TRANSIT

Traffic flows along interchanges that link Interstate 495 and Interstate 270 in Bethesda. Senior Maryland transportation officials have used an expedited and unusual process to choose a company to oversee a planned multibillion-dollar project.

As preparations and planning continue for the construction of toll lanes along part of Interstate 270 in an effort to ease congestion on the highway, a local group hopes to persuade the Frederick County Council to oppose the plan in favor of trying to bring more transit options to Frederick.

The group Trains Not Tolls has an online petition asking the council to list expanded MARC service as a top priority in the county’s next transportation priorities letter to the state.

Increased MARC traffic was part of the state’s most recent letter, but not one of its top three priorities.

The group hopes to get between 300 and 400 signatures by the end of the summer, and persuade the council to at least talk about opposing the state’s plan, said Frank Cantwell, one of its members.

They would like the state to use some of the projected costs between $9 billion and $11 billion of the toll project to improve MARC train service to Frederick. The state’s Board of Public Works designated the project as a public-private partnership earlier this month.

In the so-called P3 designation, the toll lanes would be designed, built and operated by a private company, with the state getting some of the revenue from tolls.

Under the state’s current plan, the bottom section of I-270, from near Shady Grove to Interstate 495, would be built first. The section from Interstate 370 to Interstate 70 would follow.

The Board of Public Works would still need to approve contracts for the work on those sections, along with a final decision from the National Environmental Policy Act process.

Under amendments approved by the Board of Public Works, transit buses would be able to use the toll lanes free of charge, and the state’s Department of Transportation will study the feasibility of a monorail system as part of the project. Ten percent of the state’s toll revenue sharing would go toward funding for regional transit projects.

According to a letter from the Maryland Department of Transportation to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, the department will spend the next few months repackaging the solicitation paperwork for a request for qualifications for the first phase of the project.

A pamphlet that Trains Not Tolls members plan to distribute at MARC stations and other commuter areas alerts riders to the petition and warns that a plan to build the first part of the project between I-495 and I-370 near the Shady Grove Metro station would only add to congestion as the increased traffic gets to the point near Clarksburg where the highway drops to two lanes.

For less than the cost of the toll lanes, “Maryland could build a third track on the MARC rail line between Frederick and D.C.” that would allow traffic back and forth all day.

But the possibility of increased traffic lies largely with the freight company CSX, which owns the tracks on which MARC’s Brunswick Line operates.

The Trains Not Tolls Group is advocating for an additional track from Point of Rocks to Boyds, in Montgomery County, for which the state would need to work out an agreement with CSX, Cantwell said.

County Councilman Kai Hagen said that while he doesn’t see much appetite from his colleagues for taking up the issue, he thinks the petition is worth doing.

Hagen has been an outspoken opponent of the toll plan, which he believes has numerous risks and problems, and is based on a model that will likely lead to high costs for the tolls once the lanes are built.

Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer said recently that it’s encouraging that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is looking into transit options such as a potential monorail system or transit bus options, but she still had questions about the cost of the project, the price of tolls, and other issues.

Council Vice President Michael Blue said that while he believes toll lanes are part of the solution, they’re not the only solution.

Advocates for more transit options rather than toll lanes would like the county to ask the state to go back and study I-270 as a single unit, rather than separating it into sections from the Capital Beltway to I-370, and from I-370 to I-70 in Frederick, said Ben Ross, chairman of the statewide Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition. His group is affiliated with Trains Not Tolls.

Ross’ group would like the state to study the possibility of toll lanes on all of I-270, increased MARC service, and the recently suggested idea of adding a monorail to run up I-270.

A study would let people examine all three options at once, and argue their different opinions from a common set of information, he said.

The state’s current plan of widening the southern part of the highway first makes no sense, and adding rail is an alternative to widening I-270, Ross said.

The state would have to work out a third track with CSX, but the company has been open to other projects elsewhere, he said.

But state officials say the toll lanes project wouldn’t preclude increased transit use.

“As we have shared during the recent public workshops and in briefing various communities since, each of the six managed lanes alternatives retained for detailed study hold potential benefits for improved transit services within the I-495 and I-270 study area,” Jeffrey Folden, deputy director of the I-495 and I-270 P3 Program, said in an email Wednesday. “If a build alternative is selected for this study, public buses will be allowed to use managed lanes for free, enhancing transit mobility and connectivity and providing a less congested and more reliable route for bus transit. Direct and indirect access to existing transit stations and planned transit-oriented developments will also be included at Greenbelt, New Carrollton, Branch Avenue, Silver Spring, and Shady Grove Metro stations.”

