The Maryland Board of Public Works has approved the plan by Gov. Larry Hogan to create public-private partnerships to expand Interstate 270 and the Maryland portion of the Capital Beltway. The first contracts could be signed as early as next year.

The decision should please Frederick commuters who struggle every day with the nightmarish traffic on their way to work in Montgomery County, the District and Virginia. Relief may be a long way off, but at least the state is moving the right direction — finally.

The board, which is made up of the governor, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, must approve all state contracts, even when the spending has been authorized by the Maryland General Assembly. The vote was 2-1, with Kopp opposed.

The decision will allow the state to solicit and evaluate long-term contracts with teams of private firms to build toll lanes to add capacity to the clogged highways. These private consortiums would design, build and operate up to four toll lanes on each highway at an estimated cost of $11 billion. In return, they would keep most of the toll revenue over the term of the contract. They will also be required to rebuild bridges, overpasses and the existing lanes, which will remain free.

Hogan has said it would be the largest public-private partnership ever in the United States. He originally wanted to move forward first on the Beltway portion of the project but switched to the I-270 project because that portion faces less opposition.

Opposition to the plan has been loudest in Montgomery County, where local leaders have charged the expansion would destroy too many homes and businesses along the path of the highways. But studies conducted thus far do not support that.

So far, the state’s study has found up to 34 homes and four businesses, almost all in Montgomery County, would be destroyed to widen the Beltway. The study of I-270, south of I-370, so far has found no homes or businesses that would be destroyed. The study of I-270 from I-370 to Frederick has not been done yet, but we would expect minimal impact there as well.

While tearing down a house or business to expand a road is unpleasant, it is also necessary. The traffic situation on both of these arteries is terrible on the best days, when weather or crashes don’t escalate the damage.

Opponents also argue that more use of mass transit would be preferable to adding traffic capacity. It might be — in an ideal world. But we don’t live in that world. The reality is that we have a strong commuter transit system with buses, Metro and the MARC trains, but the roads are a disaster anyway. Many people just cannot give up driving their own automobile because of time constraints, child care responsibilities or other valid concerns.

We applaud the amendments offered by Franchot and included in the contract that will allow buses to travel free of charge on the toll lanes, provide for a study of a monorail line from Frederick to the Shady Grove Metro station and earmark 10 percent of the state’s share of the toll revenue to mass transit projects.

The state should make transit more available and more affordable, but it is highly unrealistic to believe that it can actually replace the private car for commuting.

We would be remiss if we concluded without noting the irony of Gov. Hogan pushing so hard for this massive public-private partnership while he has maintained unyielding opposition to a public-private partnership in Frederick to construct the downtown hotel.

Hogan and other GOP opponents dislike the idea of the state helping a private company build a hotel to support economic development in the city, but they cheer wildly when the state partners with private companies help solve traffic congestion (and in large part to sustain economic development) in the National Capital Region.

It is more than a little inconsistent.

(25) comments

Fishwrapper

If I lived in Montgomery County, I would do everything possible to keep the cars backed up in Frederick County every morning.

gary4books

They tried that in New Jersey.

Fishwrapper

Having enjoyed this commute in the morning, the one thing i can say that would be really inexpensive. would be on BIG YELLOW SIGNS that say 'Going Up Hill - Push On Gas Pedal'.

stjohn42

The highway expansion plan is corporate welfare. It socializes the risk of the project while letting the private side of the "partnership" walk way with the profits.

Comment deleted.
bizness

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Dwasserba

"Hogan and other GOP opponents dislike the idea of the state helping a private company build a hotel to support economic development in the city, but they cheer wildly when the state partners with private companies help solve traffic congestion (and in large part to sustain economic development) in the National Capital Region." You're funny. The "National Capital Region" is big. To put the city in the same category is myopic.

petersamuel

Inconsistent. Nonsense. Roads are an established government function, hotels are not. Governments have taken responsibility for roads since George Washington. And they have sought private enterprise assistance with roads for just as long, with the various turnpikes that were franchised out. Gov Hogan is walking in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers and their successors with his toll lanes proposal. By contrast hotels are an established responsibility of private enterprise without taxpayer support. Gov Hogan is being perfectly consistent supporting one and not the other.

