Could An Elrich-Hogan Friendship Be Forming?

County executive says with campaign rhetoric in the past, efficient governance is the priority

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Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich met with Gov. Larry Hogan earlier this week and said after the session the two have a “symbiotic relationship.”

“We agreed that the political season is over and our role is to govern,” Elrich said during a news conference Thursday afternoon in Rockville.

Elrich, a Democrat, and the Republican governor haven’t been on the same page for the last several months.

The county executive, in his Dec. 3 inaugural address, said, “Note to the governor: No Beltway widening.” He followed up the comment in successive public appearances with pleas to improve the American Legion Bridge that carries the Washington Beltway over the Potomac River.

Elrich said he and Hogan discussed the governor’s $9 billion plan to add toll lanes to the Beltway road, as well as interstate 270.

The two agreed that I-270 road would need two lanes to be used for traffic relief, although Elrich prefers an option for reversable lanes.

“I think on I-270 there are solutions that don’t involve actually widening the road. They [state highway officials] can explore that. I know the state is looking at two options, and that’s a good thing,” he said.

There appears to be less room to maneuver on the question of the Beltway, where the design of a multi-level road or tunneling has been suggested.

“On the Beltway we have the biggest difference, because I don’t believe between New Hampshire Avenue and the Wisconsin Avenue bridge that you can feasibly get in two more lanes,” he said.

Widening the Beltway, Elrich said, cannot be done without taking property, which would include several homes. In addition, Holy Cross Hospital’s property is next to the Outer Loop.

“If he’s [Hogan] really thinking about tunneling underground, it’s gonna be extraordinarily expensive … You’re gonna have to go up and under every bridge and every train track that crosses the Beltway. I suspect that’s stunningly expensive. And I think that doing that project’s gonna be incredibly disruptive to the Beltway,” Elrich said.

Hogan’s spokeswoman Shareese Churchill wrote in an email Thursday that the governor had a “cordial conversation” with Elrich about many topics, including the highway projects.

Comptroller Peter Franchot, in an interview Thursday while he was visiting businesses in the county, said he was optimistic the two could work together on the more pragmatic issue of increasing government efficiency, despite being ideological opposites.

Franchot said he didn’t support Elrich during last year’s campaign, but that he has seen Elrich in Annapolis “quite a bit” recently, and thinks the county executive is making a good-faith effort to reach across the aisle.

“Members of the business community will probably always disagree with Marc on some of his core issues about the development. But everybody’s in favor of more efficient government,” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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