Fix I-270 Now coalition

Delegate Carol Krimm, D-District 3A, speaks Monday at a Fix 270 Now coalition press conference.

Leaders from the Fix 270 Now coalition met on a hill overlooking the clogged interstate in Germantown on Monday to advocate for state funding to study — and then fix — congestion on the important Frederick-Montgomery corridor.

“Welcome to the land of innovation, and also welcome to the land of gridlock,” said Montgomery County Councilman Craig Rice (D), who represents the Germantown area.

The road carries 79,400 vehicles a day on the north end near Frederick to 261,200 vehicles a day near the Beltway, according to the state Department of Transportation. By the year 2035, the state estimates those numbers will increase to 107,000 to 290,000, vehicles, respectively, per day.

“Fix 270 Now” is a newly formed bipartisan coalition of civic, business, community and elected leaders focused on pushing for state and federal support for a comprehensive plan to reduce congestion between Frederick and the Capital Beltway.

Several Frederick County officials attended Monday’s announcement, including Dels. Carol Krimm, D-District 3A, and Karen Lewis Young, D-District 3A.

Krimm is a member of the I-270 Caucus in the General Assembly. She said the counties could take ideas from her recent vacation spot, Amsterdam, where lanes and shoulders are opened up during rush hour to ease bottlenecks.

Delegates Bill Folden, R-District 3B, and Kathy Afzali, R-District 4, and Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, also support the coalition, along with the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner (D) and County Council President Bud Otis (unaffiliated) spoke at Monday’s press conference.

Gardner called I-270 “the high-technology corridor in Maryland” and said that the important economic engine will help the counties work together.

Otis said the importance of improvements to the road “transcends normal politics” and will bring the counties together.

Lawmakers said the total cost of a comprehensive I-270 plan between the American Legion Bridge and Frederick would cost billions.

As a first step, the coalition wants the state to revive two transportation studies which they said were moldering on a shelf.

The studies, the group said, date back to 1994 and could provide the analysis necessary to identify the best alternatives for congestion solutions.

Possibilities include high-occupancy toll lanes and high-speed regional bus rapid transit, according to the coalition and the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance. Such a multi-modal approach could improve rush hour traffic by up to 87 percent, according to the coalition.

The projects would be supported mostly by tolls with possible bond funding, according to the coalition.

Richard Parsons, vice chair of the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance, said the coalition will work to advance both short-term and long-term solutions. He supports the $100 million I-270 Innovative Congestion Management Project, touted by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) earlier this summer.

That competitive project will award contracts to plans for reducing congestion and delays along the 35-mile I-270 corridor short of widening the existing paved surface.

Frederick Alderman Josh Bokee said Monday that he reached out to Congressman John Delaney, chair of the coalition, for help in drafting a resolution of support that could be considered by the city’s Board of Aldermen.

Staff writer Nancy Lavin contributed to this report.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

(69) comments

mrnatural1

Thank you for the compliment Oscarpot, I appreciate it. I did not see a "reply" button below your comment (9/21, 9:25pm) so I'm posting up here.

I realize that tolls can be an attractive option. While they may be justified in some cases to cover a portion of the capital costs of a new bridge or tunnel, the easiest and fairest way to raise money for highway construction and maintenance is our time-tested fuel tax.

Tolls are essentially a regressive tax that everyone must pay -- rich or poor, 50 mpg Toyota Prius or 9 mpg Hummer. When applied to HOT (aka "Lexus") lanes, tolls become a way for the well-heeled to buy their way out of traffic. Once that becomes a possibility, the political pressure to improve our roads is minimized. After all, the movers and shakers are happy. They smile as they whip past the rest of us.

