Category Archives: transportation

How to Spend More on Education and Transportation Without Raising Taxes

By Adam Pagnucco.  

It’s election season and that means it’s time for lots of promises from politicians.  And boy are they promising a lot, especially on the county’s two big issues of education and transportation.  The mailbox’s “progressive leaders” have “plans” to guarantee every child a great school, invest in transportation – especially transit – and to do all of the above without raising taxes.  Sounds great, yeah?

Time to get real, folks!

Education and transportation each have two virtues.  First, each of them generates direct economic returns.  Education spending yields a return on human capital while transportation spending yields a return on physical infrastructure.  Both are important for attracting and retaining residents and jobs.  Second, each of them is popular with voters.  For as long as anyone can remember, education and transportation have been two of the top issues in our elections – and they might possibly be THE top two.  Happily, on these two issues, good policy and good politics come together!

Paying for them is another matter.  MCPS accounts for a greater percentage of the budget than any other agency with a $2.5 billion budget in FY18.  Montgomery College received more than $300 million.  The Department of Transportation’s operating budget was $56 million.  Funding increases with meaningful impacts on these agencies need to be in the tens of millions of dollars – at least.  That kind of money far exceeds a spreadsheet rounding error.

And yet, there is a way to increase spending on MCPS, the college and transportation without massive tax hikes.  The catch is that it’s not quick or easy.

Let’s do a simple (and yes, admittedly simplistic!) exercise with the operating budget.  First, let’s identify the combined local dollar spending on MCPS, the college and the Department of Transportation (DOT).  Next, let’s segregate out intergovernmental aid, which plays an important role in the budget but is not controlled by the county government.  Then let’s segregate debt service.  Yes, over long periods of time, the county can adjust debt service.  But much of the debt service is being paid on capital projects already completed, and furthermore, a huge chunk of it goes to school construction and transportation projects.  Boosting education and transportation operating budgets by cutting their capital budgets is not the best idea in the world!  Finally, let’s subtract out local dollar education and transportation spending, intergovernmental aid and debt service from total spending and what we get is a great big category that we shall creatively name “Everything Else.”

Here’s what happens when we do that for FY11, the trough budget year of the Great Recession, and FY18, the budget that ends on June 30 of this year.

What the above data shows is that the total county budget grew by 28% over this period.  Intergovernmental aid grew by 26% and debt service rose by a whopping 58%.  (We have previously written about the county’s rapidly growing debt.)  Now let’s contrast the two remaining broad categories: the local dollars spent on MCPS, the college and DOT and everything else.  The education and transportation budgets grew by a combined 18%.  Everything else grew by 37%.

That’s right folks – spending on everything else has been growing twice as fast as local dollar spending on education and transportation operating budgets.  That’s a strange fact in a county in which education and transportation are arguably the top two political issues.

Now what would have happened if the everything else side of the budget was restrained to grow at the same rate as inflation?  The average annual growth rate of the Washington-Baltimore CPI-U since 2011 has been 1.3%, meaning that prices have grown by 9.8% over that period.  When we hold the total budget, intergovernmental aid and debt service constant and assign a growth rate of 9.8% to the everything else category, here’s what happens to local dollars available for education and transportation.  For the purposes of discussion, let’s call this Scenario 1.

In Scenario 1, $2.4 billion is available for education and transportation because of spending restraint on everything else.  That’s $383 million more than the $2 billion that was actually available in the real world FY18 budget.

Holding a big chunk of county government to the rate of inflation for seven straight years is tough medicine and very unlikely.  So let’s create a Scenario 2 in which the everything else category is restrained to twice the rate of inflation, or 19.5% growth since FY11.

In Scenario 2, $2.2 billion is available for education and transportation, $244 million more than the real world FY18 budget.

For the sake of comparison to both of these scenarios, let’s recall that the 9 percent property tax hike was supposed to raise $140 million a year.  (It probably raised a little less than that.)  So under both scenarios, the county could have avoided the giant tax hike and still had lots of money left over for more education and transportation spending.

