In case you missed it, Governor Larry Hogan proposed a $9 billion concept to widen highways and add toll lanes for some of Maryland’s busiest roadways.
The plan seeks to alleviate traffic on some of Maryland’s most congested roads – Interstate 495, Interstate 270 and portions of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. To accomplish this, public-private partnerships would be sought, limiting the use of taxpayer funds in exchange for privatizing the new toll lanes. This financing scheme has allowed large transportation projects to be built elsewhere, most notably in Northern Virginia’s congested corridors in and around its portion of Interstate 495.
The three roads chosen for widening and toll lanes would largely relieve congestion in the Washington, D.C., region of Maryland. The Greater Baltimore Committee is working with transportation and business leaders to continue the Howard Street Tunnel expansion (despite the recent news that the project is no longer a CSX priority) and improvements to Interstate 95 at the Port Covington redevelopment site.
Governor Hogan’s plan has drawn its share of concerns. What impact do these projects have on the environment and those neighborhoods in the path of the proposed construction? What about public transit options? Do toll lanes benefit only drivers who can afford to use them? What input will Maryland policymakers have in the planning and implementation process? Will all three road construction projects occur simultaneously? Will a public-private partnership be sufficient to protect the Transportation Trust Fund from being impacted?
One of the only things we know for certain is that many of the details remain unknown in these early stages. What also seems certain is that any project this expensive cannot happen without the partnership and involvement of private entities. Perhaps the most important takeaway is the acknowledgement that transportation, mobility and congestion relief are paramount to creating a better business climate, creating good jobs and improving the quality of life for all Marylanders.