Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous told a crowd of roughly 50 people gathered in front of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring on Sunday that come November, he would institute a “21st century transportation plan.”
Jealous, the Democratic challenger to Gov. Larry Hogan (R), was joined by his running mate, Susie Turnbull, Montgomery County executive candidate Marc Elrich and other local candidates and residents who are concerned about Hogan’s proposal to place toll lanes on the Beltway and I-270 to help ease traffic congestion.
Hogan’s $9 billion transportation project aims to create additional traffic capacity along three major state thoroughfares: I-270, I-495 and I-295. The plan includes the expansion of stretches of the Beltway and I-270 and the creation of toll lanes on both roads.
Jealous, a native of Pacific Grove, California, asserted that Hogan was “stuck in the 1970s,” and that his highway expansion plan resembled that of similar remedies for the Los Angeles region, which he said is “the only region with worse transit issues” than the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
Jealous also criticized Hogan for his embrace of more expensive high-speed rail proposals over the expansion of existing MARC commuter train service, suggesting that 100-year-old rail lines in western Maryland could be restored to add a segment of MARC from Frederick to Hagerstown.
“We don’t need trains that are $54 round trip from Baltimore to D.C. and we don’t need highways that are $45 one way. We don’t need rapid transit for the rich. We need public transit for the public,” he said.
Elrich, who preceded Jealous, told the crowd that he was skeptical of assurances from state officials that construction crews would try to minimize impacts to neighbors who live near I-495.
“You can’t do this without substantial damage to neighborhoods, and when someone says they’re going to tunnel it, I’m like ‘You have to have entrances and exit ramps.’ The notion that they’re going to do the things they’ve talked about is absolute craziness,” said Elrich, the Democratic nominee for county executive.
During the rally, Evelyn Joray, who lives in the nearby South Four Corners neighborhood, held a sign stating that the $9 billion project would mean the razing of Holy Cross Hospital on nearby Forest Glen Road, the Silver Spring YMCA on Colesville Road and nearby homes and parks. Joray lives in the sixth house from the Beltway on her street.
“I could have the Beltway next to my house and lose my five neighbors,” she said.
Hogan continues to enjoy approval ratings of around 70 percent, while Jealous trails in the race by 15 points, according to a recent Mason-Dixon poll. Asked after the event whether he was concerned about his numbers, Jealous said he wasn’t and that he was determined to garner more votes than the 885,000 that Hogan won in 2014 in his victory over Democrat Anthony Brown.
“We’ll win this the same way we won the primary. The pundits and the pollsters told everybody we were behind and there was no way to catch up. We won by 10 points in 22 out of 24 counties … . If we turn out more than a million voters, there’s no way Hogan can catch us,” he said.
Jealous added that despite Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s (D) unwillingness to endorse him in the race, he thought Leggett would have a change of heart.
“I’m confident that my old friend Ike will endorse before this race is over. But this is fundamentally about the voters. We have tons of support across the county,” he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org