Yes folks, we understand the radical nature of what we are proposing – namely that liberal Democrats should deliberately and strategically restrain the growth in some forms of spending to boost growth in other spending.  This is likely to be an unpopular concept in a county that has multiple jam-packed budget hearings every year with groups of all kinds requesting money.  But here’s the benefit to concentrating on education and transportation: both forms of spending are investments that generate returns for the economy.  And when those returns boost economic growth, they generate tax revenue that bolsters the entire budget.

What is necessary to pull this off?  Simply put, this requires strategy, discipline, patience and leadership.  Without those traits, given the huge number of constituencies that want their piece of the budget, it would be impossible to focus it on education and transportation.  The natural outcome of a budget process without strategy is that everything gets funded, a tax hike follows, voters tire of it and then they pass restrictive charter amendments and vote for politicians like Larry Hogan.

So what are we going to get?  Spending on everything followed by tax hikes?  Or a budget that is strategically focused on generating economic returns from education and transportation?

Folks, that depends on your decisions in the voting booth.

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Candidates Take Positions on Controversial Transportation Projects

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance has released questionnaires completed by County Executive and County Council At-Large candidates on transportation issues.  While many answers are similar – who doesn’t favor transportation funding? – others illuminate real differences on specific issues.  Drawing on the questionnaires, here are four key projects on which the candidates disagree.  (Note: unlisted candidates did not complete the questionnaire.)

Question: Do you support funding and building the missing link of the Mid-County Highway (M-83) to better connect Clarksburg and other Upcounty communities?

Executive candidates who said yes

David Blair

Robin Ficker

Rose Krasnow

Executive candidates who said no

Roger Berliner

Marc Elrich

George Leventhal

Council At-Large candidates who said yes

Rosemary Arkoian

Marilyn Balcombe

Robert Dyer

Lorna Phillips Forde

Neil Greenberger

Ashwani Jain

Michele Riley

Council At-Large candidates who said no

Gabe Albornoz

Bill Conway

Hoan Dang

Evan Glass

Seth Grimes

Will Jawando

Jill Ortman-Fouse

Hans Riemer

Question: Do you support the Maryland Traffic Relief Plan to add new express toll lanes on I-270 while keeping the existing lanes free of charge?  (Editor’s note: this question contains a link to Governor Hogan’s proposals for I-270 and I-495.)

Executive candidates who said yes

Roger Berliner

Robin Ficker

Rose Krasnow

George Leventhal

Executive candidates who said no

David Blair

Marc Elrich

Council At-Large candidates who said yes

Gabe Albornoz

Rosemary Arkoian

Marilyn Balcombe

Bill Conway

Hoan Dang

Robert Dyer

Lorna Phillips Forde

Neil Greenberger

Jill Ortman-Fouse

Michele Riley

Council At-Large candidates who said no

Seth Grimes

Ashwani Jain

Will Jawando

Other answers

Evan Glass did not answer yes or no.  He said, “I am not convinced that toll lanes are the correct solution to this problem.”

Hans Riemer did not answer yes or no.  He said, “I support the council’s adopted vision for 270.”

Question: Do you support the Maryland Traffic Relief Plan (see link above) to add new express toll lanes on I-495, keeping the existing lanes free of charge?

Executive candidates who said yes

Roger Berliner

Robin Ficker

Rose Krasnow

George Leventhal

Executive candidates who said no

David Blair

Marc Elrich

Council At-Large candidates who said yes

Gabe Albornoz

Rosemary Arkoian

Hoan Dang

Robert Dyer

Lorna Phillips Forde

Neil Greenberger

Michele Riley

Council At-Large candidates who said no

Bill Conway

Evan Glass

Seth Grimes

Ashwani Jain

Will Jawando

Jill Ortman-Fouse

Hans Riemer

Other answers

Marilyn Balcombe did not answer yes or no.  She said, “I don’t think we know all the options for how to expand capacity on 495.”

Question: Do you support studying the concept of a second Potomac River crossing, north of the American Legion Bridge?