Tolls are generally much more expensive per mile than the fuel tax -- as much as $0.54 per mile according to this article:

http://www.therichest.com/luxury/most-expensive/pay-ahead-the-most-expensive-toll-roads-in-america/

The ICC (MD 200) costs up to $0.35 per mile for 2 axle vehicles. The I-495 Express in VA is $1.25 per mile!! That's more than double the $0.54/mile in the article I linked to:

http://www.mdta.maryland.gov/icc/toll_rates.html

The fuel tax (state + federal) averages $0.50 per gallon. That's just one cent per mile for cars that get 50 mpg, only $0.02 for cars that get 25 mpg.

Politicians hate to raise taxes. When more revenue is needed, they would much rather institute "user fees"; "tolls"; and line item charges on property tax bills. The fact is that we could literally double or triple the fuel tax and it would be far less expensive than even the lowest cost toll road.

Our current toll roads require proprietary transponders that work in some states but not others.

It's much easier and simpler to keep our existing public highway system, which is still mostly toll-free.

We should raise the fuel tax and spread the cost of road construction and maintenance among all drivers.

The alternative is coast-to-coast toll roads, with counties and states all soaking drivers that do not live in the area.

MikeG

Flat out humorous that 3 lanes feed Frederick toward Baltimore and only 2 lanes feed toward DC. Traffic Every. Single. Day. And folks hem and haw over what to do. Ummm. How about infrastructure keeping up with population and commuting trends? One lane added to 270? Sure it's a start to fix today's (yesterday's) congestion problems. How about 2 more lanes added to prepare for the real future. Worried about costs? We built the highway system in this country somehow. I know we have enough tax paying/registered car users to maintain and improve our road and highway systems. It's a matter of actually doing something.

mrnatural1


"Frayou" got it right:

"Only problem..."build it and they will come". More residential & business growth and more congestion due to same. Progress? Never ending problems. All about $$$$."

Wider roads only offer a temporary reduction in traffic congestion. Witness the south end of I-270. When it was first widened to 6 lanes in each direction, it was smooth sailing -- for a couple years. Before long the excess capacity was gone, due to the new development that was attracted by the additional lanes. Now, instead of a 3 or 4 lane wide linear parking lot, we have one that's 6 lanes wide.

Most people move to the Baltimore/D.C. area for jobs. They naturally look for the lowest priced housing that suits their needs. That leads them to rent or buy a long way from the employment centers in the cities.

Unfortunately, it seems that many people do not value their time very highly, and/or do not consider the true cost of commuting, because if they did I think many of them would decide to live closer to work, or never move here in the first place.

Many people have 40-50 mile commutes. That's 100 miles per day, maybe 250 days per year. The IRS allows $0.55 per mile for the cost of driving. Consumer Reports says that the least expensive new car costs that much per mile for the first 5 years (many luxury cars and SUVs cost much more). Even using a low 50 cents per mile, that's $12,500 in before tax dollars, just for commuting -- or over $1,000 per month that could go toward the additional rent required to live closer to work. If buying a home, a portion of that $1,000 will be deductible, so it's worth even more.

Then there's the time involved in commuting. What's that worth? I would say a good figure is whatever you make per hour at work. Commuting is really a part of your job -- you wouldn't be doing it otherwise.

Finally, there is the stress; aggravation; risk of injury or death; road rage; possibility of receiving a traffic ticket, etc.

The above is a strong argument for either living closer to work, or moving someplace that has employment opportunities but is not so overpopulated and congested, like Des Moines, Iowa.

The last thing we should be talking about is widening I-270. It would be very disruptive. As it is, 5 mile backups can be created by a bunny in the median, or a guy changing a tire -- can you imagine what major construction that would last for years would be like? Widening I-270 would be insanely expensive. In some places there is not enough right-of-way left, even if the money could be found to purchase it. Increasing the capacity of I-270 would only encourage further development in FredCo and points north and west. Local traffic would become even worse -- no one is talking about widening every major road in the county, which would be required to prevent gridlock for a large portion of each day.

Finally, as Frayou said, all of the additional development would quickly cause I-270 to become just as congested as it is now, if not worse. 3 or 4 lanes at a dead stop instead of 2.