Moon otter

Most major turnpikes are run by commissions and are not private. They receive gas tax revenue to help maintenance. A pure private turnpike would receive no gas tax money only the fee for which they charge to use the road. These lanes to be built by tax money and open to the general public, otherwise it will solve nothing.

petersamuel

The gas tax money isn't available for huge projects like this and any politicians who try to raise it will be voted out of office. Plus, as cars get more efficient and electric cars become more common we'll need a method to replace a dwindling gas tax. That method is tolls.

DickD

You are right, if you are looking for consistencies. You are wrong if you look at the costs and how much it would help vs. a tax paid lane addition.

gary4books

Again with the hotel?

jerseygrl42

What a contrived and ridiculously absurd comparison; the highway expansion benefits the public at large while the waste of millions of taxpayer dollars on a totally unnecessary hotel to benefit two families, including the former owners of this paper is shameful as is your constant attempt to beguile the public on this issue...

Dwasserba

[thumbup]jersey "beguile"! Nailed it

Moon otter

so a toll road is something you pay to use just like a hotel. this road should be built by state gas taxes only, no private funds and not a toll road. open free to the puiblic

bizness

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stjohn42

The highway project does not benefit the public; it makes driving more expensive, if perhaps somewhat faster. The benefits of this partnership rain down on the Hogan-connected contractors and consultants who will be building it. The risks then remain with the taxpayers.

gabrielshorn2013

Hey Randalls, sell your white elephant property to a developer that has the money and financial backing. Quit trying to stick the taxpayers for this boondoggle of a hotel. If it was needed, and was financially viable, it would already be built. There should be no PPP for a private hotel. The argument that the undersized parking garage, which is really the foundation for the hotel, is for the public, is absurd. It doesn't even have the capacity if half the hotel was occupied.

DickD

The roads should be for the few unable to take public transportation. Buses, trucks and the 10 % of people that cannot or will not take public transportation. The rest should take public transportation and if made cheap, convenient and pleasant they will take public transportation. On the Metro you can sleep or read the newspaper both ways. There's no traffic tie ups or crazy driving. No need to pay high D.C. parking lot fees. Just make it a schedule that will attract veryone, which will be much cheaper than building roads.

gary4books

Put in two new rail lines (one each way) and we could even have express trains to Union Station and Shady Grove. It would be so much better and I expect at a much lower cost. Just work on getting people to the train sttion quickly and with parking for those who need it.

FrederickFan

This article is spot on. Hough is the leading local hypocrite on these projects.

jerseygrl42

Hough is doing the right thing on behalf of the citizen taxpayers while you apparently wish to enrich two families on a ridiculous project that can't stand on its own two feet

StrengthofLiberty

Since 1990 Maryland's state legislature has been in control of the democrat. The state of our states environment, its constant development, its constant preditory reach into our public treasury. Hogan is a developer. This is his and his inner squares idea of success. That said though - this 11 billion dollar [before overages] makes victims and collaborators of each of us. The environment means nothing. Wind mills? To what generate more energy for consumption - and blow pollution about further. What is breathtaking is that not once do the models of successful transportation systems enter into the sales pitch, or dictitate. So - while this moves forward - this democrat legislature like all others before it play pr/bs with our liberties. They refuse the liberty of our right to die. They refuse us the liberty to grow our own marijuana for our health and comfort. Instead they expand the worst possible beverage proliferation for anyone suffering arthritis or other diseases both herditary or as a part of our aging. They refuse us liberty - but cast us into debt. To blame to GOP exclusively is as insulting as the results of their governance.

Lmickey

This is a terrible position to take. We don't have a robust mass transit system at all. Have you ever even looked at the MARC train schedule? It takes an hour to get from Frederick to Rockville and there are only three trains in the morning and evening. They also leave an hour apart. The suggested monorail that you covered a few weeks ago is a much more reasonable and reliable option. If people have time constraints they should take consistent and reliable mass transit options over driving and unpredictable traffic. We need a fundamental shift in our mentality here in this state to better mass transit. Frederick is the fastest growing city and should be pioneering that shift, instead it seems everyone is blind to the environmental crisis that will be exasperated by more lanes and oblivious to the fact that toll lanes will take forever to finish. Mass transit options like the Monorail can be built quicker with less disruption than more lanes and can be built into the fabric of the cities it passes through.

Ellenatodd

Another cheap shot by FNP. Only they could devote 10 of 12 paragraphs in an Op-Ed agreeing w/ Gov Hogan, then blatantly mistitle the piece in opposition. If there were another newspaper, I’d send my subscription dollars there. Frederick deserves better.

jerseygrl42

Right you are and apparently they have NO shame

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