Executive candidates who said yes

Robin Ficker

Executive candidates who said no

Roger Berliner

David Blair

Marc Elrich

Rose Krasnow

George Leventhal

Council At-Large candidates who said yes

Gabe Albornoz

Rosemary Arkoian

Marilyn Balcombe

Robert Dyer

Lorna Phillips Forde

Neil Greenberger

Jill Ortman-Fouse

Council At-Large candidates who said no

Bill Conway

Hoan Dang

Evan Glass

Seth Grimes

Ashwani Jain

Will Jawando

Hans Riemer

Michele Riley

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Marc Korman’s Transportation Mailer

By Adam Pagnucco.

Transportation is an eternal issue in MoCo politics and most candidates mail on it.  But this has been Delegate Marc Korman’s top priority since his first campaign and he has worked hard on this issue in the General Assembly, notably playing a key role in passing dedicated Metro funding.  The only quarrel we have with this mailer is that Korman may not be taking enough credit for his work!  Still, your author is a big Korman fan and we look forward to his second term.

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Reznik Calls on Board of Public Works to Reject “Shadow Government” Highway Contract

By Adam Pagnucco.

Delegate Kirill Reznik (D-39) has written to the Board of Public Works asking them to reject an engineering and management contract awarded by the Maryland Department of Transportation for its planned expansion of the Capital Beltway and I-270.  According to the Washington Post, the winning consortium included a former employer of the state’s Secretary of Transportation and was awarded the contract despite finishing second in its written proposal.  The Secretary did not vote directly on the contract, but he had dinner with a representative of his former employer and obtained an ethics clearance after the award was made.  Post reporter Michael Laris described the bidding process as “expedited and unusual” and wrote:

The winning firms, known collectively as the “general engineering consultant,” would act as something of a shadow government for the Maryland Department of Transportation, which says its plan to hire firms to build, finance and maintain toll lanes is too big and complex to govern itself.

Referring to much of the above, Delegate Reznik said he was “incredibly alarmed” and asked the Board of Public Works to “restart the process in an open, fair, public, and transparent way, without the involvement of potential conflicts, and only after the public has had an opportunity to weigh in.”  We reprint his letter below.

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Toward Cost-Effective Transportation

By Neil Harris.

Transit is much more expensive to build than highways. It’s politically correct to focus on transit. But is it the best use of our tax dollars? Let’s look at the numbers.

Transportation planners in our region look at many. At the most recent Transportation Planning Board (TPB) meeting, there was a presentation on the ways that transportation plans are measured and approved factors – social equity, air quality, and many more. But when I asked if there was a cost-benefit analysis, it became clear that this did not appear to be on anyone’s list of measures.

By cost-benefit, I mean this: when you build a new transportation project, how much money does it cost to move people?

Over the last few weeks, I went back through some presentations and found the two slides shown below that have the numbers to tell an important story. I spent a lunch hour on the phone with TPB staff to verify that what I was seeing was accurate, and what it might mean. Here is what I learned from TPB’s data:

The DMV region plans to spend $42 billion to expand transportation capacity over the next 25 years, split between $27 billion on highway expansion and $15 billion on transit. This will result in 2.7 million more daily trips by auto and 300 thousand more daily trips in transit. By simple arithmetic, this means that it costs just over $10,000 to add capacity for another auto trip, and more than $53,000 to add another transit trip. Building transit capacity currently costs more than 5 times as much as highway capacity!

 

If this was the only factor that was important, then decisions would be easy. Any CEO would immediately allocate more money into adding highway capacity. Of course, it’s not the only factor. Not everyone can afford to travel by auto – we want lower-income people to be able to get to their jobs, so we need transit. Transit trips are less polluting than autos, although TPB’s data shows a steady decrease in auto pollutants thanks to greater efficiency and the growing number of electric, zero-emission vehicles.

The other key is that, for parts of our region, building new roads or even expanding existing ones is terribly difficult. Where would you put a new thoroughfare in DC, or in the close-in suburbs?

