DontWiden270.org Testimony on SB 442: State Transportation Department’s Disregard for Public Views Amplifies Need for County Consent Bill

(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[1] 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[2] 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[3] 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.[4]

  • Secretary Rahn repeated[5][6] 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[7] 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 commitmentorganized local citizens to attend public meetings with MDOT and local elected officialswritten 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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[1] 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.

[2] 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/.

[3] Video of September 4, 2018 exchange with Governor Hogan: https://youtu.be/7aMxx2ii9JQ.

[4] A copy of Secretary Rahn’s October 19, 2018 response is posted here: https://bit.ly/2E77ZFC

[5] 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/

[6] 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.

[7] Video record of Environment and Transportation Committee hearing, January 22, 2019, posted at https://bit.ly/2GWUgnU. Secretary Rahn’s comment occurs at 1:09:40.

Community Meeting Against Widening I-270 - March 9

DontWiden270.org is organizing a Community Meeting Against Widening I-270 on March 9th. In the wake of the Maryland Department of Transportation's (MDOT) decision to abandon consideration of all transit options to relieve congestion and focus solely on adding lanes to I-270, local residents are more concerned than ever about the uncertain fate of our homes, neighborhoods, and communities. 

That’s why this meeting will focus on resident concerns and what our elected representatives are doing about this problem. This is your opportunity to hear from Delegate Kumar Barve, who heads the powerful Environment and Transportation Committee, and other local elected officials what actions they are taking to put the brakes on MDOT's plans to widen I-270. And its your opportunity to impress upon our elected officials the urgency of dealing with this debacle.

The meeting is on March 9th, at 3:00 pm at the Rockville Senior Center, 1150 Carnation Dr, Rockville.

There are three things you can do right now:

  1. RSVP to let us know that you’ll be joining us, and if you can volunteer to help make the meeting a success!

  2. Invite others to the meeting by sharing this invite with them.

  3. Share the event on Facebook and Twitter.

Hogan admin Rejects Transit Options Preferred by Public, Limits I-495, I-270 Plans to Adding Lanes

Announcement Bulldozes Public Comments, Concerns of Highway Neighbors

February 14, 2019 - The Hogan administration has announced its intention to limit its analysis of I-270 and I-495 options to those that add as many as four new lanes to one or both highways, and abandon consideration of rail, bus-rapid transit and bus-only lane options.

The announcement came just days after the transportation agency quietly published a summary of public comments which showed that the most preferred options are for any changes to stay within the existing footprints of the highways, and that transit solutions are preferred over adding lanes. It isn’t clear from MDOT’s announcement what the implications are for homes and businesses adjacent to the highways, but many have questioned how as many as four lanes could be added without having to pave over neighboring homes and properties.

“What does this mean for homes and neighborhoods by the highway? We still don’t know, and by throwing transit under the bus and limiting its focus to adding lanes, Governor Hogan’s administration is bulldozing over public opinion and raising the anxiety and uncertainty that nearby residents are experiencing over the future of our communities,” said Pete Altman of DontWiden270.org, a local citizen group opposed to widening the highways beyond their existing footprints.

Read more here.

MDOT Document Reveals Ardent Opposition to I-270 / I-495 Widening

Official Tally Shows Transit and Technology Preferred to Adding Tolled, Other Lanes

(Rockville, February 12) Public comments on plans to widen I-270 and I-495 show significantly more support for keeping any changes within the highways’ existing footprint than any other viewpoint, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) own tally. The figures appear on a single page of a 130-page Alternatives Public Workshops Summary quietly published by MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration in sometime after January 30th. The document has not previously received public attention.

Read more here.

Urge Delegate Barve to Support Legislation to Block Widening I-270

Governor Hogan is rushing ahead with an ill-conceived, wasteful and counter-productive $9-$11 billion plan to widen I-270 –putting homes, neighborhoods and businesses near the highway at risk of getting paved over.

A bill now before the legislature, HB 102, would forbid construction of new toll roads unless they are approved by a majority of the counties they pass through. This bill would give Montgomery County residents a real voice in transportation decisions that affect us and help us create a balanced transportation system that provides good transit alternatives to our ever-crowded highways.

Delegate Kumar Barve, who represents Rockville and Gaithersburg (District 17), is chairman of the Transportation and Environment Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates. HB 102 is coming before Del. Barve’s committee soon.

Click here to tell Delegate Barve you want him to support HB 102.

(Rockville or Gaithersburg - District 17 - residents only, please - we don’t want to send Delegate Barve names of people he doesn’t represent! If you want to urge your own legislators to support the bill, you can find out who represents you here.)

