Montgomery and Frederick county politicians and businesses Monday called for traffic improvements to Interstate 270, one of the most congested highways in the nation.
Members of the Fix 270 Now coalition said they see I-270 traffic congestion as a quality of life issue because it keeps commuters from their families, and a competitiveness issue for the region to lure new high-tech businesses.
Using the crawling traffic as a backdrop during a press conference in Germantown, speakers for the newly formed coalition expressed support for making improvements to the major north-south artery a top priority for state and federal funding.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced in July $100 million to pay for the I-270 Innovative Congestion Management Project, designed to improve travel times throughout the corridor. In addition, the Hogan administration committed $129.6 million for a new interchange at I-270 and Watkins Mill Road, which had been on the books for some time.
Speakers—including Reps. Chris Van Hollen and John Delaney—expressed their support for Hogan's effort, but insisted more needs to be done. Delaney said any project would need to be financed with tolls, like those in place on the Intercounty Connector and I-495 express lanes on Virginia’s portion of the Capital Beltway.
“It is time to fix this problem in a transformational manner,” Delaney said.
The event, on Milestone Center Drive, drew county and state elected officials from the two counties. Most expressed gratitude to Hogan for making the highway’s congestion an issue, but some thought the governor hadn’t gone far enough.
“I’m really angry,” Montgomery County Council President Nancy M. Floreen said. “It’s borderline criminal that we haven’t been able to marshal the support at the national and state level to actually get something done.”
Eileen Cahill, vice president of government and community relations at Holy Cross Health, said a pregnant woman in labor shouldn’t have to factor in traffic to get to the hospital to deliver a baby, or an ambulance shouldn’t have to race through clogged traffic to reach an accident.
One of the first steps is to make I-270 a top transportation priority for the two counties, the officials said. Council Member Roger Berliner, who leads the council’s transportation committee, said he would send a letter to Hogan before the year was out making I-270 traffic improvements the county’s top transportation priority.
Two Maryland Department of Transportation studies have been started on I-270 congestion, but both have been placed on hold while state officials focus on other priorities, said Richard Parsons of the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance.