Expensive managed toll lanes may improve traffic in the existing free lanes for a few years, but as traffic increases over time, more and more vehicles will lead to increased congestion in the general-purpose lanes and the tolls in the managed lanes will continue to increase. Moreover, this project poses a serious revenue risk to Maryland taxpayers. A 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation describes budget liabilities arising from public-private partnerships.
Yes, it is “folly” to believe the current road system will suffice in the future, but it is also folly to believe that just building new roads will prevent future traffic congestion.
Linda Rosendorf, Rockville
The writer is a volunteer with DontWiden270.org.
The April 21 editorial on highway widening ignored the long-known phenomenon of induced demand. In the long run, highway widening increases traffic congestion in proportion to how much roads are widened. Further, the dynamic tolling that the Hogan administration wants for Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway is designed to improve traffic flow only in the toll lanes themselves, leaving the regular lanes just as congested as before. The Interstate 66 tolls affect all lanes, so the whole road’s traffic can be managed.
Ending highway construction and focusing on other modes of transportation is a moral imperative in the battle against climate change. Induced demand also applies to our other options: If we increase the capacity of our bus system, Metro, MARC or VRE instead, we could relieve pressure on our existing roads while encouraging people to reduce their carbon footprints. Instead, endorsing highway widenings doubles down on what the Environmental Protection Agency considers to be the United States’ single largest greenhouse gas emitter. According to the United Nations, we are 12 years from the point of no return if we stick to our current path. Why do more of the same?
Chris Richter, College Park
Rush-hour traffic on the Beltway was congested 30 years ago, and now traffic is congested. Shocker. What’s really stunning is that road advocates ply the same arguments, without discussion of environmental concerns such as increased impervious cover, increased air pollution (unless we want to mandate electric vehicles) and increased noise pollution. It’s stunning that, after the Ehrlich administration expedited the Intercounty Connector but delayed the Purple Line for four years, the Hogan administration cannot wait for the Purple Line’s benefits before seizing people’s property and bringing noise and air pollution farther into our communities so that others can pay tolls to get to work. The cost of $9 billion may be borne by a private company, but it will be passed along to us, whether we pay tolls, have our property seized or suffer decreased quality of life because of the behemoth in the backyard.
We can imagine that this project will decongest and depollute, and we can imagine that the relative growth of cars over transit has nothing to do with our failure to fund and grow our transit system. We’ll all have time to exercise our imaginations as we sit in the congestion on that extra Beltway lane years from now.
Todd Reitzel, College Park