Governor Larry Hogan fought back Tuesday against opponents of his plan to add toll lanes on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270, pitching the project ahead of a crucial Board of Public Works vote Wednesday.
The vote “will determine the quality of life for Marylanders for decades to come,” Hogan said at the Maryland Free Enterprise Foundation’s annual State of Business Address. Hogan said the new lanes will relieve traffic congestion in Maryland’s D.C. suburbs.
“Unbelievably, some legislators and local elected officials are apparently in favor of continued traffic congestion and are once again working to stall our plans to solve traffic congestion issues,” Hogan said, adding that those opponents are offering “no real solutions.”
Hogan painted the fight as a “bad movie sequel” to a 2017 fight over a bill to rank highway projects. Critics of that bill worried projects in heavily populated areas would be favored over rural projects.
Critics of the toll lanes plan have dubbed the lanes “Lexus lanes,” saying they’d only assist commuters who can afford to drive in them. They point to neighboring Virginia, where such tolls sometimes reach more than $40 to travel a 10-mile section of I-66.
Others, including officials in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, have said the state is dead set on toll lanes and didn’t look into other less costly options. They include expanding public transit or making smaller road improvements.
Hogan had already pushed back against these criticisms, calling the opponents of his plan “pro-traffic activists” on Facebook and Twitter.
The plan, which Hogan announced in 2017, was originally projected to cost $9 billion, but that figure has since risen to $11 billion.
Toll rates would be set by the Maryland Transportation Authority and vary based on traffic congestion and time of day. The existing lanes on these highways would remain free to commuters.
The project would be completed through what’s known as a public-private-partnership. The state will choose a private company to build the lanes, and that company will recover what it spent in construction through toll revenues. The three-member Board of Public Works, which includes Hogan, Democratic Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot, is scheduled to vote on approving the public-private partnership Wednesday.