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter:

@RMarshallFNP.

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(40) comments

Alltheabove

I use the term “adversarial” as those organized groups have done a superb job of thwarting every reasonable effort to bring a balance of solutions that encompass an “all the above” approach to the problem. Regrettably, there is no common ground as they don’t recognize balance. The Governor’s overall plan includes a mix of rail (Purple Line) and additional lane capacity. As for population growth, unless you put something in the water you can’t stop the natural evolution of humans. Folks chose to live where they want and given the largest demographic are millennials, who want to live in urban environments, businesses have no choice but to migrate from the traditional office parks into the urban core. Add the increase in vehicle fuel efficiency over the last 20 years, along with significant growth in electric cars, the normally reliable stream of income generated by fuel tax is dropping. I’ll add that attempts to move large government agencies outside of the DC area usually fail as evidenced by the current fight related to transferring two USDA groups with 550 employees. Your suggestion of attempting to use P3’s for transit do not work from a financial aspect. The concept of P3 financing is that it’s based on 100% private support. Rail and other transit infrastructure and operating expenses are heavily subsidized by the local, state or federal governments. Hence, when a rider pays their fare, the government subsidiary can be as high as 70%. For instance, the DC Metro systems fare box revenue only covers 27% of the cost. Transit ridership is only 12%. If riders had to pay the actual cost, it would drive that percentage down significantly. It’s all about balance.

mrnatural1

Alltheabove: You packed a lot into that last comment, so I'm going to break it up into individual statements and replies:

1) "I use the term “adversarial” as those organized groups have done a superb job of thwarting every reasonable effort to bring a balance of solutions that encompass an “all the above” approach to the problem. Regrettably, there is no common ground as they don’t recognize balance. The Governor’s overall plan includes a mix of rail (Purple Line) and additional lane capacity."

Mr. N: I agree -- there are groups, on both sides, that can take an "all or nothing" approach. That is common regardless of the issue. They tend to be the loudest and get the most attention. There are also reasonable people that realize that the more options people have, the better. The 'Purple Line' is a small step in the right direction, but it is light rail, and pathetically slow -- "66 to 73 minutes" to go 16 miles?!: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/local/purple-line/ Also, it does not address the subject of this article, which is transportation options from FredCo and beyond, to the D.C. area. A balanced approach would involve some widening of I-270 with dedicated, high speed, passenger rail.

2) "As for population growth, unless you put something in the water you can’t stop the natural evolution of humans."

Mr. N: Luckily, that is not the case. The humans are naturally beginning to realize that a) kids are EXPENSIVE, and a huge responsibility (who knew?) and b) every additional human further damages the planet -- especially when they live in a developed country like (but not limited to) America. People who truly care about the environment and want future generations to inherit a decent, or at least livable, planet are having no more than one child per person. The birth rate in the US (and many other industrialize countries) is already below the replacement level. That's the good news. Our population growth is due almost exclusively to immigration.

3) "Folks chose to live where they want and given the largest demographic are millennials, who want to live in urban environments, businesses have no choice but to migrate from the traditional office parks into the urban core."

Mr. N: People do chose where they want to live, but those choices depend on a number of factors -- a primary one being the availability of jobs. Google has located near Des Moines, Iowa. Facebook is in Altoona, Iowa. People who have never been to Iowa and never considered living there flocked there for those jobs. That's the usual process -- the employers lead, the employees follow . Just because a lot of people would like to live on the beach or near Colorado ski slopes does not mean employers will set up shop there.

4) "Add the increase in vehicle fuel efficiency over the last 20 years, along with significant growth in electric cars, the normally reliable stream of income generated by fuel tax is dropping."

Mr. N: Valid point. While I don't like the idea, there is no reason why every vehicle's miles driven cannot be tracked, and the tax calculated that way. We have had that technology for years.

5) "I’ll add that attempts to move large government agencies outside of the DC area usually fail as evidenced by the current fight related to transferring two USDA groups with 550 employees."

