Dozens of Maryland lawmakers are speaking out against a proposal to contract with a private company to add miles of toll lanes to two busy highways in the Washington suburbs.
Fifty-nine lawmakers wrote to members of the state Board of Public Works on Monday, urging them to reject Gov. Larry Hogan’s toll lane proposal for the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270.
The Board of Public Works is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to allow the project to move forward. The board is comprised of Hogan, a Republican; Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot and Democratic Treasurer Nancy Kopp.
The state delegates and senators, all Democrats, wrote in their letter that the state should instead break the proposal up into smaller segments that should each face approval, complete an environmental impact statement and limit the number of properties affected by construction. They also urged the state transportation officials to “work collaboratively” with stakeholders.
“Your decision at this meeting will have lasting consequences for our constituents and our state,” the delegates and senators wrote.
Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, said the administration is addressing those concerns, including conducting a National Environmental Policy Act review during the design process and “incentivizing potential developers” to avoid displacing people from their homes.
“Good news: We are well on our way to doing all of the things that these legislators request,” Ricci said in a statement. “We look forward to implementing these ideas as part of our plan to fix the region’s soul-crushing traffic.”
If the Board of Public Works votes in favor, state officials will be able to move forward with certifying companies to bid on the project, called a public-private partnership. The winning bidder will get a contract to widen the highways with toll lanes and a 50-year concession to receive proceeds from tolls on the new lanes to recoup its investment.
Meanwhile, representatives from 43 organizations also sent a letter Monday to Board of Public Works members advocating against the toll lanes.
Signatories of that letter include groups focused on advocacy for the environment, preservation, bicycling and mass transit. Their concerns include possible negative effects on the environment from the project and a lack of focus on mass transit improvements.
The toll lanes proposal “has dangerous omissions, makes irresponsible decisions and promotes private profits and public pain,” the groups wrote in their letter.