Category: Transportation

CSG Testimony Re: DC-Baltimore Maglev

May 4, 2021 

House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure 

Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials 

2167 Rayburn House Office Building 

45 Independence Ave SW 

Washington, DC 20515 

Hearing: “When Unlimited Potential Meets Limited Resources: The Benefits and Challenges of High-Speed Rail and Emerging Rail Technologies” 

Testimony for May 5, 2021 

Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager 

Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading organization in the Washington, DC region advocating for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way to grow and provide opportunities for all. We have strong partnerships with business, conservation, and affordable housing organizations, and received the 2017 Regional Partnership Award from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. 

We have been strong supporters of major rail improvements in the Northeast corridor, but are convinced that the proposed Baltimore-Washington Superconducting Magnetic Levitation (SCMAGLEV) project is the wrong technology and design for the Washington-Baltimore corridor and the NE Corridor as a whole. Therefore, we urge you to not provide federal financial support to this project. Instead, we urge significant investments in both the Amtrak and commuter rail improvement programs. 

The project would have a negative impact on racial and social equity. Construction would plow through majority Black Prince George’s County, but the residents of Prince George’s County would not be able to take advantage of the project, since the technology and design speed are such that there will only be stops in DC, at BWI Airport, and at Penn Station in Baltimore. Environmental Justice (EJ) communities would be disproportionately impacted, with 80 percent of impacted parcels located in EJ communities. 

Furthermore, the high projected cost of a one-way ticket sends a signal that this project is for the wealthiest white-collar commuters, not those who will suffer from the damage wrought by the project or those who need more accessible, frequent, and affordable transit. A $60 ticket for the SCMAGLEV would be about seven times more than an existing MARC commuter rail ticket for the same trip ($8) or existing Amtrak Acela ticket ($46). 

We are also concerned about the project’s negative effect on existing taxpayer investments in transit. The project is already diverting attention from repairing and improving our existing MARC and Amtrak infrastructure. If public funding is required for the Maglev, it could divert hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to fare revenue lost due to reduced ridership on Amtrak and MARC. 

The Maglev is a potential public-private partnership, and recent experience with P3s in Maryland and other states suggests that public funding will be required. Given that Maglev is a multi-billion dollar technology yet to be implemented anywhere in the U.S., this project could require significant public funding. 

The limited time savings is also not worth the cost and risk. The Acela Express between DC and Baltimore currently takes 30 minutes. While Maglev would cut time spent on the train in half, it doesn’t account for time spent getting to the station. The average total trip would go from 90 minutes to 75 minutes, which is not worth the risk, nor the costs to equity and environmental quality. 

Investing in the Maryland MARC and Amtrak NE Corridor expansion plans would more effectively serve the transit needs of our region and the NE Corridor. Upgrades to the existing rail system could also more easily be extended to other destinations like New York and Boston, than would be the case with Maglev which would need entirely new right-of-way through the very densely developed Northeast. Existing rail stations are located in more central and well-established transit hubs, like DC’s Union Station. A much more cost-effective solution would be to invest in improving our existing infrastructure and upgrade over time to high-speed rail standards. 

In conclusion, we urge you to pursue upgrades to the nation’s existing rail infrastructure, including high-speed rail, in lieu of the SCMAGLEV. Thank you for your time.

CSG Testimony Re: Virginia 6 Year Plan

May 4, 2021 

Testimony re Virginia 6-Year Plan 2022 – 2027 

For this evening I will focus on the big picture. We will submit more detailed comments by the deadline. 

First, thank you for your leadership in supporting transit in Virginia including funding reduced  fare and free fare initiatives for bus service. Transit is now receiving more funding than it has in  the past, however we believe it should receive far more – as much as 50% of future state  transportation funding in order to support economic opportunity and equity, more efficient  land use and state competitiveness, and fight climate change. 

