The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Not so fast on dismissing concerns about Maryland’s Beltway expansion

Traffic flows along interchanges that link I-495 and I-270 in Bethesda, Md., in April 2018.
Traffic flows along interchanges that link I-495 and I-270 in Bethesda, Md., in April 2018. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
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The April 25 editorial on Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) private toll road plan, “Beltway traffic blues on the Potomac,” mischaracterized the situation in Maryland, which is in keeping with how this project has been marketed and sold from the start. Marylanders are not “at each other’s throats over the project.” We have disagreements on the best way to address Maryland’s traffic, environmental and quality-of-life challenges, and we are working those out through the political and legal processes set up for that purpose.  The Post may disagree with one side or the other, but to dismiss any questions about the governor’s ever-shifting plan is folly. 

The editorial said  “existing lanes would be rebuilt and remain free of charge.” This is demonstrably false, as the governor’s preferred alternative would take two high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Interstate 270 that now are general-purpose lanes for 18 hours a day (outside of their designated HOV times) and turn them into high-occupancy toll lanes 24 hours a day. Support, oppose or seek to reform the project, but accurately describe it.

 Marc Korman, Annapolis

The writer, a Democrat, represents Montgomery County in the Maryland House of Delegates.

The editorial on Maryland’s highway expansion trivialized thoughtful questions about the Hogan administration’s toll lanes project as the “usual objections” and “weak arguments” concocted by suburban Maryland politicians fixated on impeding Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) efforts.

The Purple Line project, also a public-private partnership, was subjected to a complete federal review of environmental impacts, costs and potential risks. Even that review missed the CSX Transportation requirements for a crash wall costing an additional $187.7 million.

The toll lanes project must be equally reviewed to sort out questions such as the relocation costs for 70 miles of water and sewer pipes, which the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission estimated at up to $2 billion, while the incomplete toll lanes study estimated it at $900 million. There’s nothing trivial about a $1.1 billion cost gap or who’s liable for it.

A complete transportation review of the Interstate 270 corridor would account for the decongesting effect of improving MARC rail service to determine how many toll lanes would be necessary. The incomplete toll lanes study deliberately excluded this review.

These are the types of serious arguments that many citizens, including engineers like me, have raised. The Maryland Department of Transportation, under Mr. Hogan’s leadership, has ignored us. This is about transparency, not endless controversy.

Rodolfo Pérez, Silver Spring

The writer is a former adviser to the Transportation Department’s inspector general and served on the Montgomery County Transportation Policy Task Force from 2000 to 2002.

Read more letters to the editor.