Gov. Larry Hogan and Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn recently announced two great improvements for vehicular transportation in the Baltimore area, as reported in the Baltimore Sun on Dec. 19 (“Gov. Larry Hogan proposes $461 million to ease congestion on Baltimore Beltway”). The first improvement is widening of the Baltimore Beltway along the north side from I-70 to MD 43 by converting the interior shoulders to driving lanes. The second improvement is the extension of the toll lanes along northbound I-95 to the MD 24 exit in Harford County.
As a Baltimore-based transportation planner, I felt it was helpful to provide additional details on this plan, and how it will likely impact area drivers. Like the announcement earlier this year about building toll lanes on I-270 and around the Capital Beltway, these two improvements have the potential to create much needed relief for commuters in the morning and evening peak rush periods.Some critics feel that if additional lanes are built they will only be filled up with new cars and before too long, and those new lanes will become unnoticeable. That will not be the case along the I-95 toll lanes in Baltimore and Harford Counties. The truth is, toll lanes provide a way to create revenue for other improvements while, at the same time, reducing travel time and congestion in the free or general purpose lanes.
Along the north side of the Beltway, it would not be wrong to create toll lanes, similar to what is being planned on the Capital Beltway in Maryland and the toll roads that currently exist in Northern Virginia on the Capital Beltway and I-66.
Indeed, sometimes new traffic lanes induce more traffic. I am not convinced that this would be the case along the north side of the Baltimore Beltway. There are not many alternatives to that area of the Baltimore Beltway where cars would divert from existing roads to the Beltway to fill up new lanes that will be created. I applaud the governor and the secretary for making this decision.
Wes Guckert, is president and CEO of The Traffic Group, a White Marsh-based traffic engineering firm.