Some Prince George’s County residents such as Daisy Cherry Maggett aren’t pleased with the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration’s ongoing proposal to expand Interstate 495 with toll lanes.
Maggett, president of the Wilburn Central Civic Association near Seat Pleasant, said the plan approved last week by the state’s Board of Public Works shows Gov. Larry Hogan cares chiefly about the revenue generated from tolls.
In addition, public comments on the project to relieve traffic congestion on both Interstates 495 and 270 in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties are due Friday, June 14 to the state Department of Transportation.
“I don’t think we should go for it,” Maggett said. “We don’t need any tolls. People can’t afford. [Hogan] showed his true colors with that vote.”
Hogan serves on the three-member board along with state Comptroller Peter Franchot, who voted in favor to continue work on the three-phase project estimated to cost $11 billion. The basic gist of the move allows the state Department of Transportation State Highway Administration to move ahead and seek bids for a private firm to participate in a public-private partnership to expand Interstates 495 and 270 in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, the board’s third member, voted against the move, calling for additional information such as more detailed financial and environmental analyses. One aspect Kopp and other project opponents sought before a vote was an environmental impact statement to outline how noise, construction and pollution would affect the 70-mile stretch.
Hogan slightly amended the traffic relief plan to first begin work on I-270 in Montgomery County just north of I-370. A study would now include work along I-270 heading north to Frederick County.
The second phase now proposed would conduct work in Montgomery County along I-495 west toward the George Washington Memorial Parkway at the American Legion Bridge in Montgomery County.
A third and final phase starts on I-495 in Prince George’s County heading south to the Branch Avenue exit, or Route 5, in Temple Hills. However, more analysis would be done from that exit to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge outside National Harbor, but the state Department of Transportation would need to work in conjunction with officials across the Potomac River in Virginia.
According to a draft of the project, work along I-495 west toward the bridge in Montgomery County was originally marked as the first phase. Several county residents pushed the importance of addressing I-270 first, as it is the most congested area in the region traffic-wise.
In addition, Franchot offered four amendments that assured no residential properties would be taken without Board of Public Works approval and 10 percent of all toll proceeds would go toward regional transit services.
“This transformative project is about finally moving forward and taking action on an issue that elected officials have literally ignored for decades,” Hogan said. “It will result in less traffic, more peace of mind, cleaner air and a much better quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Marylanders for decades to come.”
One day after the Board of Public Works vote on June 5, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission voted 9-1 against the plan because it didn’t supply adequate information on environmental impacts, phasing and lack of transit options.
The commission assesses, acquires and maintains parks and other land in both Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
Debra Borden, principal counsel with the commission, briefed Prince George’s County Council on the project Monday, June 10. She outlined several problems from the project that affects Prince George’s, including:
• No access of toll lanes near the new regional medical center under construction in Largo.
• No transit options.
• No access to major highways such as Routes 1, 50 and 450.
From the commission’s assessment, Borden said state officials don’t comprehend some of the transportation concerns in Prince George’s.
“Our job is the technical aspect of the study — not why should the project go forward, but how it should go forward,” Borden said. “We are not trying to step on any toes, but we are trying to do our job.”
Council members asked several questions to Borden and J. Kenneth Battle Jr., director of transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment for County Council. Battle attended last week’s public works meeting in Annapolis.
Councilwoman Monique Anderson-Walker (D-District 8) of Fort Washington asked would there be a possibility the third phase in the county doesn’t get done.
“That is a possibility,” Borden said. “But we have to review it as if all of the three phases are being built.”
Councilwoman Dannielle Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park said the project needs more work.
“I just don’t think it’s ready for prime time, but two gentlemen think it was,” she said in regards to Hogan and Franchot voting to continue work on the project.