Category: Statewide

We’re hiring a Maryland Transit Advocate!

We’re hiring a Maryland Transit Advocate!

Our small but mighty team is looking for a Maryland Transit Advocate to help win major state transit investments, particularly in Prince George’s County. CSG’s advocacy goals for Prince George’s include securing state-level funding for improved, equitable bus transit and to support walkable, transit-oriented development.

Recommendations for the Maryland Commission on Climate Change Annual Report

We offer the following recommendations for various sectors believing that they can help
Maryland close the emissions gap between the 2030 GGRA set in 2017 (40% by 2030) and the new Climate
Solutions Now Act goal (60% by 2031). The Federal Infrastructure and Inflation Reduction Acts provide
unprecedented levels of federal funds to accomplish many of these goals. Maryland agencies and local
governments should take maximum advantage of these funding opportunities.

Letter to MDGA Leadership re: the proposed suspension of the Maryland gas tax

On behalf of the Transform Maryland Transportation Coalition (formerly Save MD Transit), we thank you for your support of the Transit Safety & Investment Act during the 2021 General Assembly. The bill will help assure MTA’s current maintenance needs will be addressed over the next five years. 

Letter re: 495/270 Toll Lanes in Montgomery County Economic Development Strategic Plan

Montgomery County Council
100 Maryland Ave. 6th Floor
Rockville, MD 20850
March 17, 2022

Dear Councilmember:

We are writing with respect to the Council’s consideration of the draft County economic development plan. We urge you to support the removal of a recommendation on page 30 to “Cooperate with state and federal resources to facilitate expedient expansion of the American Legion Bridge, the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) and I-270…” and to oppose any substitute language that suggests support for the toll lanes.

We appreciate the Council’s effort to seek efficient transportation in this corridor. Because the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) lacked key analyses, including on environmental justice and climate change, it would be a mistake to recommend the toll lanes project in the economic development plan. Without a complete SDEIS, the public and policymakers are denied a full understanding of the project’s impacts and an opportunity to provide input that could help shape final decisions.

Environmental Justice Concerns

The SDEIS did not include an environmental justice analysis to show whether the negative consequences of the toll lanes would fall disproportionately on communities of color and low-income residents. Instead, MDOT has deferred this analysis until the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). Because the public comment process ended on November 30, there will be no opportunity for the public to review the environmental justice analysis and provide input. Embracing the toll lanes without an environmental justice analysis is not consistent with the County’s Racial Justice and Social Equity Initiative which is aimed at making informed decisions to ensure equitable outcomes. 

While MDOT has consulted with stakeholders regarding the impact of the toll lanes on the Morningstar Tabernacle No. 88 Moses Hall and Cemetery, it has not fully assessed the impact on all of the cemetery property, including all potential grave sites. MDOT cannot avoid or minimize disturbance of gravesites at the cemetery in this historic Black community, if it does not know where all the graves are located. 

Failure to Study Impact on Climate Crisis

MDOT also failed to provide an analysis in the SDEIS showing how the operation of the toll lanes would impact greenhouse gas emissions. In its comments, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission noted that the toll lanes would shift bottlenecks, but not eliminate congestion in the corridor. Their comments went on to state that, “While some of these bottleneck shifts were expected, the degree resulting from the proposed project is severe on I-270 north of I-370, on the Inner Loop on the top side of the Beltway, and on the Inner Loop in Prince George’s County.” These severe bottlenecks are likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions. It is critical that MDOT analyze emissions from the operation of the toll lanes and provide public review and comment. The County Council has established ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But it cannot know whether its plan is adequate if it does not know the impact of the operation of the toll lanes.

While MDOT is planning to conduct an analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions from construction activity, they deferred it until the FEIS. This blocks the public and local policymakers from providing input and offering steps to mitigate emissions. 

Purple Line 2.0

Last August, the entire Council urged the Board of Public Works (BPW) to delay a vote on the predevelopment contract with Transurban and allow the State’s bond counsel and financial advisor to review the contract. While the BPW did not heed your call, your request for due diligence was prudent. As you know, Capital Express Mobility Partners (CEMP) has challenged the award of the project to Transurban, arguing that their bid understated the costs of the project and that this would lead to cost overruns, and delays. The Montgomery County Circuit Court recently ruled that MDOT was wrong to ignore the substance of CEMP’s challenge and ordered the agency to review it. During the hearing, the judge expressed dismay that MDOT had not evaluated CEMP’s claims that the Transurban bid was not financially feasible. If CEMP’s claims are ignored, the County risks disruption that could far exceed the Purple Line debacle.

