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.