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Maryland transportation officials invite companies to hear details of highway expansion and tolling plan

A recent view of traffic along Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Maryland transportation officials have scheduled a Dec. 13 forum for companies interested in a public-private partnership to add express toll lanes to the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270.

The meeting at the BWI Airport Marriott will provide companies more details about Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to add four toll lanes to each highway via a $7.6 billion public-private partnership. Under the agreement, a team of companies would design, build and finance the lanes’ construction in exchange for operating the lanes and collecting toll revenues long-term. Maryland officials have said regular travel lanes will remain free, and the state will face no risks if toll revenues are less than projected.

The forum, similar to one the state held when it began pursuing a public-private partnership to build the light-rail Purple Line, is open only to industry professionals, officials said. Responses to a “request for information” that the state issued in mid-September are due Dec. 20.

Governor’s plan to widen highways with toll lanes has hit barriers before

Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn recently told Montgomery County leaders that the state has received interest from companies worldwide. He said the project likely will be broken down into smaller contracts to generate the most competitive proposals. The bid process is expected to take up to two years.

The governor’s plan has elicited cautious praise from Montgomery and Prince George’s leaders, who have said they’re happy the he is focusing on traffic relief in the Washington suburbs. However, some have said they’re concerned that widening highways will only exacerbate suburban sprawl and require tearing down numerous homes and businesses. Some also have said the state’s “traffic relief plan” doesn’t do enough to get people out of their cars by expanding transit.

Montgomery leaders ask for more transit in state traffic relief plan

Hogan (R) also has announced that the state will add four express toll lanes to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. That project, he said, will be financed and built by the state using traditional government contracting methods, assuming the federal government agrees to transfer the road to the state.