Mr. N: I had to read up on this. I found the following article helpful: https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article231531863.html Briefly, that is clearly NOT the way to relocate a federal agency, and not what I have in mind at all. Obviously people are not going to be happy about being told they must move across the country within a couple months. Ideally, new private and public sector employers would use new employees and/or those who want to move to the new location. Generally speaking, major changes (401K; health insurance; work location) only apply to new hires and future offices. However, in cases where people are required to move, there are often enough volunteers if the pot is sweetened a bit. The current USDA dust-up aside, there's no reason why new agencies and new businesses cannot be located elsewhere. There are areas of the country that are hurting and need some growth, while we have too much.

6) "Your suggestion of attempting to use P3’s for transit do not work from a financial aspect. The concept of P3 financing is that it’s based on 100% private support. Rail and other transit infrastructure and operating expenses are heavily subsidized by the local, state or federal governments. Hence, when a rider pays their fare, the government subsidiary can be as high as 70%. For instance, the DC Metro systems fare box revenue only covers 27% of the cost. Transit ridership is only 12%. If riders had to pay the actual cost, it would drive that percentage down significantly. It’s all about balance."

Mr. N: The Purple Line you mentioned is being built using a P3: https://mdta.maryland.gov/partnerships/tp3overview.html Metro's farebox recovery ratio is actually close to 70%: https://ggwash.org/view/30154/does-metro-ask-riders-to-pay-too-much "The farebox recovery for the Metrorail system for 2011 (the most recent year with available data) was 67.8%. This is the 3rd-highest farebox recovery ratio in the nation for all heavy rail, light rail, and commuter rail systems. Among heavy rail systems, the average farebox recovery ratio is 46.4%, and systems range from 20.2% (Baltimore Metro) to 76.6% (New York City Subway). The range for light rail systems is between 12.0% (Dallas) and 57.4% (San Diego), with an average of 29.6%. Commuter rail averages 33.3% and ranges from 6.2% (Portland WES) to 62.3% (Metro-North)."

While I don't think P3 agreements are good for citizens, it is clear that they can be, and are, used for public transportation. My preference would be a gradual and voluntary population reduction, so that none of these transportation proposals would be necessary. Since that is unlikely, my next choice would be to make some other exurb more attractive than FredCo. Lastly, if FredCo is going to continue to be destroyed, we must face facts: The rights-of-way our roads and highways are built on have a fixed width. We can only widen roads so much. Every time a highway is widened, there is more development, and the traffic congestion gets worse again. If the growth/destruction continues, we will have to look at other options -- like high speed rail. Why not just go ahead and do that now? It will reduce the numbers of cars on the road dramatically. In fact, high-speed commuter rail might reduce traffic congestion as much or more than the ill-conceived Lexus Lanes that will only help those who are well-off.

Alltheabove

As one of nine children I disagree with the whole “one child” approach. It’s not working in China and other countries who have attempted it. Kids are no more expensive now than they were 30 years ago. It’s a choice adults make. I think the change in the ratio is more related to millennials marry late and women deciding to have a child without a father. While some of the tech firms are opening in Iowa and ‘other than” urban cores, look at Amazon’s recent decision (HQ2) and the growth in Austin and others. Under the radar is Apples decision to add 15K jobs in Dulles. These firms will continue use to located in areas with a highly skilled employee base. You appear to be a reasonable person. While we may disagree on some of the issues I believe you’re able to look at the big picture and seek compromise. We need more of you kind. My bad on including the Purple Line but I stand by the fare box recovery for the. DC Metro systems. Systems including rail and bus.

mrnatural1

Alltheabove: Thanks for the kind words. I only have 2 siblings. I can't imagine what it must be like to grow up in a family as large as yours, but that used to be common years ago (and still is in some cultures and religious groups).

To be clear, I said "one child per person" (2 per couple). When people hear "one child" they often think of the (now abolished) Chinese law that limited couples to one child. I'm not aware of anyone, or any group, suggesting anything remotely like that for the US. Even groups like "Negative Population Growth" (NPG) agree that any population-related policies must be completely voluntary. People are free to have as many children as they can afford. Actually, they can have as many as they want -- regardless of their ability to pay -- if their conscience isn't bothered by forcing their fellow Americans to pay to raise their kids. The idea is that hopefully, most people will come to the realization that 1 or 2 kids per couple is plenty, and there is nothing wrong with not having children. BTW, most articles I've seen say that it costs about $250,000 to raise one child through age 18 (the amount varies some by area). That's NOT including college expenses. Maybe the cost to raise 2 or more is somewhat less than $250K each, IDK.