Growth is not always good, and it simply cannot continue indefinitely. Our open space is finite. Our farmland is finite, and so are our resources. A wider I-270 will create more problems than it solves.

gorillagusto

When I lived in MoCo, my commute was often 30 minutes...to drive 2 miles. It was 45 minutes on the bus. I had to pay an alarm company because of the burglaries and nuisance crime in the townhouse slum where I could afford rent. More significantly, private school tuition would have been absolutely necessary because of the sub-par public schools in the areas we could afford to live (even with the market at rock bottom). There are good economic reasons for commuting and for living in Frederick Co...which is why so many people do! Our politicians are being disingenuous in pretending the failures of local, state, and federal governments can be covered over with additional asphalt. And I think you're being a big presumptuous in your thinking about your neighbors' ability to reason.

mrnatural1

Very good points gorillagusto, well said.

I would point out that I did say, "... _many_ people do not value their time very highly, and/or do not consider the true cost of commuting..."

I did not write 'most' or 'all', because clearly there are people (like yourself) who have very valid, well thought out reasons to opt for the long commute over living closer to where they work.

However, it is fair to say that there are many people who simply do not comprehend the true cost of driving. How many times have we heard a person refer to the cost of gas as if it is the total cost of driving? Sometimes they just refer to the number of tanks of gas they buy every week.

The cost of fuel is only a small part of the cost of operating a vehicle. With gas at about $2.25/gallon, the fuel for a car that gets 22-23 mpg is about $0.10 per mile. The cost of driving is approximately 5 times that amount.

BTW -- I made a mistake in my post above. I wrote, "Even using a low 50 cents per mile, that's $12,500 in before tax dollars, just for commuting..."

That should read, "Even using a low 50 cents per mile, that's $12,500 [per year] in _after_ tax dollars, just for commuting..."

In that example, the person would have to earn significantly more than $12,500 (actual amount depends on their tax bracket) in order to have the $12,500 to spend on commuting.

Again, that does not count the value of their time away from family, or the risk and stress involved with commuting.

chesapeakecountry

I noticed every time we build a new school that within a few years it is also at full capacity or beyond. Shall we apply your logic to the school system as well?

mrnatural1

Schools are of course very different from roads.

One significant difference is that land for schools is generally readily available -- land for roads often is not.

As other commenters have posted, some of the buildings along I-270 are very close to the right-of-way.

It would be interesting to look at the surveys and see exactly how many properties would have to be confiscated by the government using eminent domain and how many buildings would have to be torn down.

A widened I-270 would encourage more residential development. What about all of the additional cars the new development would bring? Once they get to FredCo, where are they going to go?

When we talk about widening I-270, we really need to be discussing widening every single major road in Frederick County -- because simply widening I-270 is a recipe for a traffic nightmare on local roads.

The only real solution is one that developers do not want to hear:

The Baltimore/D.C. area has reached its population limit. Frederick County is beyond full. We cannot accommodate more people.

Major employers and government agencies should be located in areas that are not impacted. Areas that need some economic development and are not suffering from overpopulation.

The only way for there to be any true "smart growth" in FredCo and similar areas is for there to be efficient public transportation to job centers, as well as locally, around Frederick County. Just having Metro extend to FredCo (for example) is not enough. Without convenient, safe, efficient local public transportation, even those that might consider riding Metro to the D.C. area will still need to own cars and they will still create traffic jams on local roads.

Oscarpot14

You are the most logical and eloquently spoken poster on this subject ever heard. The daily road warriors likely feel offended at your logical dissertation of the "how & why" of this daunting and never ending problem. Fix our local Frederick thruway first and set a toll at ALL county lines to pay for said improvements. If you use it-you pay for it !

chesapeakecountry

Some of the comments on here are hilarious. I can see why we have a problem (and always will).

rbtdt5

270, the reason I choose to live and work in Frederick. No way I'd want to commute down the road and few extra dollars isn't enough incentive for me.

n01fu

It can be a lot more than a few extra dollars if you work in DC. For me it was more than twice what I could expect to make in Frederick County. And it wasn't just more money for my family, Frederick County collected the extra income tax I paid because of the much higher salary. So creating four more $15 an hour jobs, doesn't really make up tax-wise for a commuter who could be making more than $65 per hour. Frederick County needs to attract more higher paying jobs.

