Board of Public Works Allows Hogan's Highway Plan to Move Forward

But the decision to tackle all of I-270 first may create new problems for the controversial proposal

On Wednesday, June 5th 2019, the Board of Public Works authorized the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to proceed with the I-270/I-495 widening project as a public-private partnership.

Here are the basics of what happened, and what it may mean for opponents of the project and residents who live near the highways. (If you want to watch the meeting, you can do so here.)

1. Governor Hogan and Comptroller Franchot voted to formally make the I-270/I-495 project a P3, entitling MDOT to seek private funding. Treasurer Kopp voted against. 
2. Hogan amended the plan during the meeting to put I-270 FIRST for whatever changes they are going to make (until then, I-270 was going to be in two separate, later stages.) He also is delaying any changes to the American Legion Bridge.
3. Franchot offered several amendments, most of which appear to be meaningless. These are discussed below. 
4. Hogan made several references to establishing a process whereby MDOT and Montgomery and Prince George's County leaders would negotiate on plans for the beltway. No such provision was mentioned for I-270.

While the meeting at first appeared to seal the fate of I-270 neighbors while effectively granting a reprieve to those who live by I-495, the full implications of the decisions made are probably more complex. Clearly the acts of putting I-270 first, without modifications to the American Legion Bridge, and creating a mechanism for Montgomery and Prince George’s County leaders to negotiate with MDOT over beltway changes are all slaps in the face to the I-270 neighbors who have been opposing widening.

It was also extremely disappointing that Comptroller Franchot chose to back Hogan instead of his fiscal guardianship duties. It sounds as though Franchot was influenced by a call from County Executive Marcc Elrich to back Hogan’s revised plan: Franchot stated during the meeting that Elrich called him before hand to urge him to “do 270 … first, since that’s the one we all agree on.”

So, last Wednesday was frustrating in several ways.

However, the BPW meeting may actually have created more problems for Governor Hogan’s plans than they solved.. As Ben Ross with the Maryland Transportation Opportunities Coalition (MTOC) points out, the State has been following a federally mandated process for only a portion of I-270. It isn’t necessarily a simple thing for them to just add on the other half of I-270 eighteen months into the process – in other words, by putting all of I-270 first, the Governor may have forced MDOT to have to start the whole process over.
We aren’t sure of this, since it will come down to legal maneuvering and politics but it’s a clear possibility and we’ll keep close tabs on it.
Its also worth noting that even supporters of widening I-270 are strongly questioning the Governor’s decision to exclude the American Legion Bridge from the revised plans, since it is one of the worst choke points in the area.
Next, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that Frederick County leaders aren’t all that enthusiastic about the evolving plans for the highway. As the Frederick News-Post reported on June 6th, elected officials there are asking questions about whether adding lanes will really lessen congestion and why transit isn’t a more central component of the Governor’s plan.
On top of that, the Montgomery National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) formally rejected MDOT’s “screened alternatives” for the highway project, as Maryland Matters reported. The MNCPPC’s action is significant because it is a formal stakeholder in the process, and when a formal stakeholder doesn’t agree with the plan, the Federal Highway Administration is supposed to step in to bring the sides into agreement. This may not mean everything gets fixed, but it does give the MNCPPC a much stronger say over the project than it had before.
In short, the week ended with Hogan having a lot more problems than he had before.

With the big picture stuff out of the way, here’s our take on the amendments Franchot made during the meeting. The amendments, which Franchot puts forward at 3:01:15 on the video, don't seem to add up to much. Here they are - transcribed from the video - with each followed by questions or commentary from regarding their meaning and impact.

1.       No acquisitions of property related to this project will take place prior to the BPW reviewing and voting up or down on the final P3 agreement following the competitive procurement process. Question: were any homes or property actually at risk before a final agreement is struck?  

2.       The RFP will contain a provision permitting mass transit bus access on the managed toll lanes. Without tolls. But this was already a done deal – see MDOT’s explanation of screened alternatives published in February 2019: “Bus usage, including consideration of additional express bus service as recommended by the TPB, will be examined in all ETL and HOT managed lanes alternatives to accommodate transit within the 495 and 270 roadways.”

