Last week, members of the SHA team came before the City Council to answer questions about Governor’s Traffic Relief Plan (expansion plan) on I-495 Beltway and I-270.

Several members of the MDOT / SHA team came to the meeting. They included: Lisa Choplin, the Director of SHA/MDOT’s I-495/I-270 P3 program, Jeff Folden, Deputy Director of the P3 program, Matt Snow from the MDOT / SHA NEPA team working on the traffic analysis, Carol Brookmann, environmental manager of the I495 / I270 managed lane study,  Kathrine Robins of the MDOT / SHA NEPA team working on the noise analysis, NEPA team, Kristi Brad of the MDOT / SHA NEPA team working on the air quality issues, Sean New of MDOT/SHA government relations.

We had got a quite a few questions about the plan, specifically about the loss of properties and green spaces, the effect of the expansion on the noise in the neighborhood, and the effect of the expansion on the traffic on Route 1. Prior to the meeting, we sent a list of detailed questions to the SHA.

You can see our discussion with the SHA representatives here on our City website.

The team explained different parts of the map. The orange line represents the existing right-of-way line, whereas the green line represents the preliminary limit of disturbances.  The blue shaded area within the LOD represents possible stormwater management facilities. The red dash line in the map represents is the 66dB noise contour line, without any noise barrier.

  • Limit of Disturbance (LOD): How certain the LOD will be?
    • According to the team, the area within the LOD is necessary for roadway improvements, for example, to maneuver the construction vehicles around the site during the construction phase. It will also include stormwater management facilities. These are preliminary boundaries, as the team is halfway through the NEPA study. After taking comments for another week, the team will go into the detailed study. The team wants to present the preferred alternatives at the end of the year. The LOD boundary area will be most likely reduced as the team keeps working on the NEPA study. Some of the LOD will be needed for a temporary basis, others could be permanent. Direct access points to the managed lanes will be accommodated within the LOD.
  • Effect of Noise and Noise Barriers:
    • The old noise barriers were constructed in the late ’80s. The new noise barrier may be higher than the existing one and could be further into the neighborhood. Some places, such as near the Route 1 intersection, where there isn’t any noise barrier, could have new noise barriers. The team is now evaluating the possible locations of the noise barrier, and they will be published in the draft EIS at the end of this year.
  • Role of the Public-Private-Partnership (P3) Concessionaire:
    • The developer who will be building the managed lanes (aka tool lanes), will have some flexibility in setting the right footprint. The SHA-MDOT, however, will set the standard and performance measurements based. The SHA-MDOT will have outcome-based requirements that the Concessionaire will have to fulfill.
  • RFP (Request for Proposal) of the Construction Contract
    • The final RFP for the construction contract is expected to be made by mid next year. The detailed specification will be made public when the plan is submitted to the Board of Public Works for final approval.
  • Completion of EIS (Environmental Impact Statement):
    • I asked why the EIS wasn’t completed before the BPW vote was taken, and even the RFP process has started. I said the community was actively involved in the EIS / NEPA process during the proposed FBI development project in Greenbelt. The County Council has also passed a resolution asking the MDOT / SHA to complete the EIS before approving the project. The representative (Jeff Folden)  told us that this is a “fairly common practice” to do EIS before preliminary approval of the projects, citing other projects elsewhere.
  • Proposed Park / Playground in Sunnyside:
    • The proposed park at the end of Odessa Rd is within the LOD (Limit of Disturbance) boundary. We shared our concerns with the SHA representatives, as teh City Council approved already approved funds in its FY 2020 budget. The SHA/MDOT representatives told us they didn’t know about our plan to build a park there. They said they will reconsider to designate that as a LOD. We hope to hear back from them on this very soon.