Hogan Admin Backs Away from Promises That Highway Projects Won't Take Homes

In Committee Hearing, Secretary Rahn Refuses to Guarantee Highway Projects Won’t Take Homes, Stay within Existing Right-of-Way

On Tuesday, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn undermined months of his and Governor Hogan’s promises that the Governor’s plans for I-270 and I-495 wouldn’t require paving over any homes.

During a joint hearing of the Appropriations and the Environment & Transportation Committees, Rahn allowed for the possibility that the project could require going beyond existing rights-of-way (ROW.) Furthermore, he refused to commit that no homes would be taken, instead saying that MDOT plans to emphasize that desire with prospective bidders for the project.

Rahn’s new statements stand in contrast to what he told Montgomery County elected officials during his Department’s “Road Show” in Rockville in October. As MyMCMedia reported, Rahn told elected representatives from Montgomery County that “The improvements can be done within existing right-of-way without having to take anyone’s home,” Rahn said. “The answer is no, we’re not going to take your home.”

In fact, Rahn had to stress this point under questioning by Senator Cheryl Kagan, who pressed him on the issue. Bethesda Magazine captured the exchange:

“But state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat who represents Rockville, wasn’t convinced, when a few minutes later, Rahn said there were “no plans” to raze any homes.

“Mr. secretary, I’m a word nerd. I just want to clarify something. Earlier you said ‘we will not.’ Just now you said ‘we have no plans.’ Plans can change,” she said.

Rahn than reassured Kagan definitively that no homes would be taken.”

The Hogan administration’s promises were first recorded and shared publicly Labor Day, when Gov Hogan made that promise to me during the Gaithersburg Labor Day parade and repeated it to news outlets WTOP and MyMCMedia shortly afterward.

Yet, during a legislative hearing in Annapolis, Secretary Rahn backpedaled and said something quite different to the legislators in the hearing. When asked about staying within existing right-of-way and impacts on homes, Rahn said MDOT “can learn from the private sector what they are viewing as how they will address the very difficult task of placing roads and bridges within this corridor and not having to take homes, not going beyond existing Right-of-Way unless it is absolutely positively necessary.” (Video of the hearing is posted here; Secretary Rahn’s comment occurs at 1:09:40.)

Well that clears things up. Secretary Rahn and the Governor have actually been promising to the public and elected officials that they’ll only take away homes if it is absolutely positively necessary? Based on the judgment of a private contractor who has no accountability to voters and residents? Even his use of the powerful double adverb doesn’t provide all that much assurance.

That wasn’t all. In response to questions about rights-of-way, eminent domain and homes from Delegate Marvin Holmes (District 23B, Prince George’s County), Secretary Rahn would only go so far as to say “Our direction to the P3 proposers will be that we stay within existing right of way would be #1 preferred; and #2 if we were to have to go [beyond the right of way] that no homes will be taken. So we’re being very specific that we don’t want to impact homes. I don’t believe we’re going to have to use eminent domain.” (Video of the hearing is posted here; Secretary Rahn’s comment occurs at 1:27:45.)

That doesn’t sound like much of a promise, or a guarantee. Clearly, while Hogan and Rahn have been telling some elected officials and citizens that they will definitely stay within existing rights-of-way and no homes will be taken, that isn’t what they are telling P3 proposers (in fact, by saying the state will direct P3 proposers, Rahn makes it sound as though MDOT hasn’t yet told prospective bidders about his ROW and no homes taken pledges.) And obviously not what they tell legislators when in the formal setting of a legislative hearing.

HB-91 would require the State to finish the formal process of analyzing the options for a project before moving ahead to solicit bids. If adopted, it would mean that lawmakers would have much more information about projects they are supposed to review before bids are solicited and contracts written - such as what the project is, what it would cost, how it would affect surrounding neighborhoods, the environment, and various risks and benefits to the state.

Citizens Against Beltway Expansion (CABE), the Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition (MTOC) the Southern Alliance for Rapid Transit (SMRT) and MD Sierra Club testified in support of HB-91. MTOC worked in an endorsement of HB-102 which would give counties a say over whether toll roads can be built within their limits.

DontWiden270.org encourages all concerned citizens to contact their Maryland Legislators and urge their support for HB-91 and other bills such as HB-102 which would both protect homeowners from the Governor’s current highway plans and require a more thorough and thoughtful process before privately-funded projects can leap ahead without sufficient public review and input. We’ve got a running list of such bills here; and you can find out who your Representatives are here.

 

 

Round-up of Proposed Legislation Concerning Hogan's I-270 / I-495 Plans

Issue Background:

Governor Hogan announced a public-private partnership (P3) in September 2017 to address congestion on I-270 and I-495. The proposed P3 Program would include developments on over 70 miles of I-495 and I-270 in Maryland; some of the options include widening I-270 by as many as four lanes.

