DG Highway sign with 270 and 495 logos 1

A highway sign on southbound Interstate 270 before the Interstate 495 split at Montrose Road in Rockville.

The state’s Board of Public Works approved a proposal this week that allows state officials to solicit private companies to build and operate toll lanes on Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway.

Traffic on I-270 was a major issue among Frederick County voters during last fall’s election season. At Wednesday’s hearing, some key changes were approved: moving the I-270 expansion up to the first phase of the project versus the Beltway component, adding a study for a monorail system that would link Frederick to the Metro’s Red Line and allowing commuter buses to use the toll lanes free of charge.

Here are some abbreviated comments from local elected officials.

County Executive Jan Gardner (D)

Gardner said she was still reviewing the amendments the Board of Public Works made Wednesday, but she was surprised to see I-270 move up to Phase 1, given financial and logistical reasons.

She said she understands there are environmental concerns and worry over affordability of the toll lanes, but the solution needs to include transit along with more lanes.

“We can’t do one thing without the other. We need to do the transit piece, too,” Gardner said. “What’s appealing about the monorail is it doesn’t need right of way, and it could be very efficient in terms of operating, and it could be built quickly.”

County Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D)

Keegan-Ayer said she was still reviewing the tweaks and amendments, but added multiple times that it’s “encouraging” that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is looking into mass transit options like the monorail and commuter bus options.

She still has many questions: How much are the lanes going to cost? How much will tolls be? What private groups are interested in pursuing the project?

“It’s encouraging because the governor is open to engaging in a dialogue in other types of transportation, not just motor vehicles,” Keegan-Ayer said.

Council Vice President Michael Blue (R)

Blue also believes the toll lanes are part of the solution, but not the only solution.

Mass transit, like the monorail, would probably need private investment, he said. In any fix, there needs to be a mass transit component.

“[Interstate] 270 has needed upgrading for 20, maybe 30, 40 years and it’s true to say it needs to have some relief,” Blue said. “I just don’t see that as being the only solution, it’s definitely part of the solution and factoring in other ways to use more mass transit.”

Councilman Jerry Donald (D)

Donald declined to comment on the proposal. He noted that the council will hold a workshop on the topic in the near future.

Councilman Steve M c Kay (R)

McKay said he was concerned about the dynamic of toll lanes, and whether they would be costly to commuters, like those along Interstate 66 in Virginia.

He supports mass transit options and understands the need for additional lanes for immediate relief, but is concerned that more lanes eventually will lead to the same traffic issues after a few years. McKay dealt with that in the 1990s when he commuted south on I-270 out of Montgomery Village.

“When you add that lane, it’s going to encourage more development along the road which will add more traffic,” McKay said. “There’s no magic solution. You got to do it but people have to expect it’s going to get filled in.”

Jessica Fitzwater (D)

Did not respond to a phone call for comment.

Kai Hagen (D)

Hagen, who testified at the Board of Public Works on Wednesday, is against the proposal, but supportive of the mass transit amendments.

He noted the impact the proposal will have on climate change, but also said the state needs to look at many solutions: the monorail, commuter buses using the toll lanes free of charge, getting more autonomous vehicles on the road to finding ways to reduce overall vehicle use.

“Big problems are often not solved with a big, silver bullet solution,” Hagen said. “We’re going with the big silver bullet approach here, and part of the problem is it’s not going to accomplish what it’s supposed to accomplish.”

Councilman Phil Dacey (R)

Of all the County Council members, Dacey appeared to be most supportive of the proposal.

He understands the need for mass transit to be part of the solution. But there are immediate traffic needs, and Hogan’s plan helps address them right away, he said. If the vote had failed, it could have meant 15 or 20 more years before another solution was on the table, he said.

“I’m actually pretty ecstatic about the board passing it and recognizing we need some traffic relief,” Dacey said. “I think it’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of this project for Frederick County.”

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(21) comments

threecents

Can we please not have tolls?

pappyjoe

Why spend money on monorail when we already have resources. Dump Amtrak get 2 trains such as the Road Runner in Albuquerque NM. Capable of 110 mph speed. To make it more convenient place a monorail from old town Gaithersburg/Washington Grove to Shady Grove Metro. Frederick City can dump that (F)in hotel and make it a parking lot for train commuters.

