CSG testimony opposing I-270/495 expansion

January 8, 2020

Maryland Board of Public Works

Maryland State House

100 State Circle

Annapolis, MD 21401

Maryland Department of Transportation Item 23-GM (Oppose) 

Testimony for January 8, 2020 

Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager 

Governor Hogan and Board members, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I am here on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading organization in the D.C. region advocating for walkable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities. I am also a founding member of the Maryland Advocates for Sustainable Transportation coalition, which includes over 20 organizations and continues to grow. 

Financial and process concerns: 

The multi-billion dollar, decades-long decision being made today is being rushed. It is premature and lacks adequate environmental, alternatives, and financial analyses. You have begun with the conclusion – to build private toll lanes – rather than with an objective analysis of alternatives. Critical information has not been shared with the public and other local, state, and federal agencies. This is not how any state should be making multi-billion dollar decisions. 

This project has significant financial uncertainty and risks. Prior to advancing this project and prior to solicitation, you must share the proposed financial terms and risks, including the state’s responsibility to compensate developers and lenders. Prior to taking action, you must request truly independent financial and traffic analyses. The public deserves to know how much they are expected to pay, both in tolls and potentially in taxes. 

Environmental and traffic mitigation concerns: 

We are also concerned about environmental impacts and traffic mitigation. We appreciate the attention given to the American Legion Bridge. However, private toll lanes may not be the answer. To date, MDOT has failed to study a true, comprehensive transit, demand management, and transit-oriented land use alternative to expanding I-495 and I-270, and in the case of the American Legion Bridge, Maryland and Virginia should study Purple Line and Metrorail options. 

Maryland has 26 Metro stations, many of which are not being used to their full potential. Incentivizing residential and commercial development at Maryland’s Metro, Purple Line, and certain MARC stations would do more to reduce driving, long-distance commuting, and traffic than further widening highways. Because of induced demand, newly widened highways in metropolitan areas fill up again in as few as five years, but transit-oriented development provides long-term traffic mitigation. 

Furthermore, the retained alternatives are in direct opposition to state climate and economic development goals. Your focus on moving cars in the west side of the region and your failure to study a transit-oriented development solution leaves Prince George’s, eastern Montgomery, and Baltimore behind. Investing in TOD and jobs in the Prince George’s to Baltimore transit corridors would not only do more to address traffic, it would provide critically needed, more balanced, economic development. Amazon’s HQ2 selection makes clear the high value modern employers place on access to high quality public transit. 

To this, the scope of any transit improvements offered to counties in the P3 agreement needs to be clarified before today’s approval. A single BRT line is not enough to offset the harm of adding miles of new highway lanes. 

For these reasons, we urge the Board to delay further action and steps towards a P3 agreement, and ultimately adopt a more effective and sustainable transit-oriented approach. At a minimum, this project requires a comprehensive alternatives and impact analysis, clarification of the state’s financial obligations, independent financial and traffic analyses, and a better deal for transit. 

Thank you for your time.