The omission of important analyses in the SDEIS, denying the public the opportunity to provide input and the failure of MDOT to exercise financial due diligence should give you pause. We urge you to strike the recommendation of the toll lanes project from the draft economic development plan. 

Sincerely,

350 Montgomery County
Audubon Naturalist Society
Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition
Bike Maryland
Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church Environmental Justice Ministry
Central Maryland Transportation Alliance
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
Citizens Against Beltway Expansion
Coalition for Smarter Growth
Corazón Latino
DoTheMostGood
DontWiden270.org
Friends of Sligo Creek
Glen Echo Heights Mobilization
Greater Farmland Civic Association
Greater Greater Washington
Howard County Climate Action
Interfaith Power & Light (DC. MD. NoVA)
League of Women Voters of Maryland
Maryland Legislative Coalition
Maryland Sierra Club
National Parks Conservation Association
Neighbors of the Northwest Branch
Rails to Trails Conservancy
Save Our Seminary
Sligo Creek Golf Association
Smart Growth Maryland
The Climate Mobilization Montgomery County
Washington Area Bicyclist Association
Woodside Forest Civic Association

Comments on the I-495 and I-270 Managed Lanes Study Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement

The Coalition for Smarter Growth submits the following comments in response to the Notice of Availability of the I– 495 & I–270 Managed Lanes Study Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) and Updated Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation. We have also signed onto and endorse the comments submitted by the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club and separate comments by the Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition.

Take Action: Will Maryland’s Board of Public Works vote to expand highways during a climate crisis?

On Wednesday, the three-person Maryland Board of Public Works is scheduled to vote on the contract to widen I-495 and I-270 with four private toll lanes. This vote is happening before critical financial and risk analyses and a final environmental impact statement are complete. We are calling on the Board to delay the vote.

Good government demands that members of the Board of Public Works and the public should know the full fiscal, environmental, and social risks of this project by completing the environmental impact study before the Board of Public Works votes — certainly before locking Maryland into a long-term, exclusive contract. 

To be clear, we agree that we need to address the Beltway and I-270, but the process has been distorted from the beginning because of the power of the toll road companies and Governor Hogan starting with the conclusion first and failing to objectively consider alternatives.

Evaluation of alternatives is particularly important because the highway expansion will harm hundreds of acres of parkland, wetlands, and waterways, as well as lead to more noise, air pollution, stormwater runoff, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Join the rally Wednesday morning! At 8:45am on August 11, join us and our environmental and community partners at a rally/press conference tomorrow morning. The plan is to gather at 8:45am at the Treasury Building at 80 Calvert St. in Annapolis. More info about speaker to come. Directions and parking options here.
  2. Call Comptroller Peter Franchot: Before 10am on August 11, call Board of Public Works member and State Comptroller Peter Franchot at 410-260-7801. Here’s what to say: My name is X, and I am a resident of (insert city). I’m calling to urge Comptroller Franchot to delay a vote on the I-495 & I-270 initial contract until after the final Environmental Impact Statement is complete and we know the risks. Talking points can be found here.
  3. Testify or submit written comments as soon as possible:
    1. Submit written testimony to email.bpw@maryland.gov, mdcomptroller@marylandtaxes.gov, and Treasurer@treasurer.state.md.us
    2. You can testify in-person at the Treasurer’s Office in Annapolis or virtually. Send request to email.bpw@maryland.gov and specify you want to testify in opposition on item 11-GM. 

This project isn’t worth the high cost to parks, streams, neighborhoods, taxpayers, and drivers. Instead of investing in transit-oriented communities — especially in Prince George’s County — it condemns residents of the east side of our region to forever having more costly, long commutes. Read more in CSG’s executive director’s op-ed in the Baltimore Sun.

RELEASE: Transportation Planning Board Re-Vote on Governor Hogan’s Toll Lanes

COALITION FOR SMARTER GROWTH

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

July 21, 2021

Contact

Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, 703-599-6437

Transportation Planning Board Re-Vote on Governor Hogan’s Toll Lanes

Governor Hogan’s strong-arming further exposes biases and flaws in Beltway/270 study, and the distortions of the P3 approach

Today, the regional Transportation Planning Board voted to reinstate the Beltway/I-270 toll lanes project in the long-range transportation plan for air quality modeling. The revote followed a massive political campaign by Governor Hogan, including threats to cut projects, removals of toll road opponents and appointments of supporters, and weak promises of additional investment in transit.

