Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration is seeking input from transit advocates as it tries to move forward with a controversial plan to use toll lanes to widen the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270.
The Managed Lanes Transit Workgroup will discuss how easing congestion on those overloaded arteries could ultimately connect transit riders with more options, the Maryland Department of Transportation said Friday.
Its inception follows public meetings where expansion opponents criticized the project for potentially razing homes and not doing enough to prevent cars from clogging the road again in the future. Leaders of eight local transit organizations, including Metro, joined the group and met with state officials for the first time on Friday.
“Residents and officials made clear they wanted us to consider more transit options,” State Highway Administrator Greg Slater said in a statement. “We heard you and are committed to having transit providers at the table as part of the dialogue.”
Hogan (R) has billed the project as the largest public-private partnership in the country. The state transportation agency said the toll lanes could promote transit by making bus service faster and more reliable, as well as speeding access to existing rail lines.
Friday’s meeting “was not an endorsement of the process, but an important step toward collaboration,” MDOT said in a statement.
Montgomery County council member Tom Hucker, a Democrat who organized a recent town hall critical of the expansion plan, said in a statement that the group’s creation is a “sincere effort to take that criticism seriously.” But, he said, if it is “merely window dressing to create the appearance of partnership … this will be a waste of time.”