2019 | Traffic

Bill Could Force Delay in I-270, Beltway Widening Projects

Proposal would require environmental impact study earlier in review process

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Interstate 270

A bill in the state legislature would require an environmental impact statement before key contract-related paperwork is completed for certain jobs.

If approved, the legislation could delay by at least a year the proposed expansion of Interstates 270 and 495, which by one estimate could add up to $350 million to the cost of the projects.

The bill would require an environmental study on projects that involve public-private sector partnerships much sooner in the review process.

Gov. Larry Hogan has laid out a $9 billion plan that includes adding two toll lanes to I-270 and the Capital Beltway in Maryland to help reduce congestion in the Washington and Baltimore areas.

A federally mandated environmental impact study for the project was started after a pre-solicitation report, which lays out the purpose of the project, had been completed. The state’s Board of Public Works approved a $90 million engineering study to be conducted by three “traffic relief partners” last month.

The bill, sponsored by Montgomery County Democratic delegates Al Carr, who represents Kensington, and Marc Korman, a Bethesda representative, is intended to make sure the public has enough information before contracts are awarded.

“It’s a really expensive project with a lot of unknowns,” Korman said of the I-270 and I-495 proposals.  “We need more information.”

Korman said the Purple Line light rail project, designed to connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, is an example of a public-private partnership that successfully completed its environmental study before contracts were awarded.

At a hearing on the bill this week, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn expressed concern that a delay in the I-270 project could bring about about $300 million in additional costs.

Hogan has the power to veto the legislature’s bill should it pass in the session. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Korman said his goal is not to delay the project’s process, but to ensure it is done thoroughly.

“I think there’s just a lot of concern and confusion about what’s going on. We want less traffic, it’s just a matter of how you achieve it,” he said.

This story will be updated

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