Traffic Congestion

Traffic travels south on Interstate 270 at U.S. 340.

Frederick County would get money to use for transit-related projects from revenue generated by toll lanes built along Interstate 270, but it would take a while to come.

Under an item approved Jan. 8 by the state’s Board of Public Works, counties through which proposed toll lanes along I-270 and Interstate 495 travel would sign memorandums of understanding with the state setting out improvements to regional transit services in each county with money from the tolls.

The toll lanes would be operated as a public-private partnership, in which the lanes are built by private contractors, which would own the lanes and share proceeds from the lanes’ use with the state.

The toll lanes on I-270 would operate alongside the free lanes.

The original language of the BPW item specified that 10 percent of the state’s net proceeds from the lanes, after the P3 contractor is reimbursed for the construction costs, would go to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties for regional transit services.

But the amended language that was approved Jan. 8 said that the state will develop MOUs for transit improvements with each county affected by the project, and the state would work with each county to decide which projects would be funded.

Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick), who serves as the vice chairwoman of the Transportation and the Environment subcommittee of the House of Delegates’ Appropriations Committee, said she spoke with acting Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater after the BPW vote, and was told Frederick would be among the counties that would get transit funding.

But Frederick County’s money wouldn’t come until a bit later in the process.

The P3 project is scheduled to be done in several phases, with the first phase stretching from the American Legion Bridge between Montgomery County and Virginia to Interstate 370 near Gaithersburg. The section between I-370 and Interstate 70 in Frederick would come at a later date.

The state would develop an MOU with Frederick County for transit improvements once the section from I-370 to I-70 is opened, the Maryland Department of Transportation said Friday.

Ron Burns, transportation safety manager for Frederick County’s Division of Planning and Permitting, said the county has also been assured by Slater that it would get the transit money, but it’s still too early to know many details, such as what type of transit would be funded.

But the good news is that Frederick is not being excluded, Burns said.

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.

(46) comments

petersamuel

Mrnatural1: Toll revenue is absolutely NOT guaranteed income. There is high uncertainty associated with the volume of traffic and what toll rates will make optimum use of the toll lanes. Start with future population and development in the corridor. That depends on uncertainties as to population growth, immigration, the growth of our region versus others, the future location of jobs, will drones be doing Amazonlike deliveries or road based trucks, how much homebased/remote work will there be? Willingness-to-pay for time saved is another risky business calculation.

But certainly government agencies (taxpayers really) are capable of taking risk and dealing with these uncertainties. And there's a long history of it. Here in Md the MdTA has been doing it for nearly 50 years and most of the states toll facilities are run by them, their latest such financings being the Inter County Connector MD200 and express toll lanes on I-95 north of the Baltimore harbor tunnels.

Question is: are state agencies better at the toll business -- and it is very much a business -- than investor owned businesses. A lot of experience shows investor owned businesses are better at the business -- better at integrating the business into the design, better at procurements, better at marketing, better at maintenance etc. They deliver better service at lower prices. Private companies can work in a specialized area like toll lanes all over the country and beyond and gain expertise in a way a local government agency cannot hope to. They are more flexible in hiring and firing etc. So I think Gov Hogan has made the right decision in calling for proposals from business toll companies. Maybe he could get MdTA to compete too?

Greg F

How about putting tolls into the developments that are creating this mess and to the developers themselves, their ****ing dumptrucks clogging the roads that drive like maniacs in packs like rabid wolves, and instead build some roads that the majority of us will actually use? So...ever see just how many toll payers actually use that beltway while the majority sit in traffic still? There will be no improvements to the non-toll lanes, just a paid expressway for the rich. It's time to kick anyone who backs toll roads out of office, and to put heavy burden on any new development and the developers (Ryan Homes for instance...they seem to be bent on destruction of every last tree and open patch of ground around).