In addition to putting homes and neighborhoods at risk, the transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Maryland passed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2016 to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 2006 levels by 2020 and by 40% from 2006 levels by 2030. To comply with this regulation, a bill is being proposed that would require a greenhouse gas emissions study for every major highway project in the State.

Support Pending Bills to Protect Our Homes and Neighborhoods from Governor Hogan’s Highway Plan. Contact your Maryland legislators (each of us are represented by 3 Delegates and 1 Senator) and urge them to support the following bills:

 HB-102: “Toll Roads, Highways, and Bridges – County Government Consent Requirement - Expansion”. Delegate Brooke Lierman (District 46, Baltimore City) introduced HB-102 on January 18, 2019 along with 21 co-sponsors from 7 counties. The bill would expand to all counties in the State a prohibition on State agencies constructing a toll road, highway, or bridge without the consent of a majority of the affected counties. This would give Montgomery County residents more of a say about Hogan’s plan. The bill is currently in the House Environment and Transportation Committee for a first reading.

HB-91: “Public-Private Partnerships – Presentation Reports – Environmental Impact Statement Requirement”. HB-91 was sponsored by Delegates Al Carr (District 18, Montgomery County) and Marc Korman, (District 16, Montgomery County). The bill was prompted because the Hogan administration is attempting to rush the I-270/I-495 schedule by getting approval to solicit bids on the project even before the environmental review is complete, which means lawmakers would essentially be allowing a $9 to $11 billion check to be written without knowing what they are getting. If adopted, the Hogan administration would have to complete the process of weighing all 15 alternatives for the project before resubmitting the pre-solicitation report.

This bill would apply to all P3 projects, including the current highway proposal and any that come after. The House Appropriations and Environment Committee and the House Transportation Committee meeting held a joint hearing on the bill on January 22, 2019. The bill will now go before the full House of Delegates. If it passes, it will be sent to a Senate committee and then to the full Senate. It will then go to Governor Hogan to sign. If he vetoes it, the bill will go back to the full Legislature, where if there are enough votes, the veto will be overridden.

Additional bills in development:

Vaughn Stewart bill: “Transportation Climate Accountability Act of 2019” 

Delegate Vaughn Stewart (District 19, Montgomery County) plans to sponsor a bill that would require the State to clearly and explicitly measure the greenhouse gas emissions, other air pollution, and impact on water quality that would result from proposed large transportation project investments. Read more.

Sara Love bill 

Delegate Sara Love (District 16, Montgomery County) plans to introduce a bill that would codify Governor Hogan’s promise to protect homes.  It’s modeled after a law that was passed to protect homes during the Red Line expansion.

 

 

 

DontWiden270 Bulletin Vol. 1, No. 1 - January 2019

DontWiden270 Bulletin
Volume 1, Number 1
January 2019

 


Welcome to the first issue of DontWiden270’s Bulletin to share current information on Governor Larry Hogan’s I-495 & I-270 P3 Program with individuals and communities along the I-270 corridor.

Hot News: 
State Senator Cheryl Kagan and Delegate Kumar Barve discussed their opposition to widening the footprint of I-270 in the Rockville area during the District 17 send-off event on Sunday, January 6th to discuss legislative priorities. Check out video of the whole event, or some of Senator Kagan’s and Delegate Barve’s remarks on the issue.

 

Senator Kagan and Delegate-elect Palakovich-Carr wore DontWiden270 badges during the District 17 send-off event on January 6th.

Issue Background:

Governor Hogan announced this public-private partnership (P3) in September 2017 to address congestion on I-270 and I-495. The proposed P3 Program would include developments on over 70 miles of I-495 and I-270 in Maryland; some of the options include widening I-270 by as many as four lanes. Not only would this devastate the neighborhoods where homes could be paved over to make room for additional lanes, studies repeatedly show that widening highways is ineffective at addressing congestion long-term. This P3 Program does not seriously consider other options, such as mass transit.
 
Volunteers Needed:
Want to help ensure our homes and neighborhoods are protected from Governor Hogan’s highway plans? We need you! DontWiden270.org is an all-volunteer effort. If you can help with any of the following, please let us know at dontwiden270@gmail.com:

  • Website updates (posting new information) and website improvements (such as adding capacity that makes it easier for people to take action.)

  • Educating people in your neighborhood about what’s going on.

  • Research to help us better inform the public, media and elected officials. There’s lots to look into and information to organize about the highway planning process, specific proposals the state is continuing to examine, and fact-checking claims and statements about the issue.

  • Identifying opportunities to pressure Governor Hogan, Secretary Rahn and other elected officials to make sure the highway isn’t physically widened.


Recent Events:

  • December 19, 2018:  The Maryland Board of Public Works awarded a $90 million contract to Maryland Traffic Relief Partners to provide comprehensive engineering and support services for the Project. The contract was approved by Governor Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot but Treasurer Nancy Kopf abstained stating she remained skeptical about the possible environmental impacts.

