2018 | Transportation

Elrich Weaves on Position Toward Hogan’s Toll Lane Proposals

County executive says there may be room for compromise on I-270 but then says governor doesn’t have the money for his project

County Executive Marc Elrich speaks to constituents Thursday at Albert Einstein High School

Dan Schere

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich hasn’t embraced Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s $9 billion proposal to widen Interstates 495 and 270 by adding toll lanes, voicing his displeasure at several recent public appearances.

But in an interview Thursday night before his final listening session tour at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Elrich suggested that he and the Republican governor had some common ground on their goals for I-270.

“I don’t know if we have a difference on 270,” the Democratic county executive said. “We have a difference on the Beltway. His goal is to get two lanes [on 270]. If there’s a way to get two lanes without widening, which there may be a solution, then we’re not against anything. But the Beltway’s the problem, because you can’t get lanes without widening,” he said.

Hogan has said that the project would be paid for through public-private partnerships, as well as toll revenue. Drivers would have the option of using the existing free lanes, as they do on the Northern Virginia portion of the Beltway. The governor has also promised that no property will be taken under eminent domain.

Elrich said throughout his campaign for county executive that as an alternative to toll lanes, he favored converting two lanes on I-270 into “reversible lanes” that would allow more traffic to flow in the direction where there is heavier traffic during peak periods.

Elrich’s tone became less cordial later in the evening after answering a question from a constituent about Hogan’s proposal.

“The governor does not have money for either the Beltway or 270 projects. His dream is that somebody else finances it and you pay massive tolls to use it, and that’s a problem,” he said.

Elrich then doubled down on a suggestion he made earlier this month, that Hogan improve the American Legion Bridge, which spans the Potomac River at Cabin John.

“If you’re trying to travel in Montgomery County on the Beltway or on I-270 toward Virginia, the big impediment is the bridge. The backups start from there and I think transportation planning has to start from where the backups start,” he said.

The county executive did, however, says he would talk with Hogan’s transportation staff, with whom he has a “good relationship.”

Elrich said he plans to meet with Hogan in Annapolis next month, although a specific date hasn’t bee set. He said the main goal of the meeting is to build a professional relationship.

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