Second, thank you for your great leadership on Virginia intercity rail. Your analysis showed that  adding another lane the length of I-95 would be both costly and a failure due to induced  demand. Since our Reconnecting Virginia project in 2005, we’ve shown that intercity rail,  transit, and transit-oriented development in the state’s urban crescent should be a top priority. Third, thank you for adoption and implementation of SmartScale which in general is resulting in more effective projects and spending.  

However, we urge you to do more, in light of the existential threat of climate change. Virginia will be heavily impacted by sea level rise and we must limit that rise if we are going to save our  coastal communities including Hampton Roads and the Naval facilities. In addition, we will be  faced with more flooding events, washed out roads and transit facilities, as well as longer  droughts and significant heat events.  

This means you must scale back the extensive road expansion in state plans. New and wider  roads in metro areas fill up in as few as five years and they fuel more auto-dependent  development, more vehicle miles traveled, and more greenhouse gas emissions. “Congestion  relief” is not possible. The science shows electrical vehicles will not be enough. We need to  reduce VMT by at least 20% statewide, and because rural residents have fewer options and  must drive more miles, our metro areas need to reduce VMT even more. We know how to do  this – by focusing development in our cities and towns, and creating transit-oriented  communities (TOCs) in our suburbs. This must be combined with focusing our transportation $  on transit, on local street networks for TOCs and on bike/walk investments. It also means  pricing solutions like parking pricing, and employer transit benefits, and zero transit fares. 

As usual, we strongly disagree with the Northern VA Transportation Alliance whose focus on  the failed metric congestion reduction has done great damage to planning in NOVA. 

Our suburban elected officials must recognize that the auto-dependent land use approvals that  they are granting and the efforts to widen so many roads (even if they have bike/ped paths)  creates more traffic and less than ideal experiences for pedestrians and cyclists. 

For today, I will just mention two items of concern:

495Next – we and our partners urge you to delay action because VA and Md have not studied a  TOC/transit/demand management alternative. The P3 process continues to override fair and  objective alternatives analysis. As it is, the proposal to date has far too little funding for transit,  and extends the provision limiting transit and HOV to 24% of HOT traffic after which the  taxpayers must pay fees to Transurban. 

State of good repair – We appreciate the increased attention to maintenance. But it appears  that you are including capacity expansion, at least for bridges, in your state of good repair  program. If that means additional vehicle lanes, we ask that the relevant portion of the cost due  to capacity expansion not be charged in the SGR category but to the capital funding spent on  road expansion. 

Route 1: We are concerned that the widening of most of Route 1 will create a barrier and make  the road far more dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders. So could the proposed  123 and Route 1 interchange.  

Thank you, 

Stewart Schwartz 

Executive Director

RELEASE: CSG statement regarding the Washington, DC region’s deadly roads and too many lives lost

Coalition for Smarter Growth 

Press Release

For Immediate Release:

April 29, 2021

Contact: Stewart Schwartz, 703-599-6437

Statement on the Washington, DC region’s deadly roads and too many lives lost

The Coalition for Smarter Growth shares in the profound sadness and anger at the deadly state of our region’s roads. In the past month, there have been six lives lost in DC alone to preventable traffic crashes: Jim Pagels, Brian Johnson, Evelyn Troyah, Zy’aire Joshua, Waldon Adams, and Rhonda Whitaker. Numerous other fellow residents have been killed in the region’s suburbs including at least four people so far this year in Fairfax: Raymunda Garcia-Hernandez, Christine Caldwell, Ramakant Bhusai, and Choon Yoo. We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of all those lost on the unnecessarily dangerous roads in our region.. 

We commit to working with our partners in the non-profit community and with area officials to address dangerous road conditions and other factors with a goal of ending traffic deaths and serious injuries.

Despite an overall reduction in vehicle traffic during the pandemic, traffic fatalities soared due to increased speeding and reckless driving. A recent report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association showed that pedestrian deaths have risen 46% over the last decade, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments says bicyclists and pedestrians are one-third of traffic fatalities in our region.  Smart Growth America (SGA), in Dangerous by Design, documents the racial and economic disparities in these deaths and serious injuries among pedestrians and cyclists, and the major role of dangerous road designs that favor the speed and movement of cars over the safe movement of people and safe local access to schools, libraries, services, jobs, and transit. SGA has also shown that as a percentage of people walking, it is our suburban arterials that are the most dangerous.

