July 10, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 10th, 2020
Lindsey Mendelson, Maryland Sierra Club
firstname.lastname@example.org | (240) 706-7901
Jeanne Braha, Rock Creek Conservancy
email@example.com | (301)-312-1471
Advocates Alarmed at 18,000 Page Environmental Impact Statement on Gov. Hogan’s I-495 and I-270 Widening Plan
MARYLAND- Today, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released an 18,000 page Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on Gov. Hogan’s plans to expand I-495 and I-270 with two private toll lanes in each direction. The DEIS outlines the impacts of the plan on the region’s air, water, parks, noise levels, traffic and other categories.
Residents and community organizations have just started to sift through the 90 pound document to assess the damage that the over $11 billion project could cause to Maryland’s environment, health, and economy, especially in the midst of a global pandemic and economic downturn. Advocates are concerned that the DEIS, despite its size, does not adequately examine key alternatives to the widening such as public transit and better land use planning nor effectively examine telecommuting’s role in reducing congestion.
In the last two weeks, over 40 organizations and U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin asked for the comment period to be at least 120 days to accommodate the public’s ability to comment during the pandemic and complete the approximately 600 hours it would take to read through the document completely. Despite this request, the public comment period remains at 90 days, which would not be enough time for a person reading 40 hours a week to get through all the pages of the document.
“The Draft Environmental Impact Statement weighs 90 pounds. That alone indicates that this project warrants intense scrutiny. We are concerned that this massive highway project will exacerbate harm to our health and environment. The Sierra Club and other organizations have been denied, delayed or charged $300,000 for public information requests that would have shed more light on this project. We need more time to comment on this controversial proposal.” –Josh Tulkin, Director, Maryland Sierra Club
“Experience shows that highway expansions increase, not decrease, driving demand. By fueling more long-distance living and commuting, toll lanes are a massive, generational alteration of our landscape and come at high cost to homes and neighborhoods, people and health, and the natural environment.” – Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager of the Coalition for Smarter Growth
“The $11 billion I-495/I-270 expansion is too big and will affect too many lives over the next 50 years for Marylanders to accept an 18,000 page draft environmental impact statement that offers vague assurances that pollution and flood risk won’t increase and parks and communities will be protected. We urge MDOT to give the public the time it needs to review this draft statement and to release the secret traffic and revenue studies being used to justify this massive, high-risk project. Maryland cannot afford a repeat of the crisis plaguing the Purple Line, the Hogan administration’s first public-private partnership. –Brad German, Co-Chair, Citizens Against Beltway Expansion
“This proposed expansion threatens our national parks, including Greenbelt Park, C&O Canal, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Suitland Parkway, and Baltimore-Washington Parkway, without solving the region’s transportation needs. Should this proposal move forward, over 300 acres of local parkland – including valuable green space in an increasingly urban area — could be paved over. Instead of pursuing this new and costly highway expansion, the National Parks Conservation Association urges the Maryland Department of Transportation to examine the many alternatives available that will address our transit needs without sacrificing our parks.”-Pamela Goddard, Mid-Atlantic Senior Program Director, National Parks Conservation Association
Rock Creek is just one of the many special places that will be impacted by the proposed $11 billion expansion of I-495 and I-270. These impacts will extend far downstream, including into the creek through the nation’s first urban national park, Rock Creek Park. The public deserves a full range of alternatives for these sensitive waterways, habitat corridors, and public lands and time to fully consider them.-Jeanne Braha, Executive Director, Rock Creek Conservancy
“How precious is breathing? How important is it to preserve natural spaces and protect the health of residents of this region? We at the Audubon Naturalist Society want MDOT and the SHA to tell us, because the delivery of this 90-pound EIS for an $11 billion project with only 90 days to review it suggests that our health and well-being are not a top priority. Taxpayers deserve better.” –Denisse Guitarra, Maryland Conservation Advocate, Audubon Naturalist Society
“MDOT gave assurances that the public would have an opportunity in the DEIS process to actively participate in the consequential decisions related to the I-495 & I-270 project. However, in releasing an 18,000-page DEIS in the middle of a health and fiscal emergency, and then failing to provide adequate time for document review, MDOT shows disregard for public input. No one knows what post-pandemic commerce, employment, and traffic patterns will look like — the entire effort should be paused until the pandemic subsides.”-Linda Rosendorf, Don’t Widen 270.
Had the Governor and the Maryland Department of Transportation followed a process that allowed for sufficient constituent input and alternative proposals before announcing this massive, destructive plan, the citizens of Maryland would not be in the position of pointing out the obvious. The plan is deeply flawed and may very well cause more harm than good.- Cecilia Plante, Maryland Legislative Coalition.