(Rockville, February 27th) Abandoned promises and disregard for public preferences by the State’s Transportation agency has sapped the confidence of I-270 neighbors in the State’s process and increased the pressure for Legislative action, DontWiden270.org founder Peter Altman explained in written testimony submitted to the Senate Finance Committee for its January 27th, 2019 hearing on SB 442, the “County Consent” bill.
The bill would prohibit construction of toll roads, highways, or bridges without the consent of a majority of the affected counties. If enacted, the bill would effectively require the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to work out a plan for I-270 with Montgomery County leaders, who have consistently expressed their opposition to any plan that would result in tearing down homes or businesses. It is cross-filed in the Maryland House as HB 102.
“The Maryland Department of Transportation abandonment of promises and disregard for public input is exacerbating anxiety about the future of neighborhoods by the highways and undermining faith in the process, making it even more important that legislators protect residents by giving counties a greater say in toll road projects like the one that threatens our communities,” Altman said. “The County Consent bill would ensure that MDOT cannot just do what it wants, public be damned.”
Altman documents three examples of a “pattern of promising, then declining to follow-through on those promises, of taking public input on the project, then disregarding that input” in his testimony, including MDOT’s decision to drop consideration of transit from further consideration as a solution to congestion on I-270 and I-495 despite strong public preference for transit, as well as promises made and abandoned by Governor Larry Hogan and Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn:
Earlier this month, the Maryland Department of Transportation published a summary and compendium of public comments received about the controversial plan to widen I-270 and I-495. MDOT’s tabulation showed heavy rail and light rail to be the 2nd and 4th most preferred options. Nevertheless, just weeks after publishing the comments summary, MDOT quietly posted an update on its website indicating that it intends to drop the most-preferred options of transit and traffic demand management from its list of alternatives, and will continue its focus solely on options that involve adding lanes to the highways.
Governor Hogan first promised that no homes would be knocked down for the project on September 4th, yet despite repeated requests from residents and local officials, he has refused to make a binding commitment to that effect.
Secretary Rahn repeated the promise to local elected officials and the public during MDOT’s October 11th “Road Show” event in Rockville, but undermined that promise in January when during testimony on HB 102, the House version of SB 442, he noted that MDOT would take homes if “necessary.”
Altman also testified on the numerous case studies and academic papers documenting that adding lanes to highways does not work as a long-term solution to congestion.
Altman’s testimony can be downloaded here.
For more information about SB 442, see https://bit.ly/2UaWkMS.
About DontWiden270.org: The neighbor’s group was founded in response to Governor Hogan’s plan to widen I-270 and I-495. Since its formation, the group’s volunteers have been active in educating community residents about the threat and what they can do about it. The group was the first to get Governor Larry Hogan on record promising the project would not knock down any homes, led the call urging the Governor to make his promise a binding commitment, organized local citizens to attend public meetings with MDOT and local elected officials, written to and met with elected representatives with the City, County and General Assembly about the project, and watchdogged the Hogan administration’s backtracking on its promise to protect homes. The petition in support of HB 102 can be read here: www.dontwiden270.org/supporthb102.
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 Alternatives Public Workshops Summary, January 2019. Published by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administrations, and downloaded February 12, 2019 from https://495-270-p3.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/495270MLS_PW_Summary012418_FINAL.pdf.
 MDOT’s overview of the screened alternatives is here: https://495-270-p3.com/environmental/alternatives/screened-alternatives/ and a short video on the subject is here: https://495-270-p3.com/screened_alternatives_video/.
 MDOT OFFICIALS ON WIDENING I-270: ‘WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE YOUR HOME, MyMCMedia.org, October 11, 2018. https://www.mymcmedia.org/mdot-officials-on-widening-i-270-were-not-going-to-take-your-home/
 Maryland Transportation Secretary Promises Not to Raze Homes in 270/495 Expansion, Bethesda Magazine, October 12, 2018. https://bethesdamagazine.com/bethesda-beat/transportation/maryland-transportation-secretary-promises-not-to-raze-homes-in-270-495-expansion/?fbclid=IwAR0LN7k8HbUC9fSEs81crabBddehfBjNH2OwJwzZseQZ92asCkBzIxxzr6E.