DickD

Amtrack is privately owned. But your idea of making the old FNP building a lot for parking is a good one. Lower cost, more public parking for all those tourists and no tax dollars for the Randalls and Plamondons. Besides, the Plamondons seem only willing to build the hotel as a favor, knowing that they will get tax dollars for a hotel that is not needed.

seanjames

very annoying that it took a republican (mckay) to point out that additional lanes have proven time and again to just add additional traffic to fill them. it simply doesn't work as a congestion relief strategy. the only way to alleviate traffic is to give people a viable alternative to driving. period. the problem is, there's a mindset that if public transportation isn't paying for itself, it's a failure. which is wrong-headed. roads are publicly subsidized, so why shouldn't the alternative to roads also be? even if you don't use a bus or train, you are benefiting from those that do by them not being on the roads! the only ones more 270 lanes benefit are developers, who can then use the additional infrastructure as leverage to get more permits and build more housing and mini-malls. which of course will add more traffic and we start the cycle all over again.

KellyAlzan

so McKay points out what is his opinion. Last I knew, McKay isn't a traffic engineer. Where did he get his information, is there a link?

seanjames

google it if you're actually interested. there is plenty of data on the subject

KellyAlzan

Please don’t dance around the point I’ve made.

shiftless88

Kelly; seanjames is correct. More lanes does not relieve congestion. It is fairly well known and well studied. Do your own footwork if you do not believe.

KellyAlzan

Shift . You totally missed my point.

threecents

So we should reduce the number of lanes to reduce congestion?

KellyAlzan

FYI to shift and Sean - I am on 495, 66, 28, 7, 267, 695, 95, on either a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, during peak hours. I, personally, don’t need a report :)

valerie_dale

Like Steve, I commuted 270 from Frederick to work every day before during and after the expansion. Before the expansion in the 1990s, it was a mess, during the expansion which took a long time - it was an even bigger mess, and within a few years it was a mess again. More lanes doesn't take cars off the road, it just adds more cars and more pollution. Monorail would solve a lot of the issues!

Tanstaafl

Public-Private funding has never worked for public works. Who makes decisions? Who pays if screw-ups? Labor and quality controls? Private means paying investors as first priority, not serving any public needs! Hope this "new" idea sinks to where it belongs and stays buried...

matthewboh

Amen! Look at Indiana projects, they're failures that cost billions. The Greenway is now a little over $7.30 each way during Rush Hour! Their rates continue to climb on a regular basis.

DickD

There is an alternative, we could build a wall at the MOCO line. Anyone south of that cannot live here and will be deported to their home county. We will get the Sheriff to round all of them up and call it Cool Jenkins.

Moon otter

[beam][beam]

DickD

Monorail not only can be built cheaply, without additional right of way, but it can add significantly more than any additional lanes. Once you get to the Metro connection you can go wherever you want. No traffic lights, no back ups, no expensive parking and you can sleep or read a newspaper the whole way. Fewer miles on your vehicle and fewer repairs. We shouldn't even be considering the additional lanes.

Moon otter

Toll roads don't work. Lets see the toll road in Montgomery County was to alleviate the traffic on the beltway. Not working, We need to see usage and monies brought in.The toll roads in Va. don't work either because to expensive during peak times. If gas tax is used then it should be open freely to the public otherwise make it completely private or maybe like a commission. The PA turnpike is a commission though they do receive gas tax monies based on mileage. Long toll road. They raised their tolls and usage has dropped.

KMRD1

Figures Kai complained about it. Will be one less tree for him to hug.

seanjames

hell yeah screw trees! pave the whole state over!

CapitanoZanetti

Councilman Phil Dacey has the right Idea. The Toll Lanes will make commuter buses so much smarter. And so on. I hope Councilman Dacey continues supporting smart long term investments in Frederick County. Dacey if you want to far more of this sort of Frederick can do spirit. And less playing word games and trying to cut funding just to cut funding, hope you learn and prosper Bless.

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