Unfortunately, the presentations at the recent Council of Governments/Transportation Planning Board Vision Zero Arterial Summit confirmed that most area jurisdictions are not doing enough to fix our roads — particularly our suburban arterials — to make them safe places for walking and biking and taking transit. Too many DOTs continue to focus on moving cars, building new roads, and expanding existing roads. Instead, DOTs should be redesigning our existing roads to be humane places that support the growing demand to walk and bike for access to daily needs, to improve our health, and to fight climate change.

We need action now from our local, regional, and state leaders to prevent further loss of life. We wholeheartedly endorse the five recommendations and accompanying detailed actions for DC offered by Nick Sementelli and Conor Shaw in their recent GGWash post, which should be adopted in the surrounding suburbs as well:

1)    Implement emergency road diets on all arterial streets, followed by permanent changes

2)    Reduce speed limits on all roads, and deploy automated enforcement to make those limits real

3)    Reappropriate street space for public transportation, walking, and micromobility

4)    Make safe modes of transportation free and deadly forms of transportation more expensive

5)    More rigorous oversight and regulation of DDOT by the DC Council


There is much to do and among the many necessary actions that need to be taken we also call for all area jurisdictions to:

1)    Provide much more transparency and detail in reporting deaths and serious injuries for pedestrians, cyclists, and other micromobility users on the region’s roads.

a)     Police and transportation agency reporting must include more information about the road design at each site — including the width and speed of the road (both posted and design speed), location and distance between crossing points, type of crosswalk marking, availability of pedestrian refuges, turn radii, location of bus stops compared to crossing points, etc.

b)    All cases should be included in publicly accessible and easily utilized websites.

2)    Shift significant funding from road expansion to retrofitting and redesigning arterial and secondary roads to be safer for pedestrians and cyclists, using Complete Streets principles, and the National Association of City Transportation Officer (NACTO) standards.

3)    Commit to creating Safe Routes to School so every child can walk or bike safely to school.

4)    Invest in an extensive network of protected bicycle lanes and bike/walk trails such that biking and walking to work and to meet daily needs is no longer a high-risk activity.

###

CSG statement regarding the Washington, DC region’s deadly roads and too many lives lost

Coalition for Smarter Growth 

Press Release

For Immediate Release:

April 29, 2021

Contact: Stewart Schwartz, 703-599-6437

Statement on the Washington, DC region’s deadly roads and too many lives lost

The Coalition for Smarter Growth shares in the profound sadness and anger at the deadly state of our region’s roads. In the past month, there have been six lives lost in DC alone to preventable traffic crashes: Jim Pagels, Brian Johnson, Evelyn Troyah, Zy’aire Joshua, Waldon Adams, and Rhonda Whitaker. Numerous other fellow residents have been killed in the region’s suburbs including at least four people so far this year in Fairfax: Raymunda Garcia-Hernandez, Christine Caldwell, Ramakant Bhusai, and Choon Yoo. We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of all those lost on the unnecessarily dangerous roads in our region.. 

We commit to working with our partners in the non-profit community and with area officials to address dangerous road conditions and other factors with a goal of ending traffic deaths and serious injuries.

Despite an overall reduction in vehicle traffic during the pandemic, traffic fatalities soared due to increased speeding and reckless driving. A recent report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association showed that pedestrian deaths have risen 46% over the last decade, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments says bicyclists and pedestrians are one-third of traffic fatalities in our region.  Smart Growth America (SGA), in Dangerous by Design, documents the racial and economic disparities in these deaths and serious injuries among pedestrians and cyclists, and the major role of dangerous road designs that favor the speed and movement of cars over the safe movement of people and safe local access to schools, libraries, services, jobs, and transit. SGA has also shown that as a percentage of people walking, it is our suburban arterials that are the most dangerous.

