DG Highway sign with 270 and 495 logos 2 (copy) (copy)

A highway sign is shown on the southbound side of I-270 at Montrose Road in Rockville.

Since its announcement, a plan to add toll lanes to Interstates 270 and 495 has drawn a mix of both criticism and demands for action.

As the General Assembly prepares to begin its session in January, much – although not all — of the varying perspectives on the project depend on which end of the highway someone is on.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R), former Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, and other officials have argued that the project is necessary to eliminate congestion that takes time from people’s days and limits the economic vitality of the Washington region.

The study of the project on I-270 is being done in two parts: from I-370 near Gaithersburg to Interstate 495 in Montgomery County, and from Interstate 370 to Interstate 70 in Frederick.

On the northern end of I-270, concern about traffic congestion creates an urgency among some to get something done. Further south, near where I-270 meets the Capital Beltway, concerns about congestion are balanced with questions about pollution and space in a densely built-up environment.

Traffic congestion is easily one of the biggest concerns facing Frederick County, said Delegate Jesse Pippy (R-Frederick and Carroll), and one that will only get worse as the county grows.

“It impacts people’s quality of life,” he said.

The problem doesn’t just affect people who drive to Washington, D.C., Montgomery County or Baltimore, he said. Even non-commuters get caught in traffic from the spill-over effect of the commuter traffic.

“The problem is getting amplified,” Pippy said.

He said he’s looking forward to working with the Frederick County delegation and his colleagues from Montgomery County to find a solution to the P3 project.

It’s obvious that I-270 can’t currently handle the load of traffic that’s on it, said Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick and Carroll).

“It’s our commuters who are getting the short end of the stick,” Hough said.

He sees the legislative session that begins in January as a critical one for the fate of the project, with legislation from last session that threatened it likely to be introduced again.

Some Montgomery legislators and other officials are looking to make the project a political issue, and some changes to committee chairmanships could have an impact as well, Hough said.

“I think it is in great danger,” he said.

One of the bills from last session that threatened the I-270 and I-495 project was filed by Montgomery County Delegate Jared Solomon (D).

The bill would increase oversight of P3 projects, including prohibiting the state’s Board of Public Works from approving P3 agreements until environmental impact statements are done, as well as require a survey of the credit rating of the private company being considered for the project, the impact of a proposed agreement on the credit rating of the state and any local government, and a recommendation of the minimum credit rating that the private partner and a private funding source would have to maintain, among other provisions.

Solomon’s bill passed the House of Delegates, but failed to come up for a vote in the Senate before the session ended.

No one thinks the status quo is working, but they differ on what the solution is, Solomon said Wednesday.

There’s a myth that the Montgomery delegation is somehow “pro-traffic,” he said, when they’re the ones who have to deal with the worst congestion.

When he comes home from Annapolis during the session, he’ll sit in traffic “long, long, long [into] the evening,” he said.

The P3 project doesn’t think about a multimodal approach to transportation, with transit and other options, Solomon said.

“To me, this solution just reeks of ‘we’re only thinking about cars,’” he said.

But he acknowledges that the project’s length creates different situations for different areas.

Interstate 270 north of Md. 200 — between Gaithersburg and Rockville — is “a completely different road.”

That’s the area that Montgomery delegate Julie Palakovich Carr (D) represents, and said she’s heard different things from constituents.

Even in Gaithersburg, there are parts of I-270 with five or six lanes, but when you get further north where the highway drops down to two lanes, there’s more urgency, she said.

In Rockville and Gaithersburg, there’s concern in communities that already built out about whether there’s enough room for an expansion, with homes and businesses that back up to the highway, she said.

She’s also heard noise and pollution concerns, as well as a lack of public transit being considered.

Some of those same concerns are voiced by Frederick County officials as well.

Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick) said she strongly feels that the process needs a much more detailed environmental and economic evolution.

“I think they’re asking very legitimate questions,” she said of her Montgomery colleagues.

Senator Ron Young (D-Frederick) said he agrees with the Montgomery delegation’s concerns about pollution, the taking of property that the project would require, and making the project more transit-oriented.

In the densely-populated Washington metro area, transit has to be the ultimate solution.

Young said he thinks a monorail that’s been suggested as part of the project makes tremendous sense if it could be done in the existing I-270 right of way.

“I think we’ve got to start looking at things like that around the state,” he 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.

