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 DontWiden270.org 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.
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.”
· 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.