Unfortunately, the presentations at the recent Council of Governments/Transportation Planning Board Vision Zero Arterial Summit confirmed that most area jurisdictions are not doing enough to fix our roads — particularly our suburban arterials — to make them safe places for walking and biking and taking transit. Too many DOTs continue to focus on moving cars, building new roads, and expanding existing roads. Instead, DOTs should be redesigning our existing roads to be humane places that support the growing demand to walk and bike for access to daily needs, to improve our health, and to fight climate change.

We need action now from our local, regional, and state leaders to prevent further loss of life. We wholeheartedly endorse the five recommendations and accompanying detailed actions for DC offered by Nick Sementelli and Conor Shaw in their recent GGWash post, which should be adopted in the surrounding suburbs as well:

1)    Implement emergency road diets on all arterial streets, followed by permanent changes

2)    Reduce speed limits on all roads, and deploy automated enforcement to make those limits real

3)    Reappropriate street space for public transportation, walking, and micromobility

4)    Make safe modes of transportation free and deadly forms of transportation more expensive

5)    More rigorous oversight and regulation of DDOT by the DC Council


There is much to do and among the many necessary actions that need to be taken we also call for all area jurisdictions to:

1)    Provide much more transparency and detail in reporting deaths and serious injuries for pedestrians, cyclists, and other micromobility users on the region’s roads.

a)     Police and transportation agency reporting must include more information about the road design at each site — including the width and speed of the road (both posted and design speed), location and distance between crossing points, type of crosswalk marking, availability of pedestrian refuges, turn radii, location of bus stops compared to crossing points, etc.

b)    All cases should be included in publicly accessible and easily utilized websites.

2)    Shift significant funding from road expansion to retrofitting and redesigning arterial and secondary roads to be safer for pedestrians and cyclists, using Complete Streets principles, and the National Association of City Transportation Officer (NACTO) standards.

3)    Commit to creating Safe Routes to School so every child can walk or bike safely to school.

4)    Invest in an extensive network of protected bicycle lanes and bike/walk trails such that biking and walking to work and to meet daily needs is no longer a high-risk activity.

###

RELEASE: Best Smart Growth Plan for ALB & Beltway

Press Release 

For Immediate Release: 

April 9, 2021 

Contact:  

Stewart Schwartz, CSG, 703-599-6437, stewart@smartergrowth.net 

Eliza Cava, ANS, 202-503-9141, eliza.cava@anshome.org 

Kyle Hart, NPCA, 202-400-1193, khart@npca.org 

Josh Tulkin, Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, josh.tulkin@mdsierra.org, 650-722-3171 Douglas Stewart, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, 703-407-2790, douglasbstewart@gmail.com 

Environmental Advocates Release “Best Smart Growth Plan” for American  Legion Bridge and Capital Beltway 

Sustainable, Equitable, and Effective 

Today, in advance of pending decisions in Virginia and Maryland, leading environmental  organizations released a “Best Smart Growth Plan” for the American Legion Bridge and Capital  Beltway. The document reviews the current situation and summarizes the consensus  recommendations of the groups. 

Citing the rush by Governor Hogan and Governor Northam to a pre-ordained conclusion to widen the bridge and the Beltway, including Hogan’s push for a premature development contract with TransUrban and his YouTube video trumpeting the Maryland toll lanes, the groups are calling for an immediate pause in the projects and offering a comprehensive land  use, transit and demand management solution that will be more sustainable, equitable, and  effective.

“Governor Hogan has not kept faith with his public promises to complete a solid environmental  study of impacts and alternatives before moving forward with private toll lanes,” said Eliza  Cava, Director of Conservation, Audubon Naturalist Society. “He has instead pressed forward  with a proposal that ranks as highway robbery — not just high tolls, but the theft of national and local parks, historic sites, community peace, wildlife, and a sustainable planet.” 

