Stuck in Traffic on the Capital Beltway & I-270? Montgomery County’s Pro-Gridlock Caucus Would Keep You There
Marylanders spend more time commuting to work than the residents of every other state, apart from New York. Beyond being maddeningly frustrating, congestion results in less time spent with families and discourages workers from taking better jobs requiring longer commutes.
The statewide cost of congestion based on auto delay, truck delay and wasted fuel and emissions was estimated at $2 billion in 2015. This is an increase of 22% from the $1.7 billion estimated congestion price tag in 2013.
Governor Larry Hogan has proposed adding four new lanes to I-270, the Capital Beltway (I-495), and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD 295), as part of a $9 billion “Traffic Relief Plan.” The Hogan approach involves using private funds to finance the expansion, through a “Public-Private Partnership (P3P).” The P3P would use private developers to design, build, finance, operate and maintain these new express lanes.
To be sure, the Hogan approach involves tolls to pay for the improvements. However these are entirely voluntary tolls that only apply when a driver uses an express lane. This gives drivers the option to choose to pay for faster travel, essentially when a driver’s personal “time is money” calculation warrants their doing so. Non-express lane users also benefit from the additional road capacity and the diverted traffic. These express lanes have already been deployed extensively in Virginia and north of Baltimore on I-95.
The Hogan approach also relies on cutting-edge smart traffic signals to improve traffic flow, easing congestion for approximately 700,000 drivers per day on 14 major corridors across the state. The system uses real-time traffic condition data and computer software to adjust traffic signal timing, synchronizing entire corridors to keep traffic moving.
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Yet Governor Hogan’s “Traffic Relief Plan” faces stiff opposition from the Pro-Gridlock Caucus in Annapolis. They want to erect multiple barriers in front of the plan. These include forcing the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transportation Authority to pull their current pre-solicitation report and not present a new one until 2020.
Montgomery County Sen. Will Smith and County Delegates Al Carr and Marc Korman would undo the state’s current P3P process, which was first recommended by an O’Malley Administration task force led by then Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and then adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support by the General Assembly in 2013.[i] Hardly surprising, but the Pro-Gridlock Caucus of Smith, Korman and Carr never raised any of their current P3P objections when the same financing mechanism was used for the Purple Line.
Among their complaints has been that more money should be spent on public transportation. Yet nearly half of Maryland’s transportation spending goes for mass transit, although cars account for approximately 97% of all travel. Mass transportation zealots try to rationalize this imbalance to motorists by promising that travelers will be diverted away from the roads to transit. However, despite decades of spending, the promised travel “diversion” to public transit has never materialized.
Instead, Maryland mass transit’s increase of 52,000 daily commuters has been more than offset by a 62,000 loss in carpool commuters. According to U.S. Census data between 1990 and 2008, 93 percent (400,000) of all additional commutes were by single-occupant automobiles. Interestingly, almost as many commuters have been “diverted” from the roads by working at home (47,000), as they were by mass transit.
Governor Hogan’s “Traffic Relief Plan” is essential for repealing the state’s onerous “Congestion Tax” and restoring quality of life for countless Marylanders who have been stuck in traffic.[i] https://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc5300/sc5339/000113/014000/014344/unrestricted/20120155e.pdf