DickD

Rabbit, you can double your salary going down the road, ignorance is bliss.

sevenstones1000

I'm glad you can "choose" to work in Frederick. Not enough jobs here.

KellyAlzan

No funding to fix I-270 which is used by 80,000 vehicles per day but we're building a hotel and conference center with state money.....

Fredmd21704

And there ya have it, another post that has to change the subject again, wonder when the next video of the signs she can't see will come out.

DickD

The Randalls and Plamondons have their priorities!

DickD

The road north of Hagerstown needs to be widened, along with areas around Frederick, but how many lanes can and will be widened if we keep commuting long distances to get higher paying jobs in D.C. and it's vicinity and lower cost housing in Frederick County. Obviously, the answer is better jobs in Frederick County that pay higher wages. Most likely we will also need more high speed public transportation and widening/improving 270.

MisAul

Let's form a group of commuters from several different fields and see if we can get some companies started in Frederick. I'm in Facilities now, but can work in any office setting with 30 years of experience. I know that there are others that could hold positions in a new company. Plus, look at all of the vacant commercial buildings in Frederick just waiting to be filled. I'm willing to take the pay cut, if need to work closer to home. We just need to find the right companies that thrive.

richardlyons

Been doing the 270 shuffle for 25 years and nothing but talk. Suspect that nothing will come of this, but if it does I will be long retired.

bonnierae

So they "Fix 270". You can get people from and to Frederick faster. What are you going to do with all the cars once they get to Frederick?

DickD

Convert more farm land to residential? The whole thing is silly.

public-redux

Decades ago I read a study that discussed the merits of a 9 day week. (6 days on, 3 days off. People would gradually disperse into 3 groups. On any given day, one-third of the population would be enjoying their weekend while two-thirds would be working.) One of the primary benefits would be much more efficient use of infrastructure thanks to the dispersal effect.

KellyAlzan

Would never work. Family activities on weekends. Kids sporting activities on weekends. School is out on weekends - for divorced parents this is a factor.

We're not recreating life because MD politicians have put I-270 on the back burner

public-redux

As I recall, the entire idea of a weekend was derided as something that would never work. So you're on to something.

KellyAlzan

I'm disappointed that the 270 mess has been allowed to go on this long.

In the 80's and 90's there was enough empty fields along 270 that widening was highly plausible. Now, there's a new clothing outlet being Built right up to the edge of 270.

Frederick has oddles of jobs. That is, if you don't mind working for $12 / hr at one of the 103 national chain restaurants that we have. Or, at one of the dozen advanced auto parts stores that we have. We have nothing but businesses that only offer $12 / hr careers! It's just like Prince George's County.

rbtdt5

Kelly, there are a lot of jobs in Frederick that pay in the $25/hr and up.

n01fu

@rbtdt5: Would you post a link to a couple of them? I've looked on a few of the job web sites, and can't find anything over $20/hr. And even then, only 1 job.

rbtdt5

Ft. Detrick, The city/county, Wells Fargo, First Garantee Mortgage, All the other banks have higher paying jobs, there are many sales jobs, lots of small business owners, property management, realtors, home inspectors, surveyors, this is just off the top of my head. I'm sure if I sat and thought about it for a while I could get you a much better list.

DickD

Rabit, you need more than a list paying over $25, you need job openings. Yes, there are some, some like Bechtel were allowed to leave, under the Blaine gang administration - many of these paid $50 or more per hour.

n01fu

@rbtdt5: I meant actual job listings. I checked the city web site, and there is one full time job that pays $18.25/hr. The county site has three that pay $25/hour or more. Most of what is listed on both sites is much less per hour, part time, or both. When I checked indeed I only found one recent listing.