The costs I focused on so far are the capital costs for new projects. The same TPB information can be used for operating costs – how much it costs for each trip. It turns out that we’re going to spend $130 billion over the next 25 years on transit operations and repairs, about $5.2 billion annually, with capacity growing to 1.5 million daily trips, for a per-trip cost of about $9.50. Each time someone takes a transit trip, the government subsidizes the trip by that amount. We’ll spend $72 billion to maintain roadways during the same period, about $2.9 billion annually, to move up to 16.6 million trips/day. That comes to just under 50 cents per trip.

The operating cost information is useful in a couple of ways. At the same TPB meeting, the Commuter Connections presentation unveiled a new program, piloted in Howard County MD, where auto commuters can receive a $10 stipend for taking a rider along with them. That number is almost exactly right – it is comparable to the cost of putting someone on transit instead, but we don’t need to build more transit lines.

That is the kind of thinking we need. When we look at a new project or a new idea, does it move people more effectively than how we’re doing it now? Is it better for some reason, is it faster, is it cheaper?

For example, the TPB recently recommended that we find ways to encourage employers to let more people work from home. What if the government provided an incentive to the employers? With these numbers, we can make informed judgments about how much of an incentive makes fiscal sense.

The amount of money we have to transport people is limited, so we need to think carefully about optimization strategies to move people cost-effectively as well as focusing on all the other factors.

Neil Harris is a member of the Gaithersburg City Council and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board.

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Busting Three Metro Myths

The six graphs – one for each Maryland branch of the Metro – in today’s post reveal the ridership figures for all Maryland Metro stops from 2005 through 2016. They’re not encouraging either for the health of the system or cherished myths around it.

Transit Always Heralds Urbanism

“If you build it, they will come.” Usually not. In Maryland, only three stops have become high traffic urban nodes: Bethesda, Silver Spring and Friendship Heights – the latter is shared with the District. The other 24 stops have not witnessed remotely this level of impressive urban development or Metro ridership. Outside the urban three, the highest ridership occurs mainly at end-of-the-line commuter stops, such as Shady Grove, Greenbelt and New Carrolton.

Transit advocates and developers are both very attached to this myth. The former because they believe fervently in transit. Developers like it because they are permitted to build far more when transit is built, which allows them to make a lot more money even if nobody ever rides it. Proximity to transit also raises the value of their property at somebody else’s expense.

The uncomfortable truth is that no nodes similar to Bethesda or Silver Spring – or Ballston or Rosslyn – have emerged in Prince George’s County. Leaving aside the terminus stops, ridership is not very high and certainly not growing. And the terminus stops have seen more precipitous declines than in Montgomery – 34% at New Carrollton, 21% at Greenbelt, and 20% at Branch Avenue.

Thriving Urbanism Heralds More Transit Riders

Not necessarily. Bethesda, Friendship Heights and Silver Spring have continued to grow yet ridership has declined. In 2016, all three served many fewer riders than at their peak – 15% in Bethesda, 17% in Silver Spring, and 20% in Friendship Heights.

Transit is a positive for these areas but it’s only one factor among many. It’s not that smart growth or new urbanism is totally off base. The focus on transit may lead to overestimation of its importance to successful development. Density and the mixture of residential and commercial looks more crucial to their continued success. It’s why places like the Kentlands thrive even though they’re nowhere near Metro.

There is little sign that less intense development around Metro stations other than the big three has increased ridership either. Throughout the Maryland portion of the system, ridership has tended to stay flat or decline. Remember that this has occurred despite population increases in both Prince George’s and Montgomery.

Declining Ridership is Temporary

Two major excuses are given for Metro’s declining ridership: the financial crisis and Metro’s “temporary” maintenance backlog. At this point, the former explains little as the recession is over and the population is now higher, so Metro should have more riders. The latter is belied by the similar decline in Metro’s bus ridership. Moreover, SafeTrack will not bring the system back to tip-top condition but simply prevent its complete collapse, as General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has been at pains to point out.