Meanwhile, the powerful TransUrban corporation, a major donor to politicians on both sides of the river, has been sending out expensive mailers to thousands of Northern Virginia households as part of their lobbying push for the lucrative private toll lanes deal. 

The Fairfax County Board will be meeting on April 13 to discuss their position on 495Next and  the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board will act on the proposal at their April 21 meeting. The Maryland Board of Public Works is scheduled to meet in May to approve the pre-development contract for 495/270, even though the environmental studies are not yet  complete. 

“We are calling for a pause on the interconnected Maryland and Virginia toll lane projects, and are setting forth a sustainable, equitable and effective alternative that should be studied and ultimately adopted,” said Douglas Stewart, Transportation and Smart Growth Co-Chair of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter. “This project should not move forward without plans for high capacity transit and robust, dedicated transit funding from both Maryland and Virginia, in order  to reduce congestion and help jurisdictions meet their goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” 

“We decry the conclusions-first approach of Virginia and Maryland and the way the state’s Public-Private Transportation Acts undermine fair and objective alternatives analysis,” said  Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “Our groups offer here, and have offered before, a comprehensive, integrated land use (transit-oriented  development), transit, and demand management alternative, but both states have refused to  consider such an alternative.” 

“The DMV needs more green space, not less. Governor Hogan’s proposed toll lanes could  bulldoze valuable national parkland and damage delicate ecosystems just to make room for  more fumes, noise, and cars. This proposal threatens local communities of color and a historic African-American church cemetery. This is not a solution to traffic congestion in the area; it’s  another problem,” said Kyle Hart, National Parks Conservation Association. 

“We have the time and must take the time to build the best bridge for people and wildlife. This is a decision that will affect our environment and climate for the next hundred years.” said  Cava. 

“Our plan would improve transportation and reduce traffic, while directly addressing the racial  and socio-economic inequity that continues to mark our region. Investing in transit-oriented development, particularly in the underinvested east side of the region would reduce long  commutes for residents and also create jobs and generate revenue for schools and fund other community benefits, unlike Gov. Hogan’s toll lane proposal,” said Josh Tulkin, Director, Sierra Club Maryland Chapter. 

“WMATA’s Connect Greater Washington study showed that building out transit-oriented  development would reduce driving and traffic on the Beltway, while increasing transit ridership  and converting WMATA’s rail operating subsidy to a surplus.” said Schwartz. “We are calling on all of our elected officials to support a pause, and analysis and adoption of our more  sustainable, equitable and effective alternative,” concluded Schwartz. 

The “Best Smart Growth Plan” can be found here.  

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Best Smart Growth Plan for ALB & Beltway

Best Smart Growth Plan for the American Legion Bridge and Capital Beltway

This is a 100-Year Decision – Let’s Take Time to Create the Most Sustainable, Equitable, and Effective Solution

Introduction:

As our metro area continues to grow, we must address the transportation issues at the American Legion Bridge and the Capital Beltway. Contrary to road booster’s hopes, however, an upper Potomac Bridge is not the answer, as demonstrated by previous studies. Further, while Maryland and Virginia are right to be focused on improving the American Legion Bridge and the Capital Beltway corridor, they have been rushing to implement a pre-ordained conclusion as to the best approach,and the resulting proposal–adding four toll lanes with massive connecting (double) interchange ramps and doubling the size of the American Legion Bridge — will harm adjacent communities and the environment. The two states have so far refused to study a comprehensive, integrated land use (transit-oriented development), transit, and demand management alternative, and they have failed to develop a sustainable, equitable, and effective solution.

As leading conservation organizations, we have come together to bring clarity to the issues at stake, and to make the case once again for a more sustainable, equitable, and effective approach. This is a multi-billion dollar, 100-year + decision, and we face a climate emergency, so officials must take a second look.

Why an upriver Potomac River bridge crossing is not the answer:

  1. The VDOT 2015 Potomac River Crossings Study showed that less than 4% of trips that currently use the American Legion Bridge might benefit from a potential upriver bridge.
  2. The 2003-2004 VDOT/TPB origin-destination study showed similar results.
  3. A 2001 proposal for an upriver bridge prompted outcry on both sides of the river because of impact on neighborhoods, environmental and historic resources, prompting cancellation of the study.

