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Big number of the day: $4.6 billion

The State Highway Administration has released a new estimate of the cost of a proposed project to widen Interstate 270 in Montgomery and Frederick counties: $4.6 billion. It had previously estimated the project at $3.9 billion -- a price tag opponents of the project had already described as exorbitant.

The new figure -- almost twice the cost of the $2.6 billion Inter-county Connector -- is likely to raise eyebrows among Baltimore-area transit advocates. The Maryland Transit Administration is scrimping and saving and making painful cuts just to bring its proposed Red Line project within federal guidelines. It's not true that money can be moved from a highway project to a transit project with the snap of a finger, but Baltimoreans can't be blamed for asking what's going on here. This would be yet another highway mega-project for Montgomery County, coming on the heels of the yet-to-be-completed ICC.

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This blog would never suggest that Baltimore-area politicians stir up regional resentments or demagogue the issue. But a reasonable observer could foresee the possibility it could happen. At the very least, advocates of the project need to explain how this enormous expenditure would benefit the state as opposed to one corridor.

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