3.       10% of all state net tolled proceeds after the private developer has been compensated for construction costs will be channeled to Montgomery and Prince George’s County regional transit. While the idea of extracting financing for transit out of this project is a pretty smart way to salvage something positive out of a terrible plan, we need to be realistic about what revenues this would yield. First, as has been pointed out many times, we have good reasons to be skeptical that the project will even pay for itself; if it doesn't, this amendment is meaningless. This amendment only means something if the 10% tithe is built into the toll pricing beforehand, since the tolls are supposed to be set at a level just high enough to pay the contractors back. There isn't supposed to be "overage" in the toll revenues since that would mean MDOT is making the tolls higher than they need to be, which would reduce the number of people choosing to pay them.  

4.       Feasibility study of the monorail from shady grove to Frederick as possibly a P3 or state support; that’s something the legislature might be open to. Hogan “I don’t know how deep of a study we’re going to do…I think its worth considering the idea; I’m willing to say we’re willing to do an initial feasibility study and consider that with the legislature to see if it makes any sense.” Given Hogan's comments about this, and MDOT’s earlier decision to reject all transit-only options for this project, we shouldn’t have any expectation this will yield more than a formal dismissal of the idea by MDOT. Bulletin-May 2019

What’s Happening Now?

The Maryland General Assembly adjourned April 8; however, a lot has happened since then and there will be lots of activity between now and when they reconvene January 8, 2020.The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is barging full steam ahead to push their managed toll lane project forward and and other advocacy groups, as well as county and state officials continue to fight back. As described below, we have had considerable success in recent weeks, momentum is growing, press coverage is increasing, and the public is getting better informed and more active in opposing this boondoggle.


What You Can Do

Your involvement is so important! The latest development involves a major upcoming vote by the state Board of Public Works (BPW) on the proposal to widen I-270 and I-495. Our goal is to urge the members of this three-person Board (which includes the Governor, the State Treasurer, and the Comptroller) to vote no on moving this project forward. The BPW will consider MDOT’s request to designate the toll lane project as a public-private partnership (P3) in early June, essentially fast-tracking this reckless plan. Please write the BPW members explaining why they should reject this $9-11 billion P3 project. Click here for suggestions on how to construct and send your letter. Use the sample letter or make your input more meaningful by stating the importance of rejecting this proposal in your own words.


Recent Events

The scheduled BPW meeting

On May 1, the Washington Post reported that Governor Hogan was pushing to include a vote for the P3 proposal on the May 8 BPW agenda despite knowing that Treasurer Nancy Kopp had informed the BPW six months earlier that she would be out of town on a vacation to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary. Ms. Kopp had previously stated that she felt a project this important, with an impact for at least a half-century, deserved more examination. Despite public outcry urging the Governor to delay the vote until Ms. Kopp could be present, his office confirmed on May 3 that there were no plans to delay the meeting. Asked why the governor’s office couldn’t delay the vote for two weeks, a spokesman in the governor’s office said, “…we have to keep moving. Something of this importance to the public’s safety and well-being shouldn’t be delayed.” Later that day, increasing publicity and a letter of protest by 36 state lawmakers from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties led to the discussion being postponed until a BPW meeting in June.


Town hall meeting in Silver Spring

Montgomery County council member, Tom Hucker, organized a town hall meeting on May 5 to discuss the proposed widening of I-495 and I-270. The meeting was put together with only one week’s notice but nevertheless, with standing room only, nearly 1,000 people turned out to listen to county and state officials and community organizers. The speakers criticized MDOT’s lack of local community and government involvement and called for more transparency, studies focused on the potential environmental impact and the cost to taxpayers, the need for transit options, and more. A 4 minute video showing the highlights of the meeting can be found here. Or click here to watch all of the formal presentations.

Governor Hogan’s tweets

Apparently, Governor Hogan was watching the live presentation of the town hall meeting because midway through he began sending tweets referring to the meeting as a “road kill rally to halt our plans to solve the congestion crisis” and the town hall participants as “pro-traffic activists who plot to keep the roads filled with traffic.” John Kelly of the Washington Post (scroll down to the item entitled “Beltway Bandit) decried the Governor’s language as smearing “… Maryland citizens who are rightfully concerned about their backyards, their parks, the environment and their state’s fiscal health” and stating that “If anyone is pro-traffic in this issue, surely it’s whichever company ends up winning the contract to build and maintain the high-occupancy toll lanes. It will make money only if there’s traffic.”