Why the American Legion Bridge crossing should be addressed:

  1. The VDOT 2015 Potomac River Crossing Study showed that the American Legion Bridge is the most important crossing in need of investment outside of the Rosslyn Metro tunnel crossing into DC.
  2. Reportedly due to age, the American Legion Bridge needs significant rehabilitation or replacement by 15 years from now.

Why there should be analysis of a comprehensive, sustainable and equitable land use, transit, and demand management alternative to the public-private toll lane proposal:

  1. There is time to conduct a thoughtful analysis of alternatives since MDOT has confirmed that we have 15 years before the bridge structure needs replacement.
  2. Virginia and Maryland have used a conclusions-first focus on high-occupancy (HOT) toll lanes via public-private partnerships, without full alternatives analysis or completion of all environmental studies. In Maryland, a series of very limited, isolated transit alternatives were assessed, but not a comprehensive, integrated land use (transit-oriented development), transit, demand management alternative.
  3. There are environmental and historic resources that must be considered at the American Legion Bridge crossing including the Potomac River, and National Park sites at Plummer’s Island research center, the C&O Canal, Potomac Heritage Trail, and GW Memorial Parkway.
  4. With just 10 years to dramatically reduce the emissions that cause climate change, highway expansion is exactly the wrong way to go, as studies show that metropolitan regions must significantly reduce vehicle miles traveled in addition to achieving a dramatic increase in electric vehicle use by 2030.
  5. The significant increase in telecommuting expected post-pandemic by those who work in offices will lead to a significant drop in peak hour demand for road space.
  6. A strategy of buildout of transit-oriented development at our Metro, Purple Line and Bus Rapid Transit corridors, especially on the east side of the region, would be more equitable and would reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions compared to high-priced private high-occupancy toll lanes.
  7. The increase in flooding and stormwater runoff from highway expansion — adding more pavement, even treated to current standards, will degrade the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, preventing the region from meeting its water pollution reductions by 2025, as required by the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load.

Summary of our Alternative for the American Legion Bridge and Capital Beltway:

  1. We support appropriate investment at the American Legion Bridge crossing.
  2. We oppose any efforts to revive proposals for an upriver bridge.
  3. We urge all efforts to reduce vehicle miles traveled and single-occupant vehicle trips in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from surface transportation by at least 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, and 100% by 2050.
  4. We urge an immediate pause in pursuit of the 495Next HOV extension and American Legion Bridge/495/270 toll lane proposals and P3 contracting until evaluation of a comprehensive land use/transit/demand management alternative, and we urge adoption of a less destructive and more sustainable and equitable solution.
  5. We request evaluation and adoption of a land use, transit, and demand management alternative to include:
    1. Buildout of transit-oriented development at Metro stations, Purple Line stations, and BRT corridors. The WMATA Connect Greater Washington Study shows that TOD buildout – particularly in Prince George’s – would help correct the east-west jobs/housing imbalance, increasing transit trips, reducing vehicle miles traveled, and reducing demand on the Beltway in both Maryland and Virginia.
    2. Prioritization of a dedicated “Purple Line” transit connection across the river including Metrorail or light rail connecting between the Silver Line and Red Line and Maryland Purple Line, along with dedicated bus-only or bus-HOV3 lanes.
    3. Demand management tools:  parking pricing, employer transit benefits and parking cashout, telecommuting, and (potentially) pricing existing lanes rather than expansion with priced lanes.
    4. Inclusion of well-designed bicycle and pedestrian connections to and across a rehabilitated or new American Legion Bridge.
    5. We seek clear environmental justice considerations to be brought into the highway expansion planning.
  6. Should officials proceed with the HOT proposal for the American Legion Bridge and connections at each end, AFTER full and objective consideration of our comprehensive alternative, then the project must:
    1. Include bike/pedestrian connections.
    2. Provide significant funding for transit operating and capital needs to ensure frequent, high-capacity transit.
    3. Incorporate a bridge design that supports Metrorail.
    4. Incorporate a bridge design that minimizes impacts to the sensitive natural and historic assets in the Potomac Gorge including water quality, forests, native species, National Park sites like Plummer’s Island, and historic assets. In contrast to the significant widening required by four HOT lanes (as much as 80 feet or more), other alternatives such as pricing existing lanes, converting existing lanes to bus-only or bus/HOV3-only lanes, and vertically separated rail could result in less impact.
    5. Furthermore, while we do not recommend private tolled HOT lanes, if new lanes are added, they should be added to the upriver side of the bridge so as not to require use of Plummers Island for the construction, and additional mitigation measures should also be taken to protect this historically important site of ongoing, long-term research.