The Grape of Wrath

See? It really is all about the money. Not congestion, not gridlock. The money!

mrnatural1

I'm adamantly opposed to Lexus lanes for the rich, but if such a project is viable for a private (often foreign) for-profit corporation, it is viable as a gov't project.

IOW, the projected revenue would be the same regardless.

A more important issue is that our roads -- like our schools -- have always been public.

This proposed P3 project is the same as allowing an avaricious for-profit corporation to build new additions onto our schools and then charge tuition -- for the parents who can afford to pay. Their kids would attend smaller classes and have better computers and supplies, while the "common folk's kids" would continue with overcrowded classrooms and old equipment,

Both are clearly wrong.

KellyAlzan

VA has Lexus lanes on the beltway. And they still have congestion and back ups. In the grand scheme, it did nothing for the congestion.

We do use the Dulles Toll Road a lot. Seems to work pretty well.

And we use the ICC (Rt 200) a good bit, and it seems to work really well.

Which, is where I'm coming from when I say that an entirely new route needs to be built.

petersamuel

Kelly: Agree in principle we'd be probably be better off with two 2x3 lane highways than one 2x 6-lane highway (as in Montgomery Co) But a completely new route parallel with 270 would face too much political resistance because it would take so many people's property. And also it would be so expensive it just couldn't be funded. So we are rather stuck with trying to improve what we have. I think an upgrade of US-15 mostly in Virginia between Point of Rocks and Leesburg to a 2x2 lane controlled access highway would provide us a.kind of "new route" to Northern Va, at least to Loudoun and western Fairfax counties -- an alternative for many trips to the 270/Beltway route.

Greg F

Been saying that for years........and make 340 4 lanes all the way instead of the bottlenecking also at and around the bridge. Oh...and BUILD A NEW !$^@@!! bridge over the Potomac already!

petersamuel

MrNatural1: roads and schools for that matter have always been a mix of 'public' (governmental) and investor-built. Investors built most of the highways in the earliest days of the republic before railroads. They were 'turnpikes' abbreviated as in Oposumtown Pike. Think of all the Pikes. Ensuring they work in the public interest is a matter of the way they are set up, and the terms under which they get to make use of a publicly owned right-of-way. Calling all for-profits 'avaricious' isn't very helpful. Much of our very productive economy depends on for-profits. Not-for-profits and governmental agencies can be denounced as 'avaricious' too in similarly sweeping terms and that is just as unhelpful. Let's be practical. We have a problem with the main highway linking us to the rest of the greater Washington needing greater capacity. 4 lanes comfortably carriers 60,000 to 80,000 vehicles/day. There are over 120,000 now trying to use it. How is that to be financed? Fairness suggests those who benefit by an improvement should pay for it. That means charges for the use of the road -- tolls. They could be state toll lanes like on I-95 north of the Baltimore Harbor tunnels. But the State is getting to the limits of its borrowing capacity trying to add new or rebuild toll crossings over Chesapeake Bay. In about 50 instances around the country P3 express toll lanes have proven the most practical way to get big expensive highway widenings like 270 and the Beltway accomplished.

mikec

The first tolls should be put at th Pennsylvania and West Virginia lines.

Quisling

Gotta say NO to this idea. Build something for everyone or don't build it.

petersamuel

Quisling: Toll lanes will be for people who want a quick free-flow ride guaranteed, and who are prepared to pay the going toll rate. They are open to everyone on those terms. The same as for a fancy restaurant or hotel or an airline ticket. You make your choice depending on the circumstances. If the toll looks high relative to the cost to you of avoiding a delay then you stick in the free lanes and travel slower. But if it is more valuable to you to be able travel in uncontested lanes than the going toll rate then you'll take the toll lanes. The choice is available to everyone.

TomWheatley

There are people who never set foot in a fancy restaurant, sleep in tents, and ride the bus. So, open to everyone, is not exactly correct; some will never opt to pay the toll.

mrnatural1

Exactly right Tom.

