DG Highway sign with 270 and 495 logos 2 use

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

As plans move forward to add toll lanes on Interstate 270 in Montgomery County, initial planning for the section of the project in Frederick County is expected to be done by the end of this year.

The State Highway Administration announced late last week that four teams of developers, designers, and contractors had been selected to present requests for proposals in early 2021 for the first phase of the I-495/I-270 P3 Program, which will add toll lanes to the two highways in the Washington region.

The first phase of the project will improve I-495 from near the George Washington Parkway, across the American Legion Bridge and along I-495 to I-270 and north to I-370 near Gaithersburg.

The second phase will address I-270 from I-370 to I-70 in Frederick.

The project will be built as a public-private partnership, in which developers and private funding would pay for the project in exchange for a share of the revenue that the toll lanes generate.

While the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transportation Authority hope to pick a developer and recommend a P3 agreement for the first phase of the project to the state’s Board of Public Works – made up of Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot, and Treasurer Nancy Kopp – by late spring or early summer, preliminary work on the next phase will also continue during that process.

“The schedule proposed by each potential Phase Developer will be considered in the selection of the Phase Developer,” Terry Owens, the consultant for MDOT on the project, said in an email Tuesday. “It is expected that as the first section is being built, preliminary work will be ongoing for future sections to allow congestion relief to be provided across Phase 1 as quickly as possible.”

The draft study of environmental impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act for the first phase of the project was released earlier in July. The process of formalizing that decision with hearings and other steps is continuing, with hearings in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties scheduled for August and September.

But while that process continues, pre-NEPA activities for the second phase are expected to be done by the end of 2020, Owens said.

The NEPA process is expected to take about two years to complete once it starts, he said.

According to 2018 statistics from the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, nearly 24 percent of Frederick County residents work in Montgomery County, while 2.7 percent work in the District of Columbia.

I-270, which runs more than 34 miles in Frederick and Montgomery counties, handles from 79,400 to 261,200 vehicles per day at various points, according to the State Highway Administration. Those numbers are expected to increase to 107,000 to 290,000 vehicles per day by 2030.

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.

(1) comment


Don't be fooled. At the end of the day this proposal is nothing more than a way to divide our publicly owned highways into lanes for the "haves" and "have nots". Lexus lanes for the rich.

Ask yourself a question -- after all this time, after all of the articles, why have we not heard a peep about projected cost per mile? How much will the average per mile toll be during rush hour?

The US DOT website says the highest cost HOT/Lexus lanes in the country cost up to $9 PER MILE!

I-66 west of D.C. costs up to $4.50 per mile for a 10 mile stretch. That's $45 one-way!

How much would these proposed Lexus lanes on I-270 and 495 cost? Why haven't we been at least given an estimate?

A cynical person would say it's because the cost will be outrageous -- unaffordable to all but the wealthiest motorists.

In fact, as a matter of design, the Lexus/HOT lanes MUST be unaffordable to the vast majority of people in order to work. To keep the Lexus lanes for the rich flowing at or above their design speed, the variable toll must be set high enough to prevent the riff-raff (that's most of us) from entering. Otherwise they would come to a screeching halt like the "free" lanes for us peasants.

This proposal is bad. It is un-American. It is evil. It would further divide our nation and exacerbate the gap between the rich and poor.

Public roads are meant to be used by ALL Americans -- ALL lanes, ALL the time.

Now, if a corporation wants to build a truly private road from scratch -- purchase the land; pay for the environmental impact study; pay for all of the surveying, engineering & design, and the construction -- then that would be different. In that case they should be free to charge what the market will bear.

In this case however, the proposal calls for lanes to be built on existing public right-of-way. I-270 belongs to us -- all of us, not just the wealthy.

Not to mention that the proposal would require bulldozing homes, commercial buildings, and parkland -- as well as relocating WSSC aqueducts at an estimated cost of $2B! Oh, and they expect WSSC customers to pay for that through outrageous water bills over a couple decades.

In some cases, a majority of homeowners' yards would be taken, drastically lowering the value of their home, yet they are only reimbursed for the (minimal) value of the land.

For anyone who still thinks this is a good idea, keep in mind the construction delays would be horrendous and last for a couple years. Once the construction is complete, any easing of traffic congestion would be very short-lived. Then we'd end up with a wider parking lot.

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