Frederick County Del. Carol Krimm and a Montgomery County colleague are urging the state’s transportation secretary to examine ways to increase teleworking and other alternative work techniques in an effort to reduce traffic congestion.
Krimm (D-Frederick) and Del. Marc Korman (D-Montgomery) sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater Monday highlighting data from the Maryland Transportation Institute at the University of Maryland on how small changes in the amount of traffic during rush hours could make significant differences in congestion on Interstate 270 and other roads in the region.
Korman and Krimm are the chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Transportation and the Environment Subcommittee of the House of Delegates’ Appropriations Committee.
“The requirement to telework by government, as well as private sector employers, has shown that peak traffic can be significantly impacted through a statewide incentive to encourage telework,” the letter said.
According to the letter, the institute’s data show that if five to 15 percent of drivers could avoid traffic bottlenecks by working from home, using alternative transportation, or changing their departure time or routes to work, could virtually eliminate congestion on the region’s highways. In 2018, the institute noted that a 2 percent reduction in the 114,000 vehicles that use I-270 northbound between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. would reduce the highway’s peak period congestion, the letter said.
Reducing peak period congestion by 100 percent would mean getting about 14,820 vehicles of the roads, it said.
“Those numbers are achievable and do not require billions of dollars in new infrastructure investment using risky financing methods of which we have now become all too familiar with the downsides,” the letter said.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and his administration have proposed a plan to build managed toll lanes on I-270 as part of a public-private partnership, in which the lanes would be built by private contractors that would own the lanes and share proceeds from their use with the state.
“Reducing or even eliminating traffic congestion through this targeted and low-cost effort would be a transformative change for the State of Maryland,” Krimm and Korman’s letter said. “This is the time to move forward on bold and innovative initiatives to impact our daily lives.
Maryland Department of Transportation spokeswoman Erin Henson said Tuesday that the department had gotten the letter and was in the process of replying.
“MDOT received this letter yesterday and a formal response will be going out soon to the delegation,” Henson said in an email. “We have had a longstanding relationship with the Maryland Transportation Institute at the University of Maryland, and helped to develop and fund the Maryland Statewide Transportation Model.”
Increasing options for teleworking has been a longtime goal for transportation advocates and planners.
When the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Transportation Planning Board passed its “Visualize 2045” long-range transportation plan in 2018, expanding options for telecommuting was one of seven “aspirational” long-range goals, along with ideas such as bringing jobs and housing closer together and expanding bus rapid transit networks across the region.
“What we’ve learned is that teleworking can work,” Krimm said Tuesday.
Not everyone can work from home, but those who can should be allowed to, at least a few days a week, she said. The state could provide incentives, such as helping companies to buy equipment, she said.
Krimm thinks the pandemic has helped convince employers that telecommuting can be a viable option.
“It would mean so much for working families to not have to deal with traffic congestion on a daily basis,” she said.