You're absolutely right that most large corporations choose to locate in large metro areas -- that's the problem. Too many CEOs seem to think that they absolutely MUST be in the D.C. metro area (in our case). That is the primary reason why the metro area is so impacted, FredCo is being paved over, and I-270 is a linear parking lot twice a day. That's why I say that if we could get several large employers to locate somewhere else it would go a long way to solving our population-related issues.

While prospective employees follow the employers, and go where the jobs are, it is a bit of a 'chicken or egg' problem. As you said, much of the skilled labor is located in or near cities. It probably is easy/safer for CEOs to stick with big cities. It's the most common choice, and there are good reasons for it. It takes more flexible, open-minded thinking to, say, build an auto manufacturing plant in a rural area of the South -- but it has been successfully done several times. There is no reason why many/most companies that locate in our area MUST be here. With the Internet; video conferencing; etc, companies can be located almost anywhere.

Regarding what to do about I-270, I've heard some people propose 1 or 2 reversible lanes. NOT Lexus lanes, just ordinary lanes paid for with the fuel tax that we all pay -- the way it's been done for decades. The lane(s) would be open to ALL drivers, rich and poor, 24/7 -- the way it should be. That would save money and have almost the exact same impact on traffic.

As for passenger rail, because the distance is relatively short, it would not have to be "high-speed", as I suggested. Conventional rail with top speeds of about 100-110 mph would be fine. It is clearly feasible. All we have to do is look at the NYC area and all of the packed commuter trains that run from NJ and CT into the city. D.C. isn't NYC of course. There will always be people who prefer to drive -- either to Shady or to their job if there is parking. So the commuter rail system here would of course be on a smaller scale, but there can be no doubt it would be popular. I'm a life-long "car guy", but faced with the daily I-270 slog or kicking back in a comfy seat on a train and sleeping; catching up on emails; reading the news; watching videos, etc, I'd be on that train.

Burgessdr

Northern Virginia toll roads work great and subsidized mass transit. A new express bus service to the Pentagon, on-demand shuttles to park-and-ride lots in Prince William County, better bike parking in Manassas, and a campaign to get more people to carpool or take transit are among the Virginia projects that will be funded this year through toll revenue from Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway. The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission is scheduled to approve $12 million in projects Thursday night, including two new bus routes, improvements on three other bus routes and expanded access to park-and-ride lots. Another project included would expand Capital BikeShare around the Vienna and Dunn Loring Metro stations

Alltheabove

So the folks at Trains not Tolls explain the truth, the concept behind the P3 is that a private company builds the road and then collect tolls. If anyone thinks you can shift the money to enhancing MARC service, you haven’t been reading the proposed plan. I’m in favor of ‘All The Above” but the private company is not going to pony up money for rail service. The fact is, the “Organized” groups opposing the project are the same ones who opposed the ICC, opposed the widening of I-95 north of Balto, and opposed a larger Wilson Bridge. This really is not a debate about having to pay tolls because if it were, don’t take the tolled roads. This really is a debate about forcing people out of their cars by making it so miserable to try and drive. I’m all for more transit options when they make financial sense. For instance, I’d love to see the Purple Line extended into Tyson’s. I love for MARC and the VRE fix and unbelievably crazy process of having to change trains to go from Balto to VA. I’d also love to see a Second Crossing to relieve 160K drivers from having to go down I-270 and across the bridge to get to VA. But again, we run into “Organized” efforts focused on unrealistic beliefs that we can all take transit. I gave up and moved to DC. Hogan’s attempt is the last best hope you have. Absent it, you’ll be sitting in traffic that is only going to exponentially worse. Sad part is, the Trains not Tolls folks don’t care.

mrnatural1

Alltheabove, believe it or not I agree with much of your comment. I don't know any of the people behind Trains not Trails and have no idea what their personal agendas are (if any), but generally speaking there are people like those you describe -- people who hate cars and think that everyone should walk, bike, and/or use public transportation. Hopefully, the Trains not Trails folks are more reasonable.

