November 11, 2020

County Executive Elrich and County Council Reiterate Support for MD-200 Diversion Alternative for I-495 and I-270 Congestion Relief

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and the County Council sent a joint letter on Nov. 9 to the Maryland Department of Transportation that again raises concerns about proposals in the State’s I-495 and I-270 Managed Lanes Study Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). County Executive Elrich and the Council reaffirmed the County's support for using the MD-200 Diversion Alternative (the Intercounty Connector) as its preferred alternative for reducing congestion on the eastern portion of I-495. The letter also expressed support for managed lanes on I-270 and the western portion of I-495, where the existing right-of-way is much wider.

The DEIS includes traffic, environmental, engineering and financial analyses of the build alternatives and the no-build alternatives. Some of the concerns detailed in the letter include insufficient alternatives analyses; the impacts on natural resources, adjacent property and parkland; uncertainty about the transportation impacts and the benefits of the project; changing travel patterns; and environmental impacts and mitigation measures.

The letter also raises significant concerns about the proposed public-private partnership (P3) model and the financial viability of the proposal. The P3 model would have a private entity build the project in exchange for toll revenues that would be generated. The joint letter can be viewed here.

“We all agree that congestion issues on I-495, I-270 and nearby roadways need attention and improvement. However, we have serious and widespread concerns with the plan that is currently under consideration,” said County Executive Elrich. “The recommendations that we have put forward provide the State with some very effective solutions that should be considered and ultimately adopted. They address the concerns raised by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board and they provide the State with an opportunity to include input from the people who will be directly affected by this project.”

Council President Sidney Katz said: “What the State has presented thus far is inadequate. We are calling for them to go back and reevaluate the alternatives, the environmental impacts and the cost/benefit analysis. Congestion reduction remains a top priority for us, but we must be certain that we are accomplishing this in the best way possible.”

Council Vice President Tom Hucker, who chairs the Transportation and Environment Committee, said: “Our County's position on the I-495 and I-270 DEIS is an important roadmap for the State. However, if the State continues to choose to ignore the best consensus opinion of the elected officials, planners and transportation officials of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, taxpayers will be on the hook for potentially billions of dollars. As currently planned, this project has up to $2 billion in unexpected utility costs, enormous negative impacts on our environment and our parklands, and it is unlikely to meaningfully address our changing transportation needs. I urge the State to embrace our roadmap for a more effective and less costly alternative plan to address our transportation challenges.”