At the Nov. 20 workshop in Urbana on Interstate 270 congestion, the Maryland Department of Transportation told us how bad the problem is (don’t we already know!) and explained the solution they seem to favor — expanding I-270 between Interstate 370 and Interstate 70.

Other approaches, such as monorail or bus transportation, were shown, but to me seem unlikely to be seriously considered at present. The problem of U.S. 15 congestion was barely acknowledged. My concern is that a near-term “solution” will be to speed I-270 traffic as far north as I-70, worsening our already terrible congestion on U.S. 15.

These were my impressions, from the brief presentation and Q&A session by MDOT. Interested citizens should visit the website to learn more and to express their views to MDOT on the I-270 congestion problem. Bad as it is, we don’t want “improvements” that will only make our local traffic problems worse.

Nick Carrera


(4) comments


No Lexus lanes for the rich!


Lexus lanes cannot succeed (i.e., bring big profit to the contractor) if parallel free lanes are also built. Therefore I-270 must be left in gridlock (the "problem") so only Lexus lanes (the "solution") can be built to create the profit. Solving traffic problems and relieving gridlock is not the mission of Lexus lanes. Generation profit off the misery of the public is.



Excellent point Nick, and one that has not received enough attention. A good portion of the vehicles on N/B I-270 continue on up US 15. There can be no doubt that daily migraine-inducing traffic jam would become far worse.

Another very serious concern that has been brushed under the rug by the Lexus lane cheerleaders is the horrific impact that the construction of semi-private lanes for the rich would create. Think your commute is bad now?! If the greed heads get their way, the traffic congestion on I-270 will become a whole new level of bad before it gets better (and then only briefly, before new development packs it full of cars again). The construction, if approved, would last far longer than whatever the proponents are promising (it always does), at least a couple years.

Do not be fooled by the hype. HOT/Lexus lanes would BY DESIGN exclude all but those with the most disposable income. They must, in order to keep traffic flowing above the designated minimum speed. The riff-raff (that's us) must be excluded, so the tolls are variable and they are held at a level that's high enough to keep all but those with the deepest pockets where they belong -- in the commoner/peasant lanes, watching as the wealthy whip past us in their European luxury/sport sedans and SUVs.

Some people who are in favor of Lexus lanes (generally those who are well-off or those with a vested interest) will make the dubious claim that "anyone" can use them. Yes, and almost "anyone" can eat at a 5-star restaurant -- maybe once a year.

People commute every day, 5 days a week. Very few people can afford to pay exorbitant Lexus/HOT lane tolls every day. Our public roads have always been just that -- PUBLIC. Anyone who can afford to put fuel in their car (and thus pay the motor fuel tax) is welcome to drive anywhere in the country. Yes, there are some traditional toll roads (and they should be abolished) but they are no where near the cost of Lexus lanes.

If we are to divide our U.S. Interstate highways up into lanes for the "haves" and "have nots" -- what's next, dividing our public schools? Should we give some corporation the right to build a new wing on a school -- on public property -- and then charge tuition that only wealthy families can afford? When the peons complain they can be reminded that they too can afford to put their kids in those shiny new classrooms -- for a day or two.

That's what Lexus/HOT lanes amount to.


A proportion of the northbound 270 traffic exits at four interchanges before reaching US15 -- at Urbana, at the 85, 70 and Jefferson St in Frederick and that traffic will be assisted by the 270 widening regardless of whether 15 is widened from Jefferson St north through Frederick. But Nick Carrera is right that ideally we’d be adding the third lanes to US15 through Frederick at the same time the toll express lanes are added to 270. The obstacle is funding. 270 widening is to be funded with toll revenue bonds and private equity and it can start once the environmental permitting and planning is done. Tolls are not feasible for funding the 15 widening, so it has to wait on allocation of tax money by the the state government which is a matter of competing projects and politics. So it is bound to take longer.

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