Personally, I don't see it as adversarial, or an either/or situation. I've always liked cars and I think trains are cool. There's no reason we can't have both. Passenger rail would take a lot of cars off of I-270, making it much more tolerable for those who continue to drive.

The main problem is overpopulation -- of the D.C. area, America, and the planet. If we could get large employers, public and private, to locate elsewhere, we could slow and then reverse the population growth in this region. Then little if any road widening would be necessary. There are IRS, SSA, and other federal agency offices all over the country already, and a large number of employers have already realized that rural areas of the Midwest and South are good places to locate. That needs to be encouraged. Few agencies and private sector employers MUST be near D.C.

I will say, if a 'P3' works for highways, I'm not sure why it wouldn't work for passenger rail. The idea is the same -- build it and they will come. It's a guaranteed and never-ending source of income. That said, P3 deals are almost always bad for citizens, because the "private" part of P3 must make a profit -- the greater the better. We have a proud history of building roads without corporations getting involved. We've done it for decades using the motor fuel tax -- which is far less expensive per mile than any toll, especially because tolls are always *on top of* the fuel tax that we all pay. Why would anyone want to pay a toll that might be as high as $4.50 per mile, when they could pay $0.03 per mile?

mrnatural1

Many other states do things differently than we do here in Maryland. Some are good ideas and some very misguided.

The fact that many states have legalized pot to one degree or another does not hurt my feelings. Denver just decriminalized 'magic' mushrooms. I have no problem with that either, but a lot of people think both are wrong -- the beginning of the end of civilization. What's right for one state/jurisdiction might not be for another. Prostitution is legal in Nevada -- does that mean it should be legal everywhere?

In short, just because Billy jumped off the bridge does not mean we should.

Yes, Virginia has toll roads. One of them is I-66. It has HOT/Lexus lanes like those proposed for I-270 and the Beltway. To travel one-way (just 10 miles) in the Lexus lane on I-66 can cost up to $45!! Maybe people in Virginia think that's fair and reasonable (I doubt it) but no one in Maryland wants to pay exorbitant tolls like that -- up to $4.50 per MILE! -- or sit in soul-crushing traffic to and from work 5 days a week.

HOT/Lexus lanes are nothing more than a way for the well-off and wealthy to buy their way out of traffic. Lexus lanes are intentionally designed to limit the number of vehicles to an amount that will maximize toll revenue for the corporation (often a foreign corporation BTW) and still keep traffic moving at (say) 45-50 mph. That means that -- by definition -- only those that are willing and able to pay the absolute most will be able to use the extra lane(s). It's a "highest bidder(s)" scenario.

That is blatantly un-American. We might as well divide our schools, parks, and libraries into "paid" and "free" sections. "Hey mom and dad, if you're willing to pay the "PublicEd Corp" an extra $2,000 per year, Amber can have a smaller class size and faster computers." That's the analogy.

Roads should cost no more per mile than it costs to build and maintain them. Currently the fuel tax is about $0.02 per mile for a 25 mpg car. It does need to be raised, probably to 3 or 4 pennies per mile. Contrast that with $1/$2/$4.50 per mile!

Our public roads are not for sale. Just as with the monuments in D.C., the Statue of Liberty, and Mount Rushmore -- our highways belong to all of us equally.

If a corporation wants to charge an outrageous toll and make a fat profit, they are free to a) purchase the right-of-way, b) do all of the studies regarding environmental compliance, etc, c) get all the required permits, and d) design and build the road. That would be fair, free-market capitalism. Building HOT/Lexus lanes on an existing PUBLIC right-of-way is a slap in the face to all Marylanders, and all Americans.

Burgessdr

Toll lanes work great in Northern Virginia. End of story.

mrnatural1

Trains work. They are a fast, efficient way to move large numbers of people. There are any number of great examples all around the world. Almost all developed countries have safe, reliable, high speed passenger rail systems.

Of course America cannot rely exclusively on passenger rail because it is a lot larger than most European countries. That said, China -- which is about the same size as the US -- has the largest high-speed railway in the world, with 15,500 miles of track. Most of its major cities are serviced by the network.

Is there some reason we cannot do what China has accomplished?

No, we cannot expect to have every city in America served by high speed rail, but where there is a demand, it is practical. Look at the Amtrak's NE Corridor.

