Those officials, nearly all Democrats, are pushing a wrongheaded bill that would allow localities to veto toll roads running through their jurisdictions. It’s an inconvenient truth that most of the people they represent drive to work, hate traffic and favor road improvements to prevent even worse congestion.
The idea is to give officials in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties the power to obstruct Mr. Hogan’s toll road plan, which would add capacity to roads used daily by hundreds of thousands of commuters. The lawmakers make the bogus argument that Eastern Shore counties have had that prerogative for decades; in fact, traffic volumes are light on the Eastern Shore, and no toll roads have been proposed there in recent memory.
Allowing suburban localities to block major road projects is an invitation for grandstanding and NIMBYism by parochial-minded officials uninterested in promoting regional solutions. Had localities been so empowered in the 1950s and ’60s, it’s unlikely the federal interstate highway system would exist today.
It’s one thing for states to solicit input from localities where major roadways are planned, and Maryland has done so, extensively — via more than 100 presentations to neighborhood associations — notwithstanding complaints from local politicians who say they haven’t been consulted. It’s another thing to allow localities to override state road projects. That’s a recipe for gridlock.
Opponents claim the toll lanes would be too expensive; in fact, no one would be required to use them because the existing lanes would remain free. Opponents say they would not “solve” traffic; that’s true, but they would prevent much worse traffic as the region’s population booms. Opponents say taxpayers would foot the bill; in fact, private firms, which would build, maintain and operate the toll lanes in return for most of the revenue, would pick up the tab and take the risk.
All that helps explain why 6 in 10 Montgomery residents favor the toll road plan. And while backing in Prince George’s is less robust — just less than 50 percent of respondents there supported the idea in a poll last year — some people in both jurisdictions oppose it because they fear paying to use roads that are now free. They wouldn’t.
It’s true that a few dozen homeowners would likely lose their houses (and be compensated) to make room for the new lanes in Montgomery. That’s a painful but modest price to pay for ensuring that hundreds of thousands of residents do not suffer increasingly long commutes over time — along with the damage that would do to the local economy.
Mr. Hogan has championed major transit improvements in the Washington suburbs, including increased Metro funding and building the Purple Line light-rail transit project. We hope he does even more. By pushing for toll lanes to add capacity to the busiest highways in the state, he’s on the side of the silent majority — even as state and local lawmakers pander to the noisy opposition.