Transportation Council Supports I-270 Toll Lane Project | Politics and government
A plan to add toll lanes to Interstate 270 is back after a vote Wednesday by a regional transportation council that overturned a vote last month.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Council vote added the plan to the air quality compliance analysis for its Visualize 2045 long-term transportation plan.
The council vote in June to remove the project that would add densely occupied toll lanes to I-270 and I-495 from the American Legion Bridge between Maryland and Virginia in Frederick brought several jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia to ask to reconsider the issue at Wednesday’s Rendezvous.
The vote also led Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner (D) to replace County Councilor Kai Hagen, who voted to withdraw the project, with herself as the county representative on Council of ‘administration.
Gardner and Frederick Alderman Kelly Russell (D), the city representative, both voted to add the project to the compliance analysis.
If a major project such as toll lanes is not included in the air quality analysis and long-term plan, the plan would not meet federal requirements for final environmental review approval. of the project, according to a statement from the TPB. The air quality scan is expected to be completed by June 2022 – before the board votes to finalize the update to the long-term plan.
As the federally appointed planning body for the Washington metropolitan area, the TPB is required to conduct analyzes to ensure that all major regional projects collectively meet federal air quality standards.
The first phase of the project would run from the American Legion Bridge to Interstate 370 near Gaithersburg, while the second phase would run from I-370 to Interstate 70 in Frederick.
The amended resolution approved Wednesday included an agreement between the state Department of Transportation and Montgomery County to use project money to fund transit projects in the county.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Gardner said his vote represented the majority of Frederick County Council.
Gardner also asked Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater to commit to similar transit investments for the northern portion of the plan.
The northern section will benefit from the same type of appropriate transit investment as the southern section, Slater said.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R), for whom the toll project has been a key priority during his tenure, called Wednesday’s vote a victory for Marylanders who are stuck in “crushing” traffic.
The vote was a “victory over the small group of Montgomery County politicians and far-left activists who sought to derail a compromise demanded by Montgomery County and already approved by the bipartisan Public Works Council.”
The June vote sparked a mixed reaction from local officials.
The anticipated loss of revenue from tolls led the MDOT to warn that a variety of projects would have to be phased out or delayed if the project was not put back into review.
Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor urged the TPB to reinstate the project. He wrote: “The Town of Frederick and the County of Frederick are attracting large employers who expect to attract labor from the area and we anticipate increased traffic in both directions which amplifies our need improvements not only on the outskirts of our city at Route 70, Frederick on Route 15, which is now at risk.
Meanwhile, Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Dist. 8) sent a letter with his Maryland colleague Anthony Brown (D-Dist. 4) urging the board to respect its June vote.
“Our constituents who are likely to be most affected by the widening of I-495 / I-270 have continually expressed their concerns about the health and financial consequences of the project,” wrote members of Congress. “They rightly note that the expansion project will add more cars to the highway, inflicting increased air pollution on surrounding communities at a time when we need to cut emissions and lower pollution levels.”
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