Our best option to reduce the number of cars on the road -- while saving what's left of FredCo's farms and open spaces -- is to encourage major employers to follow the automakers' (and other companies') lead and locate elsewhere -- away from the impacted D.C./Baltimore area.

To the extent that won't work, and businesses continue to insist on coming to the D.C. metro area (like moths to a flame) than as much as I hate to encourage the construction of more ugly boxes in FredCo, the best option is high speed passenger rail to D.C. -- connecting with Metro at one or more Red Line stations, as well as Metro and Amtrak at Union Station (if feasible). America can certainly build a rail system every bit as good as China's -- and comfortable, high-speed trains from FredCo to MoCo and D.C. (maybe NoVA as well) would be VERY popular. There can be no comparison to the existing MARC train. Most commuters would gladly save the time; stress; risk; and miles on their vehicle (@$0.55 to $0.80 per mile, or more) by riding the train.

The way some people are pushing this Lexus Lane proposal, a cynical person might think they have something to gain from it personally. After all, there is an awful lot of money to potentially be confiscated from wealthy/well-off people who can afford to buy their way out of traffic. Thousands of cars daily x whatever per mile rate the captive 'market' will bear ($1?; $2?; $5 per mile?) x however long the proposed contract term is. Seems like there would be enough excess for some generous "campaign contributions".

Alltheabove

In China, you don’t have a choice. Have you been to China?

mrnatural1

Alltheabove: No, I haven't been to China. I understand it is still controlled by the Communist Party. Luckily we have a constitutional democratic republic that allows for many choices.

Burgessdr

Trains Not Tolls is misguided if not delusional. There are about 400 MARC riders from Frederick. The traffic count on I270 is about 100,000. If they added more trains and waved a superdooper magic wand and MARC ridership from Frederick magically doubled, the traffic count on I270 would be reduced from 100,000 to 999,600. WHOOPEE. A 0.4% decrease. Surely that will save the planet from death by global warming.

Jeepers11md

FNP needs to do a story on the ignorant drivers that Maryland allows to travel our road and why the great Maryland Government cant decide on the speed limit on route 15, I see it everyday people passing our truckers just to get one car ahead and cut them off, the truckers are probably the best drivers on our road, show respect. I don't care if you get to Frederick 5 minutes before me I drive with respect and dignity. I see if everyday those idiots that Maryland Police allow them to do whatever they want with no penalty, just last night on my way home some idiot in a black SUV from Maryland passed me and another car using the entrance ramp there by Lewistown and we were both doing 65mph and cut us off just to get two cars ahead I was hoping there was a police officer there at Lewistown but as usual there was none, I am telling you if someone does this again they are going to end up in the medium strip for I am getting tired of these ignorant drivers allowed to drive on our highway, it is a scary drive anymore and seems like the police and Sheriff's department and our law makers don't care, I am telling you getting speed cameras would benefit and control those idiots and also generate more money for the 270 widening instead of charging more to our poor senior citizens taxes Think before you drive

mrnatural1

On Jun 20, 2019 @ 9:51pm, Lev928 wrote:

Virginia is trying that, except it's not working. They're paying.

Would you elaborate? What is VA doing?

jerseygrl42

so how many decades do these folks want the commuters to suffer 2+ hrs to DC every day...this has been caused by greedy ignorant pols. elected to serve the taxpayers but instead they serve themselves and the developers and we are left holding the infra-structure deficits and paying in $$$ and wasted time and they keep approving MORE building ...shameful

mrnatural1

jerseygrl42:

I drove to Shady Grove (or further) 5 days a week for 27 years. So I am familiar with I-270 and sympathize with anyone who must drive it regularly.

You're absolutely right that the blame for the insane traffic belongs on greedy developers and the politicians that allowed/allow them to continue building homes, long after our infrastructure was at, and then above, capacity. What they have done should result in huge fines and serious jail time. They have robbed us of our precious time. That should be a criminal offense.

Sadly, it has been shown time and again that widening roads gives only temporary relief at best. Wider roads and shorter commute times bring more residential development. It is a vicious cycle. We are close to running out of right-of-way anyway. Then what?

