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Feds agree to study transferring ownership of I-295 to Maryland

The federal government has agreed to study ways of transferring ownership of a 19-mile stretch of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (Interstate 295) to Maryland, federal and state officials announced Monday — a key step in Gov. Larry Hogan’s $9 billion highway expansion plan.

Hogan and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke have signed a non-binding general agreement to “explore potential legislative solutions” to transfer or exchange the expressway section that runs through Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, the governor announced.

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In a statement, Zinke expressed optimism for a potential trade for “land more suited to the mission of the National Park Service,” which manages the parkway under the Interior Department.

The highway, which runs between Baltimore and Washington, carries about 120,000 commuters per day.

“The Department of the Interior is not in the business of managing commuter highways,” Zinke said. “It makes sense to explore a potential exchange of a highway for land that is more suited to the mission of the National Park Service.”

Neither Hogan nor Zinke indicated what Maryland-owned land might be considered for such a trade.

In a statement, Hogan called the agreement “critical to the success of our Traffic Relief Plan for the state.”

Announced last year, Hogan’s plan involves widening highways by adding hundreds of miles of express toll lanes to I-295, I-270 and I-495 — the Capital Beltway.

Expanding I-295 would require the federal government to turn over the highway to the state. The Maryland Transportation Authority would build, operate and maintain the lanes, the governor said.

“While no decisions have been made, the agreement provides a framework for [the Interior Department] to collaborate with Governor Hogan and the state of Maryland to evaluate all possibilities,” the Interior Department said in its announcement.

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