Jason Neuringer is a longtime Montgomery County resident.

The year 2020 has brought many unexpected and mostly unwelcome changes to the D.C. area. However, despite the uncertainty and confusion that have resulted, there has been one unfortunate constant: dithering by our elected officials on traffic solutions.

The latest in our traffic-plagued saga is the publishing and bickering over the environmental impact study on the widening of Interstate 270 and Interstate 495 proposed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R). The nearly 18,000-page study is not only a mind-numbing read, but its bureaucratic red tape and environmentalist pandering are also insulting. To give context, the U.S. tax code is approximately 6,500 pages long. Are we to believe a 40-mile stretch of roadway is more complex than the entire U.S. tax code?

I travel along I-270 and I-495 twice a day. I traveled this route before the pandemic. I travel it during the pandemic. And I will travel it after the pandemic. I have noticed a significant drop in the cars on the road, and, in this rare time, it has been relatively enjoyable to drive on I-495 and I-270. But this will change. We will go back to our traffic nightmare. It may not come for another year, or two or even five. But it will return.

As more businesses reopen and people begin to travel again, the fear of germs and another pandemic will force them to avoid Metro and other public transit. Many will instead opt to drive, meaning more cars than before. In fact, AAA predicted that more people will take car trips during the pandemic as they shun highway and rail travel.

And, when offices reopen, the instincts of pandemic-minded people will not take them to jampacked trains. They will opt for social distancing in their cars.

But the vocal minority of highway improvement naysayers — more than 60 percent of area residents, including 55 percent in the Maryland suburbs, support the widening plan — want to subject us to a worse traffic nightmare than before. Their critiques are based on specious reasoning and are without merit. The claim that added lanes will somehow increase pollution, as many note, defies logic. They argue that more lanes will encourage more cars and cause more traffic and more pollution. However, more lanes do not lead to more cars or pollution. More than 250,000 cars will travel along the road whether there are six lanes or 10. Additionally, would it not make more sense to have cars travel through this area faster, rather than remain in gridlock, with its resulting pollution?

With a national and local elections coming up, and with the Montgomery County Council structure under review, it would behoove our elected officials to reexamine their opposition to widening I-495 and I-270.

In a year of drastic shifts and change, a change in the minds of our naysaying elected officials on traffic would be welcome.

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