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.

Preliminary work for an environmental study needed in order to widen Interstate 270 won’t be finished for about another year, but a group that opposes the project still intends to petition the Frederick County Council to object to the plan.

Work on a pre-National Environmental Policy Act study to review existing traffic and environmental issues along the route of the public-private partnership project to add lanes and reduce congestion on the highway linking Interstate 70 and the Capital Beltway began in June and is expected to be finished in the summer of 2020, State Highway Administration spokesman for the project Terry Owens said in an email Friday.

NEPA is a federal law that requires federal agencies to do studies to make sure proper consideration is given to projects that could affect the environment. The Federal Highway Administration is working with the state on a managed lane study for the project.

The administration expects to begin the NEPA process once the preliminary activities are finished, Owens said.

The pre-NEPA activities include identifying the project’s purpose and need, developing a range of alternatives, reviewing the existing and future traffic volumes and environmental conditions, and engaging the public.

The pre-NEPA work will help to answer questions about timing as they gather information and start to consider alternatives to solve the congestion issues in the I-270 corridor, Owens said.

The state’s Board of Public Works designated the project as a public-private partnership in June.

In the so-called P3 designation, the toll lanes would be designed, built and operated by a private company, with the state getting some of the revenue from tolls.

Under the state’s current plan, the bottom section of I-270, from near Shady Grove to Interstate 495, would be built first. The section from Interstate 370 to Interstate 70 would follow.

Meanwhile, the group Trains Not Tolls continues to collect signatures for an online petition that they hope to use to persuade the Frederick County Council to list expanded MARC service as a top priority in the county’s next transportation priorities letter to the state.

Increased MARC traffic was part of the state’s most recent letter, but not one of its top three priorities.

With hopes to collect 300 to 400 signatures, the petition had 174 as of Friday night.

The group still plans to take the petition to the county at some point, said Ben Ross, chairman of the statewide Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition. His group is affiliated with Trains Not Tolls.

Ultimately, the decision will be made by the state, but in the past, the state has given attention to county requests, Ross 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.

(29) comments

MrSniper

No Lexus lanes for the rich!

Comment deleted.
shiftless88

By the way, have you heard of the Clara Barton Parkway in MD?

Comment deleted.
shiftless88

If it makes you feel any better; up here by Frederick we have US15 clogged by VA cars crossing into MD and heading down towards Rockville because there is no bridge between US-15 and I-495.

collinsm65

You could put 100 lanes each way and eventually it will clog up. There's plenty of acreage between lanes for the majority of 270 or just beside to put rail or monorail. Tolls are a complete fraud on the people and even 2 more lanes each way would be largely unused if tolled leaving the rest to fester on forever stalled roads. There is no good time on 270 any more. It is constantly rush hour, and the sheer volume of morons hanging in the left lane going slow make things even worse. Whomever decided the weigh station there also needs to be flogged for that one...uphill for trucks on the way out? Genius. The reason rail isn't done is to foster car and tire and fuel sales, period.

threecents

This is just too expensive to justify. I they decide to go ahead it should not be a toll road; If this is to speed up traffic, a toll would slow it down, and it would cost more to operate and maintain. Of course if it is not a toll road, then our taxes will have to be increased to pay for it, and that does not work for me either.

seanjames

toll HOV lanes are absurdly stupid because they *necessarily* do not alleviate congestion. like, by design. think about it, if they did, no one would pay to drive on them. it's a catch-22. and everyone knows this, so what's the *real* reason for these? simply revenue generation and luxury lanes that allow only the rich to bypass traffic while the rest of the shlubs get precisely nothing out of it

mrnatural1

Excellent comment seanjames -- spot-on! [thumbup][thumbup]

mrnatural1

threecents, if by 'taxes' you meant income and/or property taxes, those taxes probably would not increase. The majority of road construction costs have always been paid for with motor fuel tax revenue.

That said, the proportion of highway construction costs that is paid for with general revenues has increased in the last 20-30 years because the fuel tax has not been increased since 1993.

I fully support raising the fuel tax so that it covers most maintenance & construction costs. I'd much rather pay another penny or two per mile than outrageous tolls that can be as high as $4.50 per mile (ex: I-66 west of D.C.).

Tolls are a TAX. They are also revenue for multinational corporations that are not accountable to us at all. They exist to make as high a profit as possible. Lexus/HOT lanes are nothing more than a way for the wealthy to buy their way out of traffic. The only people who should support this scam are well-off professionals who have enough disposable income to pay $2 (+/-) per mile to drive down the road -- that's over $60 one-way from I-70 to the Beltway!

The rest of us peons would have no choice but to sit in traffic and watch the Audi's; BMW's; and Mercedes whip past.