  • December 17, 2018:  Maryland State Delegation Bill Hearing. Delegate Al Carr (District 18) presented his bill MC 8-19, which would require authorization from Montgomery County before any state agency could acquire or construct any toll road, highway or bridge in Montgomery County. Eighteen citizens and organizations – including DontWiden270.org founder Pete Altman testified in support of the bill; five people, including some tied to the road building lobby, testified against the bill. A subcommittee of the Maryland House Environment and  Transportation Committee will meet January 15th to discuss the bill.

  • December 13/14, 2018:  The Maryland Department of Transportation(MDOT) presented a Business Project Plan at an international industry forum and held one-on-one meetings with potential concessionaires and contractors interested in the P3 Program. 

  • December 11, 2018:  MDOT submitted a Pre-Solicitation Information Report to the Board of Public Works to hire a private firm to design, build, operate and maintain toll roads on I-495 and I-270. MDOT is currently considering delivering the P3 Program as a series of long-term design-build-finance-operate-maintain revenue risk concessions. Each concession would encompass a portion of the I-495 and I-270 P3 Program and be solicited in phases. MDOT’s estimate for the Project has increased from $9 billion to $11 billion.


Ongoing Activities:

The M-NCPPC report also expressed concern that the Managed Lanes Study Area encompasses many sensitive environmental features and any build alternative that accommodates lane expansion along the existing highway network will significantly alter or completely eliminate the functionality of these environmental features.
 
Looking Ahead:

  • February 2019:  MDOT to release “Alternatives Retained for Detailed Study” (ARDS), which will identify the selected designs for toll lanes or alternatives.

  • Spring 2019:  MDOT expects to identify its Preferred Alternative.

  • Fall 2020:  A final EIS and Record of Determination will be released by MDOT.

  • Public workshops are planned for Winter 2019 to present the Screened Alternatives and detailed analysis.


What You Can Do:
Our homes and neighborhoods are threatened by Governor Hogan’s plan to widen I-270 and I-495. State officials have repeatedly provided conflicting and evasive responses to public inquiries. Our representatives in the Maryland General Assembly need to hear from you. There are many issues for Legislators during the 90-day session, and we need to make sure Governor Hogan’s highway project is at the top of their list. Maryland's 17th district (sections of Rockville and Gaithersburg) is represented by Senator Cheryl Kagan and Delegates Kumar BarveJim Gilchrist, and Julie Palakovich Carr.  Refer to the list of legislators by County and District for other legislative districts. Please contact your State representatives and let them know how critical it is that they make this issue a priority in the current legislative session, which begins January 14th.
 
Show support for the City of Rockville Mayor and Council, who have vigorously advocated for Rockville property owners. The December 30th  Rockville Reports lists under priorities approved by the Mayor and Council, ensuring  that no Rockville homes, businesses or infrastructure are taken by the proposed project to widen I-270.
 
Please share information about DontWiden270 with friends and neighbors who live along the I-270 corridor and Citizens Against Beltway Extension (CABE) for those who live along I-495. Ask them to join the mailing lists and stay informed.
 
Contact DontWiden270@gmail.com if you have questions or comments on the issues presented in this newsletter.

Should 270 Widening Be A Priority for State Legislators?

Our homes and neighborhoods are still threatened by Governor Hogan’s plan to widen I-270 and I-495. We’re going to keep the pressure on the Governor, but its time to let our representatives in the State Legislature know that we need them to make this issue a priority in January, when the next legislative session begins.

They need to hear from you. There are a lot of issue for Legislators during the 90-day session, and we need to make sure Hogan’s highway project is at the top of their list.

That’s why your voice will matter so much at the public hearing on Wednesday, Nov 14 at 7pm. The entire Montgomery County delegation will be there to hear the public’s reaction to the State’s Transportation plans, including Hogan’s plan for I-270 and I-495.

Here are the details:

When: Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 7PM.

Where: 3rd Floor Hearing Room, Stella Werner Council Office Bldg., 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850. Need a map or directions?

What to do:

  1. Sign up to speak at the hearing. It's the single most important thing you can do to make sure our legislators prioritize this. Tell Legislators to protect our homes and neighborhoods from Governor Hogan’s highway plan. You must sign-up by noon on Nov 14th. Speaking slots are two minutes long. You can sign-up online, or you may call 410-841-3010 or 301-858-3010, or e-mail saha@mlis.state.md.us - before Noon on the 14th!

    Need some help with what to say? Here’s a guide on what to say and helpful points to make:

  2. Show up! Even if you don’t speak, being there shows you care.

  3. Bring a sign! Make your own or print one out. Just make sure its no bigger than a regular letter-size (8.5 x 11 inches.)