Toll proponents like to:

a) Act/talk as if Lexus/HOT lanes are the only option. No other transportation alternatives exist. It's big fat tolls or nothing.

b) Therefore, Lexus lanes are a foregone conclusion. Nothing we can do. It's the will of the toll road god.

c) The paid lanes are a viable option for many, if not most, motorists.

First of all, there are plenty of options. My personal favorite is to do nothing and watch the destruction of Frederick County slow, and then all but cease.

Other options are of course public transportation (monorail, commuter train) and simply adding lanes to I-270.

Adding lanes makes less sense than mass transit, but it would be worlds better than Lexus lanes for the rich. At least everyone -- regardless of income -- would be able to use the lanes for "free" (paid with fuel tax revenue) 24/7/365. No exorbitant tolls. No foreign corporation making a profit off of us.

Why in the world would people want to allow additional lanes to be built on a public right-of-way -- land that belongs to ALL of us -- if the use of those lanes will be auctioned off to the highest bidders every day?

To someone well-off enough to be able to afford the ridiculously expensive tolls on a daily basis (or whenever they take 270) I'm sure Lexus lanes sound like a GREAT idea -- much better than just adding lanes that everyone -- including the 'peasants' can use.

For the vast majority of us though, IF lanes are to be added, it is clearly better if they would be ordinary "free" lanes.

BTW -- we still haven't been told what the tolls would be, if this misguided proposal were to go through. The US DOT lists HOT lane prices as high as $9 per MILE! Even if Lexus lanes were normally 1/3 of that, $3 per mile, that's almost $70 -- one-way -- from I-70 to the Beltway. That's completely out of the question for almost all of us, even on an occasional basis.

Lexus lanes are a scam that should be rejected with prejudice.

petersamuel

TomW: It is true. Some will never take the toll lanes, just as some will never dine in a restaurant. That's not an argument against investors investing in restaurants or in express toll lanes. The express toll lanes will be there, open to all, on the occasions when the reliable quick ride is worth more to them than the toll. They will have some benefit, a limited benefit to be sure, for the people driving in the old free lanes in that they should be somewhat less congested to the extent that some who previously were traveling in them will now be in the toll express lanes. As Kelly said the Beltway toll lanes in Virginia have not eliminated congestion in the regular lanes. But I think the data show it is not as severe as before. It is obviously a bigger win for those for whom congestion is a threat to their job or to getting to an important meeting because the express lanes get them a congestion-free trip, but it is something of a small win too for those who don't use them.

Greg F

People made their choice years ago and are now suffering the consequences of developers making a choice to rape the land and stuff every nook and cranny with a house while stuffing their pockets with cash. Make them pay for those choices. Those of us who were here started out with decent traffic until the likes of Ryan Homes raped the land.

mrnatural1

Exactly right collinsm.

We long-term residents of Frederick County -- in some cases life-long -- have been robbed of our quality of life. There are exactly zero (0) benefits to residential development.

The effects of rampant, greed-fueled sprawl are a tremendous burden on all of us. But hey, at least we all got a big fat check for our share of the developers' profits! Oh wait, that's right, we got nothing -- except higher property taxes.

Now, because of the development that we did not ask for -- and in fact have been adamantly opposed to every step of the way -- the Lexus lanes for the rich cheerleaders are proposing that we be further punished by having to pay through the nose if we want a commute that is similar to what we had 30+ years ago, before the malignant development tumor began to consume the county!

People who have lived here and paid property and income taxes for DECADES should not have to pay for the "privilege" of driving on a highway in the state of Maryland. In addition to property and income taxes, most of us have paid tens of thousands of dollars in fuel taxes. Where has that money gone? Now, on top of the fuel tax (which isn't going away) we are expected to pay astronomical tolls? I don't think so.

Just say NO to the Lexus lanes for the rich scam. Highways should be open to all drivers, all the time.