NO Lexus lanes for the rich!

dcmetro

They actually did a really good job of maneuvering traffic when the last widening was done in the 80’s on the lower portion of 270. I lived and worked there then and used it daily. Why is it that Northern Virginia can move more quickly on road construction than Maryland? Shortly after I heard about the study for widening of I=66 construction had started. Without question 270 needs additional capacity. Those who want trains are neglecting to see that 270 routinely backs up during non rush hours as well as during. I don’t know how many times I have changed routes on weekends just to make the short trip from lower Frederick County up to Frederick to run errands. The people on the interstate on weekends are simply passing through or doing the same thing as myself. I’m certainly not opposed to mass transit, but the convenience and cost makes it more prohibitive than adding lanes. I do wish it was a tax dollar reconstruction though rather than toll lanes. I guess it wouldn’t be any worse than paying about $25.00 in tolls one way on I-76 and I-80 PA/OH Turnpike like I did this weekend when I drove To Cleveland.

seanjames

yeah and tysons is now a breeze to drive through!



more lanes =/= less congestion

mrnatural1

dcmetro,

As exorbitantly expensive as the PA/OH Turnpike is, the the tolls for the proposed Lexus lanes would be far worse.

It would likely cost much more to drive from Frederick to D.C. than the $25 you paid to drive all the way to Cleveland!

BTW, the state of PA is being sued by multiple parties because they are "allegedly" siphoning off about 50% of the toll money collected for other projects. Great way to tax people from out of state. Hopefully they will get spanked hard over that.

FCPS-Principal

That more lanes are needed is beyond debate. I-270 needs to be 12 lanes each way from the Beltway to I-70. US-15 needs to be 12 lanes each way from I-70 to MD-26 and 6 lanes each way from there to the border. I-70 needs to be 12 lanes each way from 695 to 68. That's just the way it needs to be. And no toll lanes. Toll lanes are just government boondoggles, giveaways to well connected jackals who suck off the taxpayer's dime.

gary4books

When I worked at FDA we would go back and forth on Shady Grove Road for meetings and every time we crossed 270 (mostly) it was a "parking lot." Who likes to sit in that mess? And this was after all the lanes were added.

mrnatural1

Good point Gary -- after lanes were added the last time, I-270 was quickly congested again.

The "Rule of Holes" definitely applies here.

notconcerned

Just don't do anything, that's how it's been for the last 35 years? Theres a savings.

mrnatural1

notconcerned, "Just don't do anything" is actually a great idea -- at least when it comes to I-270.

270 feeds all of the sprawling residential growth in FredCo and beyond. NOT widening it will severely restrict the spread of ugly boxes.

mrnatural1

Sign the petition!:

https://www.change.org/p/frederick-county-council-trains-not-tolls

Widening highways is almost never a long-term solution.

There may be some partial, temporary relief from traffic, but the added capacity will attract new development and before long the road in question is just a wider parking lot.

Something that is rarely mentioned is that before any temporary reduction in traffic there would be a world-class nightmare scenario caused by the construction. We all know how some light rain or someone changing a tire can cause a huge backup. Imagine what miles of construction would do! Lane shifts, Jersey walls, reduced speed limits. Commute times could increase by 50 to 100%.

It's time to stop digging the hole. We need to acknowledge the main problem -- there are simply too many people trying to get from outlying areas like FredCo to D.C. every day. Many area roads have already been widened -- some more than once -- and we're still in the same (or worse) mess.

We need to encourage major employers to locate elsewhere, because this area is truly over capacity

threecents

[thumbup]Mr Natural.

ScrewyLouie

Great suggestion! In all seriousness. Any ideas on ways to get major employers to set up shop besides the trivial I-pat-your-back-you-pat-mine tax breaks.

gary4books

Money. Lots of money.

mrnatural1

Good question ScrewyLouie!

I've been saying for years that we need to encourage gov't agencies and major employers to locate somewhere else, and in all of that time I don't think anyone has actually asked how we might do that.

I'm not a fan of using tax breaks and TIFs to bribe corporations to set up shop in a certain location -- especially when we see cities and states bidding against each other.

The truth is though, I'm not sure how to do it. Perhaps we could avoid the "race to the bottom" bidding wars by having the various jurisdictions file applications with the feds, and then the feds would determine which location is best for the country as a whole and and provide some incentives for the employer to locate there.

seanjames

i'm not sure how you make sure everyone who lives here works here. even if you add a bunch of jobs, it doesn't mean everyone who lives in DC would change jobs -- it would just mean more people moving here or more people commuting in, both of which would just add new congestion. but affordable housing or paying higher wages would greatly help alleviate the problem, because people who work in or near DC often can't afford to live there. and of course a realistic and affordable mass transit option to get closer to the city

seanjames

*works in DC, not lives. wish this place had an edit option, even if it only lasted a few minutes after the initial post

threecents

[thumbup][thumbup]

gary4books

Sean - The Washington Post has a good edit feaure and most of my errors can be fixed. Not if I woult take time, it would not be necessary. But...

mrnatural1

Agreed -- an edit option would be nice, as would many of the other features of a proper forum.

It would increase revenue for the FNP because the user friendliness would encourage more 'page views', 'clicks', etc

Comment deleted.
seanjames

the closer to the city, the more expensive it is to live there. and not every job in DC pays nearly enough to live there. so it's not just mcmansion folks having to commute, it may just be someone who wants a modest single family home but can't afford one any closer than northern montgomery or southern frederick cos

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