Also, as we all know, roads are not widened over a long weekend. It can take YEARS. As you said, people are already spending 2 hours or more getting to D.C. every day. Can you imagine what the commute would be like if this "P3" scam goes through? The construction would cause a world-class nightmare commute every day, for at least a year or two -- maybe more if there are problems.

The only solution I can think of (beyond negative population growth in the US) is to encourage major employers to locate elsewhere. Anywhere but here. There are plenty of areas of the country that are looking for growth. If employers would move there, it would take some pressure off the Baltimore/D.C. area.

Lev928

Instead of a toll lane or widening the Interstate (it is a federal highway with combined state and federal maintenance), tax the users that live north and south of it daily, but not the transients from out of state passing through. I'm one of the transients that live north, and I support it. When I mean tax, I'm not talking about a toll lane ... I'm talking about adding property or travel tax.

rcfoster

The biggest problem I have isn't with tolls, it's what to do with everyone once they get to the split. Those lanes aren't being widened, the stack of people down there will be wider but not any better. You need to have the beltway fixed to get the 270 people off that road and onto the other roads. I think a third lane from Frederick is a better use of funding. At least then you can get away from someone (truck, slow driver, game player). Rt. 70 is three lanes and runs much smoother. Transitions from the weigh stations and entrance ramps would be better too. Ultimately, I think metro from Frederick is going to be the best option for all.

ma23464

The problem is many people on 270 are not going to DC. They are going to the multiple other places that the rail doesn’t serve. We currently have till roads going what 40 miles or so south of DC? I suppose we will eventually, 20 years or so because that’s how long it would take, have toll roads extending 40 miles to the north. Either solution will simply be a pipeline of people moving into to frederick county. It’s a shame but what can you do?

MrSniper

270 needs to be widened all the way into Frederick. Taxes should be used to pay for this like they do all roads. Public roads are for all the public, not just the people wealthy enough to be able to afford the tolls. No Lexus lanes for the rich!

mrnatural1

MrSniper,

I'd prefer no widening at all, because doing so will only feed the malignant tumor referred to as "residential sprawl", but having said that, I agree 100% with your comment:

"Public roads are for all the public, not just the people wealthy enough to be able to afford the tolls. No Lexus lanes for the rich!"

Jeepers11md

I disagree if the Maryland State Police and Frederick County Sheriff's Department was doing their job that WE tax payers pay their salary and monitor the highways and capture those idiot drivers and fine them heavily they would have enough to build more lanes but people don't care about respect or laws anymore they do as they want on our highways, more people need to take control of our highways since the police don't want to do their jobs and call in on company vehicles that speed and weave in and out of traffic to get one or two cars ahead I do and report those ignorant drivers and trust me the companies respect those phone calls, I want to know what the police are doing why can't they monitor the roads and route 15 is a nightmare to drive on anymore I call it the do as you want highway and it is a shame Maryland Law makers cant even decide on the legal speed limit on route 15 signs say 55mph but yet most are going 70 and 80 mph with no penalty, so why have laws? Why spend tax payers money for police and our great Maryland Government? Why create more laws just to be ignored? there is no more concern for highway safety and it is a shame

rbtdt5

I'd vote for a toll road. Let the users pay for it.

Lev928

I agree with rbtdt5. The bottom line is if you move from MoCo, D.C. or Northern VA to the Frederick area, you SHOULD be paying a toll to get to work back where you came from. If you want to move to a lower cost housing and tax base area, yet still make your higher salaries, you have to pay the price. I'm no hypocrite ... I've been doing it for ten years. Deal with it ... or stay in MoCo or the other corrupt, over-taxed, neighboring areas. Stop complaining. Moving is a choice.

mrnatural1

Lev928:

If I weren't so adamantly anti-toll on principle -- our PUBLIC roads should be free (aside from the gas tax we all pay) and open to everyone 24/7 -- I might support tolls on I-270, because they would reduce the pressure to develop and further destroy FredCo.

As tempting as that is, the ends do not justify the means.

Your point is valid -- some people *choose* to live in FredCo and work 'down the road'. Some of those people are wealthy enough that they could have purchased a slightly smaller McMansion down in MoCo or NoVA. Instead, they are adding to the traffic problems on I-270. However, some people truly have very little choice. They simply do not have the skills and/or education to get a job that pays enough to live in what is one of the most expensive areas of the US. So they reluctantly start looking further out from the city and find that the only place they can afford is an exurb like FredCo -- or maybe even further, into PA or WV.