(19) comments

FCPS-Principal

Funny all these conservatives don't want newcomers. So AOC et al were right, huh? Of course no newcomers means no growth. Oh how wonderful the new toll lanes will be. Frederick Countians will not only enjoy gridlock but will get to pay $50 or more per week for the privilege of enjoying it, for toll lanes require gridlock to work. The overall sense of the article is that Hogan and his hooligans are mainly concerned with ensuring profit to the contractor, like Boeing and the 737Max, not congestion. And given the number of jobs and amount of tax revenue generated by each county, you can be sure the MoCo segment will be built long before the FrCo segment. That's the result of all the conservatives here spewing, 'Stop building houses. We like the sight of the mountains and the smell of cow manure. We don't want to become another Montgomery County.'

gorillagusto

People don't want to...or can't afford to...live where they work. That's the core problem, and traffic lanes aren't the solution. The state and counties need to face facts: their schools are uneven, economic development is too concentrated, and housing is too expensive. It's a Gordian knot of problems causing traffic, and widening the road is only a temporary solution.

dancing donna

Why not extend the Metro to Frederick?

gary4books

Perhaps there are no good reasons to live so far from jobs and no good reason to travel so far to work when the job could move to where the people live or the people could move closer to work and there would be hardly any traffic to bother with. If economic incentives are needed they may be less than the cost of new roads and the impact on our environment. Tax breaks on people who move and help with housing costs could be part of the solution. I do know some do not want to live in DC, but there are compromise locations.

collinsm65

No, Gary...we ran out of compromise locations. Name one that’s even close to reasonable.

SerPen39

The democrats as usual trying to shove a 3 year environmental study before any urgent infrastructure project then try to sell us the idea of a monorail. Truth is no infrastructure project will solve the traffic until we solve the out of control housing development in the county. We don't need more people!!

phydeaux994

P.G.,Montgomery, Howard, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties never solved the Urban Sprawl dilemma SerPen39, and neither have areas around the ever more concentrated employment centers a.k.a. Cities, around the Nation. Case in point, Amazon bringing 50,000 jobs to Northern Virginia, an already ridiculously populated region. Frederick County is just the next in line to receive the overflow. The secret is having planned for it 30 years in advance as Howard County did. It’s here now and FC hasn’t even started to plan for it. You can’t stop it, the developers have the money and are relentless. Start a Planning Committee SerPen39.

KellyAlzan

Environmental studies are part of the permit and land disturbance process. MD DOE, MD park and planning commission. etc etc etc

DickD

Just dreaming about what would be nice to eliminate congestion and move traffic, the thought crossed my mind, why not a train that cars could drive up on and be carried all the way to D.C. They do it for travelers to Florida, why not for commuters. Make some cars dedicated to off rails before D.C. for those not going to D.C.

You would save on gas, time, reckless driving, insurance and get some extra sleep along the way.

TomWheatley

Nice idea, except if you have never taken the Autotrain, it takes upwards of an hour or more to load and unload the cars. Admittedly, it would be a lot less cars and faster to load, however, any other stops along the way would make up the difference very quickly. And it takes less energy to transport one or two people instead of those same people and their 3000 pound vehicle.

DickD

Agree with all you say, Tom, but you could load different train cars for different destinations and just uncouple them, Yes, it would take more energy, but it takes a lot of energy to slow down, start up and idle too. Probably the train would take more, but it wouldn't surprise me to find out it is close.

gabrielshorn2013

Or you could just take the train, Dick. Auto train is not practical for such a short trip. Its 1100 miles compared to 50.

DickD

Absolutely right, Gabe. I used to take the Eyre bus from FSK Mall to Shady Grove, then got on the Metro. ..Usually, I fell asleep the Metro and only once didn't wake up at my stop in D.C. Once someone had to wake me up on the end of the line going home.

gabrielshorn2013

I took the same route Dick, except I took MARC to Rockville, and Metro to Metro Center. Got a lot of work done on the trains in the morning, and arrived fresh and alert.

ABQ2013

These elected officials claim to be concerned about traffic congestion— but meanwhile, the houses just keep being built along 270.

DickD

And in Frederick County along with traffic from Pennsylvania and some from West Virginia.

CapitanoZanetti

move to soviet russia there are no property rights there or buy all the land but shut up about what others build on their land it has nothing to do with you genius

FrederickFan

Remember to thank Blaine for all the housing and overdevelopment when he runs for office again.

DickD

Thank Blaine, FF? How? Stick him in traffic on his way to the next Baltimore girl friend? I am being nice. [tongue_smile]

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