On June 5, the Maryland Board of Public Works voted on Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan for a $9 billion highway expansion project that includes construction of toll roads in Maryland along I-270, the Capital Beltway, and the Baltimore/Washington Parkway (“Don't rubber stamp Hogan's toll plan, Mr. Comptroller,” June 5). While the approved Washington D.C. highway projects, it opted to delay work on the Capital Beltway (“Maryland Gov. Hogan wins key approval for toll lanes project in D.C. suburbs,” June 5).
As a traffic and transportation planner, I thought it was helpful to provide some background details on the issue.
The Baltimore-Washington region comes in only behind Los Angeles as having the worst traffic in the nation. To put it in perspective, the average driver in the Baltimore area lost 50 hours, at a cost of $1,220.
Our interstate system was built 60 to 70 years ago, when traffic was drastically different. It is time to update our roadways for current and future transportation needs. One of the best ways to both modernize roadways and relieve traffic congestion is to build toll roads, which would take effect during peak travel times.
While many do not like the idea of tolling, the reality is HOT lanes and congestion pricing work. Maryland currently has congestion pricing on the HOT lanes along I-95, on the east side of Baltimore and on the InterCounty Connector.
Congestion pricing can apply to HOT lanes, which are typically adjacent to general-purpose lanes and toll roads. That means during periods of peak use, such as the morning and evening rush hours, tolls would be used as a way to encourage cars to find alternate routes or times to travel.
But, do HOT lanes and congestion pricing really work? Yes. Along I-95 in Fairfax County, Virginia, there has been an average 25 percent reduced delay in the general purpose lanes during peak commuting times. Those not involved in congestion pricing are reaping the rewards of those who are in the HOT lanes.
The fact is, those individuals who can afford to use toll roads do, to the benefit of those who are in the general-purpose lanes.
Are toll roads worth it and will I benefit as a daily commuter? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding, yes.
Wes Guckert, White Marsh
The writer is president and CEO of The Traffic Group, a Maryland-based traffic engineering and transportation planning firm.