The wheel of technological change is driving changes in transportation patterns fast. Increasing numbers of jobs can be done via telecommuting. Competition from services like Uber and Lyft are remaking the taxi industry and attracting many new riders. Every price increase in Metro or its parking lots only makes them more competitive – and the price of both is likely to head up.

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M-83 Supporters Get a Win

By Adam Pagnucco.

Back on November 3, David Lublin wrote that the County Council had placed the planned Upcounty highway M-83 “in the freezer.”  We agree with that take with one addition: if and when M-83 comes out of that freezer, it will be ready to serve.  That’s because instead of killing the road, the resolution passed by the County Council has preserved it for a future county government to build.

To understand what has happened, one has to consider the goals and challenges of road supporters and opponents.  The supporters want to fund its construction.  That’s tough because the road will cost roughly half a billion dollars and the county is reducing its annual issues of general obligation bonds to trim future debt service.  Opponents want to remove the road from the county’s master plans.  They believed they had a chance to do that since six Council Members said they opposed M-83 during the 2014 elections.  But that has not happened.

The council’s resolution, passed on Halloween, did not implement the agendas of either side.  Its action language is worth reading word for word.

The County Council for Montgomery County, Maryland approves the following resolution:

  1. The Council supports expanded capacity on I-270, the Corridor Cities Transitway, Bus Rapid Transit on or near MD 355, and improvements on MD 355. These improvements will provide significant, immediate relief for Upcounty residents. These improvements align with our economic development strategies, providing the broadest and most diverse benefits, and minimize impervious surface, stormwater runoff, carbon emissions, and other environmental impacts.

  2. The Council directs the Montgomery County Planning Board not to assume additional road capacity from the northern extension of Midcounty Highway when calculating the land use – transportation balance in future master plans, including but not limited to the upcoming Gaithersburg East Master Plan and the Germantown Plan for Town Sector Zone. This step ensures that any new development allowed under these plans does not rely on the northern extension of Midcounty Highway, while retaining the right-of-way for this extension in these plans.

Road supporters did not like the omission of M-83 from the list of projects supported by the council.  They should have no argument with the idea of not including M-83’s capacity in calculating infrastructure needs for future development.  That could help prevent the road from filling up immediately after it’s built (if it’s built).  But the last sentence referring to “retaining the right-of-way for this extension” is a big win for supporters of M-83.

Why does this matter?  A casual perusal of land ownership maps from the State Department of Assessments and Taxation shows massive county land holdings in the vicinity of M-83’s preferred alternative.  Identifying every one of the dozens of parcels owned by the county and county-affiliated entities there would be a time-consuming research project.

A sample of county-owned land for M-83 near Watkins Mill Road and Great Seneca Creek.

Instead, we asked the county Department of Transportation’s project manager for M-83 how much of the right-of-way for the road’s preferred alternative was currently owned by the county and state.  We received this response.

Dear Mr. Pagnucco:

Thank you for your interest in the Midcounty Corridor Study (M-83) project.  Per our preliminary assessment, approximately 60% ROW for M-83 has been dedicated or reserved and another 24% is in parklands owned by the County’s Parks.

Should you have any questions, please contact me.

Best regards,

Gwo-Ruey (Greg) Hwang, P.E.

Capital Projects Manager

That’s right, folks – the county and Park and Planning together control 84% of the right-of-way for M-83 right now.

Why does this matter?  Let’s remember the history of the Intercounty Connector.  The highway had been in master plans for decades.  As of 1997, the county and state owned more than half the right-of-way for the ICC.  The following year, Governor Parris Glendening announced he was killing the project and later told the state government to sell part of its right-of-way.  But the state did not sell off all its right-of-way and in fact purchased some of it after Glendening’s announcement.  Continued state ownership of the ICC’s right-of-way made it much easier for Glendening’s successor, Governor Bob Ehrlich, to reverse his decision and begin construction.