KellyAlzan

270 is so development locked. yes, a term I made up. What I mean is that there are structures on both sides (houses, businesses, etc). It just seems like a whole new road is needed. Coming down 85, to 28, and continuing through Potomac, etc

petersamuel

Kelly: 270 is not win your phrase development-looked for about 20 miles between the Monocacy River bridge and about Father Hurley Blvd in Germantown. That's farmers fields almost all the way. It gets tighter south of there but right down to the Beltway there are few buildings right alongside. Go into satellite on google maps and zoom in. You can't find many places where you can't get 35 feet (2 extra lanes plus shoulder) on both sides free of buildings.

threecents

If this is part of a plan to get more support for tolls, it is not working on me.

mrnatural1

Glad to hear it threecents!

Let's hope others can see through this clear attempt at bribery.

I'll say this -- the people pushing the 'Lexus lanes for the rich' sure are DESPERATE! They are pulling out all the stops to convince people -- 95% of whom will NOT benefit from Lexus lanes at all -- that semi-private lanes for the wealthy are a good idea.

They are only a good idea for:

a) Those who would benefit financially from the construction

b) Any politicians who might receive kick-backs -- I mean, 'campaign contributions' from group (a).

c) Those with enough disposable income to buy their way out of traffic.

Everyone else will still be sitting in traffic.

And let's not forget that if these Lexus lanes are approved, the construction delays will be monumental. It will literally become impossible for some people to commute.

Funny, they don't mention that in the glossy DOT propaganda booklet.

petersamuel

It's NOT for the wealthy. Toll lane investors can't make money just catering to the rich. They have to cater to everyone on the occasions when a reliable quick trip is worth their toll. When people don't have an appointment to meet and who aren't so pressed for time then toll lanes won't get their money. The rich are lousy toll lanes customers. They can more often set their own hours and avoid traveling in peak traffic. And they can afford to live expensively and closer to their work. It's the less affluent who have long commutes and who can't afford to live close to their work and who have set hours who most often benefit from toll express lanes. Have a look at the vehicles traveling the toll lanes on the Beltway and 95 in Virginia. They're the same cross-section of vehicle types as in the regular lanes. You're right MrNatural that we need to be concerned about maintaining traffic through construction. My recommendation: Don't let City of Frederick staff anywhere near the 270/495 job after the Monocacy Blvd fiasco. It doesn't have to be that incompetent. The contractors who put in the extra toll lanes in Virginia did a great job maintaining traffic through the addition of four toll express lanes on the Beltway between the Springfield interchange and Tysons. With good management and incentives it CAN be done.

DickD

A Regressive tax on the poor?

petersamuel

Then what's your preferred way of financing improvements?

MrSniper

No Lexus lanes for the rich!

Alltheabove

The average income of toll users in VA is less than $100K and the most common car is a Toyota.

yogib

In the words of a former sports caster "Whoa Nellie". Sharing Profits?? This must mean that all of you who plan to travel 270, will be paying not just costs but for someone's profit. and a hidden tax for the Counties. We need to get Hogan out of the Governor's chair. He is trying to make 270 another Virginia Greenway, which is making an Australia Company rich and the commuters poorer. oh yes, in addition to Hogan, Delegate Krimm, continues to show her inability to represent Frederick.

Alltheabove

No, it means anyone who chooses to take the toll road is also subsidizing Bus Rapid Transit (buses ride for free), car pooler’s who ride for free, and the local transit subsidies. And please keep in mind, the Transportation Relief Plan was originally created by the Washington area Council of Governments whereby 60 area elected officials voted in support of the plan. I believe it was part of the Envision 2045 plan.

shiftless88

Keep in mind that the toll lanes will be run by a for-profit company. Everyone else gets the leftovers.

kaihagen

This is Fool's Gold.

I appreciate that if there are going to be MOUs signed, to use some of the future toll receipts for transit improvements with Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, that Frederick County ought to have a similar agreement.

BUT, really, come on...10 percent of the state’s NET proceeds from the lanes, AFTER the P3 contractor is reimbursed for ALL construction costs.

That is a political offering, NOT something remotely meaningful.

