better served to invest in mass transit and “smart growth.”

Opponents also question the $9 billion estimate for the work. They say the total price tag could exceed $30 billion.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn said that construction could begin as soon as 2019.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maryland, click here.

 

 

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