An amendment by Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) that would have blocked the federal government from approving environmental studies needed to build toll lanes on Interstate 270 and Maryland’s part of the Capital Beltway died in a House committee early Wednesday.
Shortly after midnight, the House Rules Committee rejected two of Brown’s amendments aimed at Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) toll lanes plan, meaning they won’t get to the House floor for a vote as part of appropriations bills.
One proposal would have blocked the U.S. Department of Transportation from using federal funding to approve environmental impact studies for the project. Such studies must be approved via a “record of decision” before construction may begin. The companies that will build, operate and pay for the lanes’ construction via public-private partnerships will also need the federal approval to secure financing, Maryland officials have said.
Brown’s second amendment would have prevented the U.S. Department of the Interior from spending any money to transfer the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to the state. Hogan also has proposed building toll lanes on the B-W Parkway, but the state can’t do so unless the National Park Service transfers it to state ownership. Hogan also has said the Park Service has fallen behind on maintaining the road, which had to be closed in sections this spring for emergency pothole repairs.
In an interview Wednesday, Brown said his amendments were found “not in order” because the committee said it wouldn’t approve any strictly local proposals. He said he will try again to block funding for any toll lane studies’ next year, when Congress is expected to take up a long-term authorization bill for transportation spending.
“My goal is to send a very strong message to the governor from my constituents, that we have major concerns with this project,” Brown said. “There’s not a meaningful transit option on the table. That’s a major concern to my constituents.”
Brown said residents also are worried about homes, businesses and parts of property being condemned to make way for wider highways. In addition to expanding transit, he said, the state needs to look more closely at encouraging transit-oriented development and promoting teleworking.
“I realize there’s a congestion problem on the Capital Beltway and I-270,” Brown said. “This is not about denying an opportunity to address congestion. This is about ensuring we’re looking at all options.”
A Hogan spokesman said Tuesday that Brown’s amendments would have left residents “slogging through soul-crushing traffic.”