So it may be with M-83.  The county’s holdings of right-of-way for the project may be even greater as a percentage of its acreage than the state’s holdings of the ICC were a decade before its construction.  The resolution by the council explicitly calls for “retaining the right-of-way” in the master plans, suggesting that the county’s holdings will not be sold.  And the road has not been removed from any master plans, a key goal of opponents.

M-83 supporters should have hope.  M-83 opponents should beware.  Both sides have a lot of work to do in next year’s elections.

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Marc Elrich on Hogan’s Road Plan

The following post by Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large) continues Seventh State’s series on reactions to Gov. Larry Hogan’s road proposal by candidates for county executive. It appeared previously on Maryland Matters.

Recently, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced his $9 billion proposal to add toll lanes to I-270, I-495 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. While a number of people have initially enthusiastically supported his proposal, I think it bears a lot more scrutiny.

The best thing about it is that the governor shows a willingness to invest in infrastructure, though how much is state money and how much is user tolls is not known.

One of the problems is that he’s proposing a sledge hammer for a project that needs a scalpel. The scope of the proposed solutions for I-270 and I-495 are overly grandiose and unnecessary. On I-270 a more sensible approach would be two reversible lanes from the county line to the Beltway, which is what the County Council proposed several years ago. There isn’t room for four lanes, and it’s an unnecessary expense, because the congestion on I-270 is directional – meaning from north to south in the morning and the reverse in the evening. (It is also known as peak direction.)

Neither side of the road needs these lanes outside of the peak direction at rush hour. Reversible lanes are the most efficient use of money and space. These lanes should be for express bus and high-occupancy vehicles only.

On I-495 there are serious space constraints, particularly between New Hampshire Avenue and 355. Not only are there many houses close and a major hospital almost immediately adjacent to the highway, but there are also legal constraints regarding encroachments on Rock Creek. Multiple lanes would be an environmental disaster for Rock Creek.

Additionally, large sections of the Montgomery County portion would be astoundingly expensive – remember the overpass bridges don’t have enough room for four lanes of new highway. Instead, a single reversible lane might fit within the existing width of the highway. Engineering data would be needed to confirm this, but there seem to be at least some places wide enough to add a lane now using the inside shoulder service lane. It may be possible to add two lanes past 355 going to Virginia – reversible lanes should be used there as well. Why build what you don’t need?

Gov. Hogan is missing two bigger picture problems: transit in general and Metro in particular. If money is available for highway expansion, then money is available for Metro. Metro cannot fail – in fact, it needs to improve and absorb more riders from the roads. A Metro fail would devolve into a widespread road disaster because most people would use local roads, not the highways, to get around.

Because no highway goes into Washington, D.C., a Metro failure adds thousands of cars on Georgia, Connecticut and Wisconsin avenues. Those additional cars would flood the commute to the city as well as make a mess for those commuters trying to access the job centers along 355.

The second overarching problem is that the governor is not looking at the big picture. The Beltway and I-270 have congestion problems, but what happens when exiting these roads is equally problematic. Even if, for example, cars on the Beltway arrive quickly to Georgia Avenue at rush hour, they would face a long queue simply to exit the Beltway and then a slow slog on Georgia. In other words, the local road network is already overwhelmed and no amount of highway lanes can change that situation. So even if cars spend less time on 495 getting to an exit and then they are stuck on the exit ramp or on the road, where are the savings?

The realities of the commutes necessitate a commitment to local transit. Local transit is the only way to clear enough space off the roads so that people can get to their destinations in a reasonable amount of time.

Because building new local road lanes won’t work, increasing transit usage on the local road network is central to any solution.

The whole point of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network that I proposed was to increase mobility on local roads and take a load off the already overwhelmed road network. (I first proposed the BRT network in 2008 and it is slowly developing.) BRT built right and desirable to use will provide actual congestion relief – just imagine what the roads would function like without a Metro and if those passengers returned to their cars.

Any plan that doesn’t integrate the local roads and the highways is simply not going to work. The governor should look more carefully at what is needed, rather than just declaring the addition of four lanes to the highway at great public expense, whether four lanes are needed or not. A more strategic assessment would free up capital that could go toward a more comprehensive, successful solution.