Alltheabove

The arrangement allows for the affected counties to begin receiving their transit subsidies as soon as when the P3 operator starts collecting toll revenue. It is not after the construction project is paid for.

petersamuel

The biggest contribution to transit for Frederick will be the existence on 270 of congestion-free toll express lanes themselves. That will allow buses and transit vans to provide a reliable 30-minute ride to Shady Grove and the Metro, and using the MD200 tollroad an excellent trip to the BWI area. Kai Hagen is half-right about the share of toll revenues for counties. We don't know yet whether it is a meaningful amount of money because the toll lanes have yet to go through the alternatives analysis and environmental review. They aren't even designed yet. And the state doesn't have any concrete private sector proposals because it can't issue the RFP until the general design is established. It might turn out to be a non-existent amount of money, or it might be a significant amount, or somewhere in between. We're not at the point where anyone can know. The deal between Hogan and Franchot? Certainly it was political. It was a political compromise reached to remove the Beltway East portion of the project where opposition is strongest, and to signal that the project will help transit. That allows the 270/Beltway West portion to proceed. That is meaningful. It ranks our portion of the project (70 to 370) #2, which before was #3.

shiftless88

You could probably just have carpool only lanes all the way and accomplish the same thing without tolls

The Grape of Wrath

But then private companies wouldn't be able to ripoff the public.

mrnatural1

Spot-on Kai, thank you for commenting! [thumbup][thumbup]

DickD

[thumbup][thumbup]

elymus43

Don't worry Frederick county will spend the money...................

Frayou

Just more Annapolis Politicians verbiage designed to minimize and cover local City & County politicians pending support. Standard political policy smokescreen.

DickD

It's going to be a long time before Frederick sees any improvement and allowing the private company to own the toll lane should be a non starter.

petersamuel

Most investor financed toll projects around the country don't involve private ownership of the land. They grant a franchise to the investors to collect tolls for a long period (66 years or 99 years) in return for building the new road and maintaining it on publicly owned right of way. Dulles Greenway in Va was an exception. In that case a private company negotiated with landowners (some hundreds of them) and when it had agreements to buy which formed a right of way, bought the land needed, and proceeded to build the road. DickD: Does the private ownership there offend you? I personally don't see it matters. A road is a road. In the case of 270 I doubt the issue will arise since it will be a franchise not a sale of the land.

Alltheabove

The P3 contractor will not own the land, it’s part of their 50 year lease. And besides, what difference does it really make? At the end of the lease term, everything reverts to the State.

DickD

After that private company makes how much money?

shiftless88

Private ownership of public infrastructure bothers me. I do not like that we have speed cameras run by a private company. I do not like private hospitals, either.

mrnatural1

I agree shiftless.

Reasonably regulated capitalism, competition, and the free market are generally preferable.

Some things are best done by the government though -- generally things that we all (or most of us) need and benefit from. One of those things is our PUBLIC roads.

We should not have for-profit roads any more than we should have for-profit schools, libraries, hospitals, or parks.

Alltheabove

If the private company is putting up the money why shouldn’t they own the infrastructure? The reason the project has to be built as a P3 is the States bonding capacity can’t fund it (see Purple Line) and the Transportation Trust Fund is going broke given the other commitments (maintenance) and increased fuel efficiency in future years.

DickD

Who currently owns the land? And why are the funds depleted? We don' t need private companies for public work.

mrnatural1

Good questions Dick.

The ROW is public property, owned by all Americans.

The funds are depleted for 2 primary reasons:

1) The highway fund is routinely raided for other purposes.

2) The motor fuel tax hasn't been raised since 1993! The federal portion anyway, not sure about the state tax.

Finally, while I believe there should be no tolls at all -- particularly no Lexus lanes -- if a project is economically viable, if it is profitable enough to attract bids from for-profit corporations, then there is absolutely no reason why the state of Maryland cannot issue bonds and build it. After all, toll revenue is guaranteed income.

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