CSG Sign-on letter in support of SB361

March 24, 2021


Please Support SB 361, P3 Reform


Dear Members of the Budget and Taxation Committee:


Our organizations urge you to vote to give a favorable recommendation to SB 361, which would reform the process for establishing future public-private partnerships (P3s).

The need to reform the P3 process has become more evident with the challenges related to the Purple Line P3. The withdrawal of the construction contractor, the $250 million in added costs and the lengthy delays make clear that the existing P3 process does not protect the State and its taxpayers from the substantial risks inherent in public-private partnerships.


The establishment of a review board under SB 361 would provide the General Assembly with oversight of future P3 projects. The requirement for a risk analysis and independent assessment of a project’s impact on the State’s credit rating would protect taxpayers. The revised non-compete clause would prohibit P3 developers from blocking transit or road improvements initiated by local governments, similar to an existing prohibition for State transportation projects.


For P3s estimated at over $500 million, SB 361 would require that a presolicitation report include a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). This provision would ensure that we have the best understanding of the fiscal, environmental and social impacts of a proposed P3 before any contracts with a developer are signed. We urge the Committee to retain this critical provision.


Unfortunately, the I-495/I-270 P3 exemplifies the need for the FEIS requirement. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the I-495/I-270 project had numerous deficiencies. For example, while it estimated that the project could require a subsidy of up to $482 million to the developer, it does not account for the cost of moving water/sewer and other utility infrastructure. The DEIS failed to analyze transit alternatives or smaller scale road improvements. It failed to assess whether the project’s adverse impacts would be disproportionately borne by communities of color and low-income communities. Yet, MDOT plans to sign a predevelopment agreement months before the FEIS is completed and before these important questions are addressed.


On Friday, the House Environment and Transportation Committee added a provision requiring MDOT to submit an analysis of the impact of recent increases in telework to the Board of Public Works. The Committee also made its bill an emergency bill to accommodate the added study. The addition of this study is a smart improvement to the bill and we urge the Budget and Taxation Committee to adopt it.


Given the experience with the Purple Line and the I-495/I-270 P3, it is clear that the process must be reformed for future P3 projects to protect the State and its residents. We urge you to vote for SB 361 with the addition of the traffic study and change in effective date.
Sincerely,

AFSCME Council 3, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Citizens Against Beltway Expansion, Climate Change Task Force, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland, Coalition for Smarter Growth, Don’tWiden270.org, DoTheMostGood, Glen Echo Heights Mobilization, Greater Farmland Civic Association, Greenbelt Climate Action Network, Howard County Climate Action, League of Women Voters of Maryland, Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights, Maryland Conservation Council, Maryland Sierra Club, National Parks Conversation Association, SaveOur Seminary at Forest Glen Inc., Sligo Creek Golf Association (SCGA), Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Woodside Forrest Civic Association

The Case for Fare Free Ride On

The Case for Fare Free Ride On

Fare-free public transit has recently gained momentum across the globe. As of 2018, there were 97 cities and towns with fully fare-free public transit, mostly in Europe. There are 27 fare-free systems in the United States, “mostly in small towns and colleges.” Reasons for this move include climate, congestion, equity, and economic development.