Today, I am pleased to start a series presenting the views of candidates for the Democratic nomination for county executive on Gov. Larry Hogan’s plans to widen I-270, I-495 and the BW Parkway. The following is by Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-1):
I am pleased that the Governor has come in off the sidelines and onto the playing field to address one of our county’s and our region’s greatest challenge: congestion. Congestion robs our residents of their time and diminishes our quality of life and our competitiveness. We need to take strong action.
But we also need to take action that is focused, efficient, and smart, action that comes after consultation with the communities most affected. I deeply regret that the Governor did not engage in any dialogue with our county on his plan. It would have been a better plan if he had. Bigger is not always better. And that is particularly true when the costs are to be paid for by drivers and when you don’t want to create even more demand by promoting more sprawl.
I have four main issues with the Governor’s plan:
- Instead of 4 lanes on 270, our Council has advocated for years that the state should add two reversible lanes. 270 is almost entirely peak driven. We need AM and PM rush hour capacity. Reversible lanes provide precisely that.
- While the Governor has proposed adding capacity “to” the American Legion Bridge, he has not said if or how he would “fix” the American Legion Bridge. Adding capacity to the bridge without fixing it would make one of the worst chokepoints in the region that much worse. Fixing the American Legion Bridge has to be one of the highest priorities of any plan to address congestion, and any fix should accommodate rapid transit between Montgomery County & Fairfax, a long term goal of ours.
- The Governor’s plan calls for 4 new lanes on the Beltway. Most of us who use the Beltway every day scratch our heads and wonder where he thinks we can get 4 lanes without taking scores of homes, destroying neighborhoods, taking hospitals and park land. Getting any additional capacity will be a challenge, let alone 4 lanes.
- The Governor’s plan does not recognize the value of transit. Our top transit priority along the 270 corridor is the CCT. We had to beg to get just enough dollars in the state budget to keep it alive. Transit proximity is what future looking companies like Amazon are looking for. Not highways. And on highways, our Council has urged High Occupancy Toll Lanes, lanes that give priority to car pools, vans, and buses. Express lanes, as the Governor has proposed, does not do that. Highways are a 20th century solution. Transit is the 21st century choice. The Governor needs to double down on his commitment to transit.
Bottom line: the Governor has started a critically important conversation. But it better be just the start, not the end of it.