It was disingenuous of The Post in the May 10 editorial “Md. officials see traffic and stick their heads in the sand” to reduce the consequences of adding toll lanes to the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 to “razing a few dozen homes.” There would be many more consequences.
The toll-lane experience in Northern Virginia and an earlier expansion of I-270 proved that simply widening highways will not solve congestion. Instead, it probably would draw more drivers to the highways.
The project also would dump more pollution into our air and waterways, threatening creeks, the Potomac and other rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. It would worsen climate change and eliminate hundreds of acres of parkland. But the Maryland Department of Transportation is pushing this project through before an environmental study is conducted. The financing mechanism holds risk for Maryland taxpayers. According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation, many projects with similar financing have “experienced financial distress,” including the Interstate 495 expansion in Virginia. The Maryland Department of Legislative Services has raised concerns about the absence of an analysis showing that it is a strong fiscal option. There should be consideration for costs of stormwater management and upgrades to feeder roads, such as Route 29 and Connecticut Avenue, which would become more congested.
This project should not go forward until we understand its true costs. Elected officials who question it should be commended for being good stewards of taxpayer revenue and the environment.
Barbara Coufal, Bethesda
The editorial regarding Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) proposal to widen the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 reflected a belief that is widely held but incorrect: that increasing highway capacity will reduce congestion.
The phenomenon of “induced demand” has been well documented. A boost in traffic capacity, usually by adding lanes, results in a proportional increase in traffic, in turn leading to no change — or, worse, to increases — in commuting times. And this unhappy result comes after massive initial costs to the taxpayers, ongoing costs to toll-paying motorists and long-term environmental damage. The most recent example is the 10-mile stretch of Interstate 405 in Los Angeles, where, after five years of construction, commuters now face more traffic, more delays and more aggravation.
Mr. Hogan’s plan, coupled with a boost in transit investment, may help the region’s economy keep up, but let’s not pretend it will end up, in the editorial’s words, “improving the daily commute of hundreds of thousands of commuters.”
Patrick L. Phillips, Washington
The May 10 editorial on Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) plan to widen the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 highlighted projected regional growth by 2045. Instead of asking what growth might be, consider what the climate will look like in 2045 or how a young person might feel about the future if we keep driving, polluting and building more roads.
We are facing an existential threat in climate change. If we don’t drastically change how we move people around (i.e., mass transit and other non-car alternatives), we won’t have to worry about congestion, because the planet will be inhospitable.
Ross Filice, Chevy Chase
In giving credit to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for the Purple Line, the May 10 editorial on expanding Interstates 495 and 270 in Maryland omitted an important fact: The Purple Line was part of Montgomery County master plans. After years of back-and-forth, Mr. Hogan moved forward on the plan. Mr. Hogan’s proposed expansion of the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 is not found on any such plan.
Local planning officials were forward-thinking and anticipated population growth in the Washington area. That is why county planners proposed an outer Beltway years ago. While some people don’t want to expand roadways period, most people oppose the manner in which the Hogan administration is ramming this project through without meaningful coordination and input from local jurisdictions. For anyone who attended the Maryland State Highway Administration’s “workshops,” it was clear there was only output from the administration, not input from citizens.
Mr. Hogan’s 20th-century solution does not address our 21st-century problems. Expand transit options (MARC, Metro, buses) before paving parkland.
Nancy Clack, Silver Spring