Looking Ahead

· MDOT has scheduled the last of their public workshops on May 14 in Oxon Hill and May 16 in Germantown.

· The BPW meeting with the P3 proposal included in the agenda is scheduled to take place in a yet unannounced date in June.

The Legislative Session is Over. Now What?

The 2019 Maryland legislature is heading home without enacting any legislation that requires the Governor or the Maryland Department of Transportation to change their plans on adding managed toll lanes to I-495 and I-270. It is disappointing to be sure, and further down I’ll share my thoughts on why that happened.

But while the legislative session is over, this fight is not. There are still eighteen months of preliminary assessments and process MDOT must follow before it can even make a formal decision, let alone move the first shovelful of dirt. So we’ll take stock of what we’ve done, what’s to come, and get our battle plans ready.

Most immediate is that MDOT has scheduled a new round of public workshopson the plan and the narrowed list of alternatives. One of the workshops will be at Wootton High School on Thursday, April 25th at 6:30 pm (and repeated at 7:30 pm). If you can’t make that one, just check the MDOT website for the other dates and locations.    

Next, Governor Hogan may soon attempt to get approval from the Board of Public Works to hire contractors to work on the project. The Board consists of Governor Hogan, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot. Treasurer Kopp recently testified in support of additional oversight of these kinds of projects, so hopefully she will oppose barging ahead with a contract. We don’t know where Peter Franchot stands.  

Now, going back to the Legislative session, here’s my take: We did well this legislative session. Not well enough, since we didn’t get anything enacted. But we went from 0 to 60 on the issue in a few short months. We put the concerns about this project and broader concerns about how Maryland does its transportation planning on the radar for lawmakers, the media and a lot of citizens.

Coming out of the session, we have a much bigger coalition working with us now –neighborhood-based groups like Citizens Against Beltway Expansion, transit groups like Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition, the League of Women Voters and a number of organizations in the environmental community like the Maryland Sierra Club and Preservation Maryland.

Plus, we have made this a much hotter issue for a lot of legislators. Delegate Kumar Barve eventually saw how vital this issue is to his District, many elected officials from Montgomery County have become actively engaged and we started to make some headway in the Senate. And through our coalition we have begun finding allies in other counties as well.

In the end, after hearing from an overwhelming number of you, Delegate Barve used his influence to move a bill out of his Committee and through the House: Delegate Jared Solomon’s HB 1091, which would have created basic oversight for privately-financed transportation projects to protect taxpayers, the environment and the State’s fiscal health. We also got an advisory amendment attached to the State budget. These don’t solve our problem, but they are evidence that we have begun building support where it counts.

However, we have work to do in the Senate. Ultimately, Senator Nancy King, who represents Montgomery County’s District 39 and chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, killed HB 1091. Senator King told Maryland Mattersthat she trusts MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn and didn’t want to delay traffic relief, and so decided to keep HB 1091 bottled up in her committee (notwithstanding that there were enough votes from members of her committee to move the bill forward.)

We must urge all the lawmakers to continue working on this issue before the next session of the General Assembly and to be prepared to enact legislation as soon as the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2020. This issue is too important for our champions to leave until the 2nd half of the session. They need to hear the message that protecting our homes and neighborhoods must be the top priority as soon as the next session is gaveled in. You can help by reminding them of this, whenever you can – by email, phone calls, and if you see them at public events.

Finally, we never had much of a chance to celebrate the massive turnout at the March 9th meeting. I wanted to end on this because that day carried enormous influence – with Delegate Barve and other leaders. (If you have pictures you’d like to share, we now have a Facebook album of the event to go with the video.)

We’re going to have to keep doing things like this – and bigger – in order to win. And to the many, many people who volunteered time, donated money and found other ways to help – thank you and … we’ll need more of all that in the coming months.

We will continue to keep you informed on important issues and how you can help. 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, 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

About 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:

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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

[2] MDOT’s overview of the screened alternatives is here: and a short video on the subject is here:

[3] Video of September 4, 2018 exchange with Governor Hogan:

[4] A copy of Secretary Rahn’s October 19, 2018 response is posted here:


[6] Maryland Transportation Secretary Promises Not to Raze Homes in 270/495 Expansion, Bethesda Magazine, October 12, 2018.

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

Community Meeting Against Widening I-270 - March 9 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, 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. 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.