And, there are two other things to consider. A public private partnership, or P3, may be the most expensive way to fund a project and that is going to reverberate in tolls. Essentially, people with money to spend get a better highway experience and those without the means, remain in a poor experience. If money is the ticket to the new lanes, then you’re disincentivizing car pools, van pools and buses.

We need to get cars off the road, rather than finding extravagant ways to keep them on the road. This is a huge public expenditure with no accompanying analysis of what the state won’t be able to fund as a result – I’m worried about education, transit funding, and other critical infrastructure. Since none of us believes that there’s an infinite well of money, an expenditure like this on three roads may well mean that other critical projects don’t get done.

Another unknown is the impact of increased telecommuting. If we could get 15-20 percent of the workforce telecommuting each work day, we’d be dealing with a far less expensive problem to solve and probably have a much better travel environment.

I know the governor’s announcement makes a great news splash, and it certainly allows Gov. Hogan to say “I’m committed,” but it’s not very well thought out beyond that. I’d like to take the actual state dollars he’s offering and then have a real conversation about a comprehensive solution to the problem that actually makes better connections where trips start and where they end. And transit must be the central part of that conversation.

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Bill Frick on Hogan’s Road Plan

The following post by Del. Bill Frick (D-16) continues Seventh State’s series on reactions to Gov. Larry Hogan’s road proposal by candidates for county executive:

Traffic congestion is possibly the biggest challenge to Montgomery County’s quality of life and its economy, so I am pleased that Governor Hogan is talking about taking bold steps to deal with this problem.  That said, what little we know of Hogan’s strategy raises many questions that must be answered.

Will we really be able to accomplish all he has outlined with private dollars?< Will there be any work to remedy clogged arterial streets and the bottleneck at the American Legion Bridge?

Would an all-toll solution provide enough capacity that it benefits non-toll drivers?   

Will Hogan address Metro’s problems with seriousness and collaboration with DC, VA and the Federal Government?

Will Hogan include – and fund- the Corridor Cities Transitway as part of the I-270 strategy?

These are merely some of the policy questions.  This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the practical and logistical issues that the proposal presents.

I hope that Governor Hogan is committed to real solutions to a real big problem.  Press conferences are not enough.  We need leaders to devote serious work, provide adequate resources, and bring stakeholders together across party and jurisdictional lines to get this county moving again.

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George Leventhal on Hogan’s Road Plan

I had the chance to speak with George Leventhal about Gov. Hogan’s road proposal. He explained that the proposal was a complete surprise to local officials because just days earlier Hogan’s Department of Transportation had presented their proposal to spend $100 million to improve mobility on I-270.

As for Hogan’s new proposal, created without any consultation with Montgomery officials, George said “It isn’t possible to be for it or against it because we don’t really know what it is.” In particular, he he emphasized the lack of any information on whether the proposal would include the American Legion Bridge.

The following is by Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large):

We need a lot more information about Governor Hogan’s announcement yesterday, but I am glad to see him paying attention to Montgomery County’s traffic congestion problems. I have been calling for expanded capacity on I-270 and the American Legion Bridge for a long time, and until yesterday, the governor had offered only a good, but insufficient, proposal for I-270, to improve technology and signalization, totaling $100 million. It will be interesting to learn how his new proposal is to be integrated with that earlier proposal.

The County Council has called for two additional reversible lanes on I-270, and it will be worth discussing with the state whether that would be sufficient, and obviate the need for four new lanes. Also, I would like to see a dedicated transitway as part of any plan for I-270 and the American Legion Bridge.

When it comes to I-495 east of the I-270 spur, I don’t understand how lanes could be added without significant adverse consequences to homes, businesses, watersheds, and Rock Creek, Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch Parks.

The governor’s attention to our transportation problems is welcome, but it would have been nice to see closer consultation with local officials before the announcement was made. Fortunately, it’s just a broad outline at this point and I hope that he and his team will now work with local government to figure out the details.

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