A substantial crowd came out to the State Transportation Department’s “Road Show” earlier this month, to express opposition to Governor Hogan’s plans to widen I-270 and I-495 to make room for toll lanes. Wow – its fair to say that State officials really got the message, and several of our local elected officials did a great job pressing the Secretary of Transportation on the states’s plans.
Echoing Governor Hogan, Secretary Rahn promised local elected officials over and over again that “no homes will be taken” for the project. But, as DontWiden270.org has pointed out to Governor Hogan, there’s a big gap between those promises and what the State is actually doing and saying.
Bottom line, we need those promises that no homes will be taken to be in writing, in legally binding language directing Secretary Rahn to reject any project proposal that involves taking homes or property. This is the Governor’s project, he’s got the power to ensure our homes and neighborhoods are projected.
So the big question: Will Governor Hogan stand behind his promises, or are they just hot air?
Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn acknowledged we were there in force, and it was clear that our presence gave a boost of energy to our Montgomery County Councilmembers and State Legislators, many of whom grilled the Transportation Secretary over the highway plan and in particular, pressed him on the issue of ensuring that no homes, businesses or property will be taken.
The result of the spectacular turnout and energy was tremendous press coverage:
The attention put Secretary Pete Rahn on the defensive, promising repeatedly that no homes will be taken. Several of our local representatives zeroed in on moving past promises and getting the commitment in writing. That’s exactly what DontWiden270.org has been pushing for since Labor Day, so we are glad to see the ask getting traction.
We also know that opposition to widening is the majority view here in Montgomery County. Friday, the Washington Post published a poll regarding Governor Hogan’s highway plans, saying “The centerpiece of the Republican governor’s proposal — a $9 billion project to add four lanes apiece to the Capital Beltway, Interstate 270 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway — is even opposed by voters in the Washington suburbs, whom the plan is supposed to help. More than half of voters in the D.C. suburbs prefer to invest in public transit rather than building more roads.”
Back to the hearing: One of our State Delegates told me directly after the briefing that having the support of her constituents in that hearing room made a huge difference; she could feel our strength behind her and it made her even more determined to keep the pressure on the Transportation Secretary with her questions.
And there were a lot of questions. Before the briefing, Don’tWiden270.org sent a letter to all the elected officials from Rockville with a list of things we’d like to ask State officials, and we were really pleased with the results. A few highlights:
State Senator Cheryl Kagan really zeroed in on Secretary Rahn’s comments about widening and no homes being taken down. At one point he responded to her by saying “No homes will be taken down,” but a few minutes later said “We have no plans to take any homes.” Senator Kagan seized on that pointing out that plans can change and his going back and forth on the point adds to our concerns. She got him to repeat several times that no homes will be taken. Of course, we aren’t going to take him or the Governor at their word. We need them to put it in writing. You can watch Senator Kagan’s recap here.
MoCo County Councilmember Sidney Katz asked about State Transportation Secretary Pete Rahm to about issuing a binding statement guaranteeing that no homes will be torn down to make room for Gov Hogan's widening proposal. Councilmember Katz also asked about the problem of increased air pollution and raised the concern that widening roads doesn’t solve congestion. (Note, I was particularly pleased to see DontWiden270.org logo on the printout that the Councilmember was referring to as he asked questions.)
Delegate Marc Korman had a wide range of questions, but he really focused in on the State’s dismissal of local concerns, noting that the Governor was talking about specific options well before the State consulted local citizens, governments and other stakeholders. You can view that video here.
Delegate Susan Lee followed up on several of these points, emphasizing that her constituents in Gaithersburg have been voicing their concerns about the project. Delegate Lee was the lawmaker who thanked all of us for turning out and for our support at the briefing.
So thanks again for getting involved, and if you haven’t signed the petition asking Governor Hogan to put his promises in writing, please do so now.