Generally speaking, too be fair/moral, all fees/tolls/fines should be means tested. That is of course very difficult to do with tolls. In order to "punish" Mr. & Mrs. McMansion -- to really control behavior -- any toll would have to be high enough for them to feel it -- let's say 5% of their income for the day. For an attorney making $500 per hour, that might be $200 in tolls, daily. For some poor guy/gal just trying to get by it would be hard to justify anything.

mrnatural1

rbtdt5:

Should users pay for: all roads? Schools? Parks? Libraries? Sidewalks?

The fact is, users already pay for roads through the fuel tax. Granted, it needs to be raised, but the fuel tax has historically paid for most road construction and maint. The fuel tax is regressive, but it is far less expensive per mile, and way more fair than tolls.

"HOT/Lexus lanes" are simply a way for the well-off and wealthy to buy their way out of traffic, while the rest of us remain stuck in traffic sucking exhaust fumes.

StrengthofLiberty

Mea culpa - The first sentence left out ... Amazon as the entity named as the entity as partnering with the Pentagon for the reasons written.

StrengthofLiberty

With recent reports about the 10 Billion dollar contract with the Pentagon to spearhead the proliferation of surveillance systems; how does this single state use project to the bill of 11 Billion dollars fit into that overall system. What technologies will be employed to manage the livestock? Will the roads be outfitted not just for prolific monitoring and reporting; but will the highway signage be state of the art for the future of driverless cars? 11 Billion dollars to add a few lanes, and toll booths. Can't forget all those single use plastic/s need to be easily transported to their place in our public spaces. 11 Billion for ... business as usual. Trains? Yes! Connecting? Yes! Public Ballot Vote? HELL YES!

threecents

Petition: https://www.change.org/p/frederick-county-council-trains-not-tolls

mrnatural1

Thanks for the link threecents! [thumbup]

DickD

Spam was an accident, sorry.

DickD

Monorail is a very feasible choice, if you can go all the way into D.C. If you have to change to the Metro at Shady Grove it will be time consuming and expensive. Whatever plan devolves it needs to get people out of cars and into mass transit. Parking is expensive in D.C. Add that expense to the cost of driving and determine at what point people would change to mass transit. Then make all lanes toll to the point no one would consider driving a car by themselves into D.C. You should also consider car pooling and at what point that would be too expensive. Some do take vans into D.C. too. How about any vehicle with 3 or 5 passengers toll free.

Lev928

DickD ... while I agree with you, most of the transplants and employees of MoCo, D.C. and Northern VA don't use the state bus service, MARC train nor METRO. They drive their personal cars and trucks. Hence the congestion. A monorail would have little to no affect, except an increase in taxes.

DickD

Then maybe we should make it so expensive that they would not drive their cars solo.

mrnatural1

Dick: It's not a bad idea to encourage people to take public transportation or carpool -- the question is, how do we do so FAIRLY? The problem with fixed tolls, fees, and fines is that, due to the vast difference in income levels they are grossly unfair. If we are going to make a behavior expensive in order to discourage it, then in order to be effective the 'bite' must be the same for everyone. It needs to be a percentage of income (not a fixed amount). So the person working a retail or service job making $10 per hour would pay one tenth what a person earning $100 per hour would pay, and one fiftieth what a $500/hour attorney would pay. I am not aware of any way of doing that. If we set the toll/fee at a level that's reasonable for the $10/hour worker, it will be a joke to those who earn significantly more, and therefore, ineffective.

Lev928

Virginia is trying that, except it's not working. They're paying.

sevenstones1000

As a big fan of mass transportation, and a foe of single occupancy cars - buses are a much better alternative to trains. Buses are cleaner, quieter, much more pleasant than the CSX/MARC rattle traps being used. Buses can also use the current infrastructure starting tomorrow, unlike trains which will take construction of an additional track (years? Decades?) to be practical. I would love to see additional trains as a long term albeit very expensive permanent solution, but additional buses - all day long and over the weekends - are a much more practical short and medium term solution.

DickD

[spam][thumbup]

threecents

There are very nice and heavily used busses toward DC with a stop at the downtown Target and another in Urbana. Probably slower than the MARC train, but I am not sure.

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