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WSSC Line Relocation Cost in Beltway Expansion Project may Hike Water Bills

Beltway Near College Park

On March 12th, WSSC briefed the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee of the Prince George’s County Council and the Transportation & Environment Committee of the Montgomery County Council regarding the potential infrastructure cost to WSSC from the beltway widening project.

Based on MDOT’s SHA Alternative 10 (the option SHA has identified with the greatest limit of disturbance), WSSC estimates infrastructure costs ranging from $1.3 billion (100 percent open-cut construction) to $2.0 billion (100 percent drilling and tunneling) not including overhead costs.

It is unclear how these costs will be shared between WSSC, SHA, and a third-party under a P3 program.

At the March 12 joint briefing, WSSC stated that ratepayers will be liable for these costs.

A 1958 memorandum of understanding between WSSC and the then-Maryland State Roads Commission states that WSSC is responsible for the cost of any water infrastructure relocation required by modifying or widening a state road. This MOU remains in effect.

When Governor Hogan announced the proposed I-495 and I -270 Managed Lanes Program nearly three years ago, he promised that the P3 project could be constructed at no cost to taxpayers, and he has repeated that promise numerous times. The private concessionaire, he said, would bear the costs and risks of constructing the new lanes, paying down those costs over time through toll collections.

The P3 proposal does not detail the costs of relocating affected utility infrastructure.

MDOT has conducted rudimentary cost estimates of utility relocations that greatly underestimate WSSC’s projections.

It remains unclear whether WSSC relocation costs will be borne by ratepayers or the P3 concessionaire.

The prospect that WSSC ratepayers could face significant increases in our water bills to cover these P3-associated costs is unacceptable. We should not be responsible for the cost of these private toll lanes in any way.

If MDOT proceeds with the project and WSSC remains responsible for any associated relocation costs of its water infrastructure, the Prince George’s County council should refuse to fund any WSSC Capital Improvements Program that includes such costs and associated rate increases.

 

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