“Alternate Plan” from County Looks Bad for Lower I-270 Neighborhoods

County Executive Marc Elrich is advancing an alternative to Governor Hogan’s plan that will increase the pressure to add lanes to I-270. This “plan” seems to throw I-270 communities under the proverbial bus in order to protect Beltway neighborhoods. Mr. Elrich’s office has not responded to our repeated requests to meet and discuss the plan. 

Here’s what we know: The alternative plan is outlined in Mr. Elrich’s July 11th, 2019 letter to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. It calls for the following:  

  • Funneling traffic from I-95 to I-270, via the Intercounty Connector. The plan is designed to relieve congestion on the Beltway by channeling commuters who travel south on I-95 and then west on the Beltway to head west on the Intercounty Connector (ICC) instead of the Beltway. This extra traffic would end up on lower I-270, adding even more cars to the existing congestion.

  • Extending Virginia’s new toll lanes through I-270. The plan calls for the managed lane network that Virginia is building to connect into Maryland and would extend the additional toll lanes all the way up to I-370.

  • Limited transit and technology integration. To its credit, the plan includes use of technology tools to better manage traffic flow as well as improvements to Park & Ride facilities, and notes that more could be done if funded with toll revenues.

Unfortunately, the welcome emphasis on transit may be the only part of this plan we could support. The additional traffic for I-270 and apparent commitment to carry the toll lanes from Virginia through Montgomery County raises a bunch of questions which we need to get answers to: 

  • Who else in County leadership is backing this plan? Does this plan represent a consensus among elected County officials?

    • Did Mr. Elrich discuss this plan with the Montgomery Council before sending the July 11th letter? If not, why not? If so, what documentation were they provided?

    • Knowing how much anxiety has been expressed by local groups, why didn’t Mr. Elrich reach out to municipal leaders in Gaithersburg and Rockville and I-270 neighborhood and civic associations to discuss this plan?

  • Regarding the plan itself, is there more written up than the July 11th letter and map? Where is the actual plan document? What analysis has been conducted to assess the impacts of shifting traffic from I-95 across the ICC to the I-270? And,

    • Why doesn’t Mr. Elrich support reversible lanes on the lower part of I-270 as well as north of I-370, which has been Montgomery County’s long-standing position?

    • How many lanes does Mr. Elrich propose be added to the lower part of I-270? How many lanes would there be in total on this section of I-270?

    • Why didn’t Mr. Elrich specify that any changes to I-270 below I-370 must stay within the existing rights of way and sound walls? How will he respond if MDOT says that I-270 will have to be widened beyond the existing rights-of-way for the plan to work?

If this “alternate plan” concerns you, and you’d like to see it and understand how the County Executive justifies putting one set of communities at risk to protect another, when he is supposed to be watching out for all of his constituents, please call Mr. Elrich’s office and ask: 240-777-0311. 

While you are at it, it’s worth asking the County Councilmembers what their positions are on this plan to dump traffic from I-95 and the Beltway onto I-270. Please only contact Councilmembers who represent you. The two who represent the areas where I-270 would be widened south of I-370 are:

Andrew Friedson, District 1:  240-777-7828 (Councilmember.Friedson@montgomerycountymd.gov

Sidney Katz, District 3:  240-777-7906 (Sidney.Katz@montgomerycountymd.gov)