MAST testimony supporting MD county consent bill HB 292

February 10, 2020

Environment and Transportation Committee

House Office Building, Room 251

Annapolis, MD 24101

HB 292, Toll Roads, Highways, and Bridges – County Government Consent Requirement – Expansion (Support) 

Testimony for February 13, 2020 

Thank you, Chair Barve, Vice Chair Stein, and Environment and Transportation Committee members. I am speaking on behalf of the Maryland Advocates for Sustainable Transportation (MAST), a coalition of 25 non-profit and community advocacy organizations committed to collaboration and coordination among local jurisdiction and the state when planning and implementing major transportation projects. We urge you to support HB 292, with amendments. 

HB 292 would extend the requirement that the state receive the consent of a majority of affected Eastern Shore county governments before building a toll road, highway, or bridge in those counties. We strongly believe that this right should be expanded to include all Maryland counties affected by toll projects. We would support an amendment that clarifies the definition of “affected counties.” 

Throughout the process to expand I-495 and I-270, one thing has been clear: the state has not adequately listened to or worked with the local jurisdictions that would bear the brunt of construction, environmental impacts, and toll payments. Even with the Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT’s) recent commitment to improve coordination with counties, nothing guarantees that they must do so. 

Without that guarantee, we’ve seen that the three-person Board of Public Works has the ability to push through massive highway projects without first considering local needs and concerns. Constructing a new toll road is an enormous decision that fundamentally alters the natural landscape by destroying homes, increasing greenhouse gas pollution, disrupting natural habitats, and promoting sprawl. 

Therefore, we urge you to support HB 292 and equitably extend the right of nine counties to the other 15 counties and county-equivalents. Thank you for your consideration. 

MAST Members: Audubon Naturalist Society, Bike Maryland, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Coalition for Smarter Growth, 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, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club Maryland, Smart Growth Maryland, Washington Area Bicyclist Association 

MAST Principles Signers: 350 Montgomery, Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition, Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, Environmental Justice Ministry, Corazón Latino, Friends of Sligo Creek, Neighbors of the Northwest Branch, Northwood-Four Corners Civic Association, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Sunrise Movement Howard County