There just aren't the same type of opportunities in Frederick, that there are in MoCo or D.C.

rbtdt5

Well, that's the current market. It's tough finding good jobs right now. They come up though. Other jobs I starting thinking of could be medical profession. We have a lot of doctors and medical places around. Lawyer. Funeral Director. Point is the jobs are here. You might spend a year or two chasing it but they'll out there. How about Camden Steel? There are tons of office buildings out off crestview/85/355, not sure what alls out there.

Now here are the list for the salaries of those that work for the city and county so there are jobs out there you might have to wait for one to open up if that's all you're looking for.

County;
http://wp.fredericknewspost.com/databases/fnp-databases/frederick-county-federal-salaries-2014/

City;
http://wp.fredericknewspost.com/databases/fnp-databases/frederick-city-salaries/frederick-city-salaries-2015/

n01fu

@rbtdt5: I meant actual job openings that people could apply for right now. Providing lists of federal, county, and city salaries does no good. Generally someone has to have already spent most of their career with the government to get to the higher paying positions.

So show us actual job vacancy announcements in the Frederick city area that pays $25/hour or more that are currently available. And there won't be enough to have a real impact on reducing the number of commuters.

The opportunities are just not as prevalent here.

Fredmd21704

not all families work monday through friday.

Rockfish

Last time I looked, there were only 7 days in a week.[beam]

public-redux

If we had always had a 9 day week and someone suggested switching to 7 days, every one would dismiss it as crazy talk. "Seven days? SEVEN days? A prime number???? That's insane!"

gorillagusto

The root problem is that it's too expensive to live where the jobs are. Or put another way, there are too few high-paying jobs where people prefer to live.

The gridlock is a symptom of problems created largely by each and every level of government represented in this coalition. Can we really expect them to "Fix 270" without acknowledging what's actually to blame for this mess...themselves?

Frayou

👍👍

Frayou

Note after building any new interchange or bypass new development springs up around it leading to more congestion. Note. Rt 15 & 70 around Frederick were bypassed.

Frayou

Only problem..."build it and they will come". More residential & business growth and more congestion due to same. Progress? Never ending problems. All about $$$$.

sevenstones1000

No more lanes. You cannot add enough lanes to accommodate all the single occupancy cars whose drivers believe they are too special to use mass transportation. Make all of 270 a toll road during large parts of the day to discourage use of personal cars. Build a light rail/bus system that means something. Not the current system that has extremely limited service during rush hours only. But 7 day a week, all day schedules.

The days of one person in one car are long gone. It's time Frederick joined the rest of the world.

Fredmd21704

adding 1 lane in each direction, and getting the metro to Frederick would both be beneficial.

swankytom

Even getting it out to Urbana would help - but would be very expensive. They should have bought the right of way 20 years ago.

swankytom

I'm guessing you don't drive down 270 every day? And do you understand how much you'd be screwing all those people that work down the road, most of whom a bus to Shady Grove wouldn't help?

DickD

There was a commuter bus from Hagerstown to Shady Grove, doesn't that still run?

sevenstones1000

Extremely limited hours. The commuter solutions need to be seven days a week, all day long.

sevenstones1000

I work in DC, ace. I commute using mass transportation and I'm sick of subsidizing single occupancy cars. No more lanes.

n01fu

I don't believe that people think they are too special to use mass transportation, but that the alternatives available just aren't effective enough.

Jane and Ed

[thumbup]

Traderarb99

I would like to announce my new initiative called "stop talking and start digging". Everyone in that picture gets a shovel and a gag.

Fredmd21704

I agree, how many studies have they done now, its time to stop talking,and start digging.

KellyAlzan

So many businesses built right up along I-270. Space for widening is limited. Very limited. There needs to be a new bypass built through buckeystown vicinity, Dickerson, etc.