“Rather than establishing the merits of his toll lanes project, Governor Hogan has reinforced the serious bias and flaws in his approach to the Capital Beltway and I-270,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “He started with the conclusion that he wanted private toll lanes and has failed to analyze comprehensive alternatives.”

“The toll lanes would reinforce the East-West economic divide in our region condemning Prince George’s commuters to either paying very high tolls or sitting in the general-purpose lane traffic that the toll road companies depend on to generate their profits. A far better alternative is Maryland investment in transit-oriented development on the east side of the region, which would increase jobs, shorten commutes, even out the flows on the Beltway and Metrorail, and help address the E-W economic and racial divide,” said Schwartz.

“The P3 process in Virginia and Maryland is resulting in undue influence by multinational corporations, prejudging and biasing the outcome of environmental and alternatives studies,” said Schwartz. “The premature approval of 495Next in Virginia created a threat of a bottleneck at the American Legion Bridge, which has become a way to force concerned Virginia and Maryland jurisdictions to support the further extension of the toll lanes into Maryland.”

“Not only are we not getting objective evaluation of alternatives, these projects also fail to adequately fund good, effective transit, and include non-compete clauses that potentially block important transit investments such as future Metrorail or light rail at the American Legion Bridge.”

“It is astounding to see our local and state leaders pressing forward with massive highway expansion in the face of the existential threat of climate change. In the past weeks, we have heard more about the melting of ice sheets in the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctica, massive fires in the Western US, deadly flooding in Europe, the US and China, and shellfish cooking on the beaches of Canada amid record heat waves,” said Schwartz. “As this vote took place today, the DC region has a Code Orange, unhealthy air due to particulate pollution from the haze from massive Western wildfires.”

“Going forward, we are urging the Maryland Board of Public Works to delay action on contracts until completion of the environmental impact studies and the addition of a TOD/transit/demand management alternative,” concluded Schwartz.

Our thanks to the following elected officials and their jurisdictions who stood up for fighting climate change, and for transit and sustainable, equitable communities: Mayor Patrick Wojahn (College Park), Mayor Emmett Jordan (Greenbelt), County Executive Marc Elrich ( Montgomery County), Mayor Bridget Newton (Rockville), Councilmember Kacy Kostiuk (Takoma Park), Mayor Pro Tem Adrian Boafo (Bowie), Delegate Marc Korman (MD House), and Councilmembers Brooke Pinto, Charles Allen, and Christina Henderson (DC).

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CSG Testimony: TPB Vote on Capital Beltway/I-270 & Long-Range Transportation Plan

CSG Testimony: TPB Vote on Capital Beltway/I-270 & Long-Range Transportation Plan

July 20, 2021

Hon. Charles Allen
Chair, National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board

Re: TPB Vote on Capital Beltway/I-270 and the Long-Range Transportation Plan

Chair Allen and members of the TPB:

I will keep our comments short:

  1. Governor Hogan and MDOT have:
    • Completely failed to objectively study alternatives to the toll lanes
    • Put the P3 negotiations and contracts ahead of completion of the EIS, and biased the entire process for private toll lanes.
    • Run a scorched-earth political campaign which demonstrates their bias.
  2. The toll lane deals for 495Next in Virginia and for Maryland not only lack the commitment to transit funding we need, the non-compete provisions appear to prevent future Metrorail at the American Legion Bridge and other transit investments.
  3. Climate change is an existential threat. Contrary to MDOT arguments, highway expansion increases driving and CO2 emissions. It is astounding to see massive highway expansion proposed while the Arctic and Antarctic melts, the West burns, Europe floods, and shellfish cooks on the beaches of Canada.
  4. The toll lanes would reinforce the East-West economic divide in our region condemning Prince George’s commuters to either paying very high tolls or sitting in the general-purpose lane traffic that the toll road companies depend on to generate their profits.
  5. A far better alternative is Maryland investment in transit-oriented development on the east side of the region, which would increase jobs, shorten commutes, even out the flows on the Beltway and Metrorail, and help address the E-W economic and racial divide.

Therefore, we urge you to stand by your vote to remove the toll lanes from the TPB’s long range plan and honestly to take the same step for the 495Next project – in order to force objective consideration of alternatives, the climate impacts, and the development of the most sustainable and effective alternative with the least impact on parks and communities.

We are running out of time on the climate and are failing to do what needs to be done to address the E-W economic and racial divide. We need your leadership.

Thank you,

Stewart Schwartz
Executive Director