An effort by some Montgomery County state delegates to stall Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed expansion of Interstate 270 and the Beltway collapsed in a Senate committee in the legislature’s final hours Monday.
Opponents of the plan, however, vowed Tuesday that “the fight has just started” to put the brakes on Hogan’s $9 billion proposal to add toll lanes to the highways, using a public-private partnership model.
The Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee did not advance a bill that would have required an environmental review process for public-private partnership projects. A version of the bill sponsored by Del. Jared Solomon, a Democrat from Chevy Chase, had earlier passed in the House of Delegates.
Two other bills – one mandating additional environmental reviews and another that would have prohibited the state from using eminent domain to take properties for the widening — also failed to clear legislative committees in the 90-day session.
Several grassroots coalitions opposed to the road project expressed disappointment.
Pete Altman, the head of DontWiden270.org, a group that includes residents living near I-270, wrote in a statement that “the fight has just started.”
“While we are disappointed that the legislature failed to enact even a single measure to provide basic oversight to protect residents, the environment and the states’ fiscal health when implementing privately-financed transportation projects, we are also boosted by the progress we made this legislative session,” Altman wrote.
“We have a growing coalition of elected officials, civic and environmental groups committed to ensuring we make smart choices to meet people’s transportation needs, instead of just accepting whatever ideas private investors think will make them money,” he wrote.
Members of Montgomery’s 24-member House delegation have varying views on whether the toll road project should go forward.
Some, including delegation chairman Del. Marc Korman, a Bethesda Democrat, support making improvements to the American Legion Bridge near Cabin John, but not the portion of the Beltway east of the I-270 spur.
“My general view is that in some places roadway improvements make a lot of sense, and we should do that. But the idea that we’re going to be able to expand the Beltway… there are some parts where it’s not going to be feasible as a cost,” he said.
Korman said there will be opportunities for oversight and transparency, including a series of public hearings being held in Montgomery County this month.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org