We're gunna pay millions for a study only to find that we're land-locked and a by bass is needed. Then, we'll be right back to paying for another study for a bypass.

Fredmd21704

the median can be built upon. Oh silly me, that would be to obvious.

brl17shots

That to me is already the plan. That is why they have been improving and in some case replacing the bridges (i.e. Dr. Perry) so they can support the additional lanes.

Fredmd21704

I am glad I am not the only one who noticed. Silly us.

TALITTLEJR

Dr. Perry rd bridge is the only bridge that was done correctly execpt for the monocacy the others bridges have to be evened out for the median. which is the obvious start to the problem.

KellyAlzan

Correct. Sort of. The new bridges are not road expansion worthy. Paving the median goes without saying. There is more to it than that. It's called storm water drainage.....

Fredmd21704

KellyAlzan stated the new bridges aren't road expansion worthy, on the contrary, they actually are and were done for the purpose of 270 eventually being widened. Silly me, research is key.

jthompson

Another rerun of what our elected folks must do to pander to commuters. It would be something new if one or more of them were willing to walk the plank and advocate/introduce/sponsor specific legislation to enact tolls or "congestion pricing" to have the expansion pay its own way.
For an example of one who tried without success, see: http://www.fredericknewspost.com/archive/for-whom-the-road-tolls/article_d23f8331-8941-5baa-b826-f5d701076650.html

recordhigh

Commuters, what a bunch of freeloaders, just looking for handouts. /s

You do realize that they commute to jobs where they make money that they pay taxes on. And their employers pay taxes too. How about if we use that money instead of gouging commuters to pay for something they have already been paying for but haven't been receiving. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm fine with tolls as long as they put them on the the border with PA and WV. Those are the real freeloaders on I-270.

jthompson

A good example of why nothing is likely to change. The federal taxes on motor fuels that built our system of interstate highways are now barely enough to maintain what we have. No new funding source (tolls), no 270 expansion.

recordhigh

I'd rather see the gas taxes adjusted to account for the inflation and the increases in fuel efficiency that have happened over the last 25 years than tolls put on 270. But, lets face it, conservatives would rather have tolls over taxes because it fits better with their view that government services should be for profit and possibly even privatized.

jthompson

An increase in gas taxes won't adequately fund the expansion. Gas tax revenues get thrown into the pots in Washington and Annapolis and divvied up subjectively via the political process, not objectively on need. Financing a 270 expansion via revenue bonds secured by toll proceeds would dramatically increase the likelihood that the expansion takes place.

swankytom

I'd rather see the federal gas tax go up as well. Tolls spread the costs very unevenly.

Fredmd21704

no one is forcing anyone to drive 270 to go to work, people choose to do that.

jthompson

True. Us oldsters will remember the analogous Three Stooges skit whereby the patient says "Doc, it hurts when I do this." Doc then replies "Then don't do it." The statements of the "Fix I-270 Now" group is yet another example of not requiring commuters to take responsibility for the consequences of their choices of where to live and work.

recordhigh

People don't choose jobs like they choose what shirt to wear. I work where I was able to get a good paying job and I moved to a location about 1/2 way between where my wife works and where I work. I take 270, and I'm sure I pay more in taxes than the average person based on my salary. What do you suggest that I do? Change jobs and get paid less just for a different commute? Pretending like a traffic problem caused by increased population and economic activity can be solved by telling everyone to just get a different job with a different commute is unrealistic. That's not the way things work.

Thewheelone

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

DickD

Good point, recordhigh, but if that job you got was in Frederick County, you wouldn't have a problem, so Frederick County needs to attract higher paying jobs, right now they have the farmer mentality of low wages and long hours.

NedRyerson

Or maybe another river crossing? So everything doesn't filter down to the American legion bridge. I grew up in western pa where crossing the Ohio River was not a big issue since there were a lot of bridges. Here, not so much.

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