Last Wednesday, State’s Board of Public Works (BPW) voted in favor of expanding Beltway at the American Legion Bridge and the part of the beltway up to I 270, and part of I-270 to I-370. This happened after Gov Hogan got a Key vote from Comptroller Franchot, who expressed concerns earlier about the $11 billion project to expand the entire beltway in Maryland.

According to Comptroller Franchot’s Facebook post (please see below) the rest of the beltway could be expanded later by the Board of Public Works.

For College Park and the surrounding community where Beltway was planned to be expanded, this news may bring some relief to the local residents and community members. In College Park, the expansion proposal would have impacted many Homes, causing losses of many trees and parkland, increased Pollution and noise. Additionally, with an extra 4 lanes, the traffic into Route 1 will increase.

At this time We don’t know when BPW will take that up and if the PG County portion of Beltway will be expanded first before the Montgomery part, where the opposition is a lot stronger.

Now the Beltway Expansion Put on Hold, What Can we Do?

House Legislation
The Maryland State House tried to pass several legislative reforms during the last General Assembly session. Unfortunately, all of them either died in the committees or weren’t voted on.
The bills that the House considered include: (1) the MDOT would require a Montgomery county’s consent before starting road widening on any highway. (2) n environmental impact study is completed before soliciting for construction contracts. (3) A bill would prohibit the Department of Public Works from approving a Public-Private_partnership (P3) until an independent rating assessment survey–to be completed.

Transparency of Data:
MDOT has developed a Traffic and Revenue Model that calculates the predicted traffic volumes, toll charges, and profit or loss of each potential toll lane segment in each scenario. MDOT also has assembled origin-destination data for trips in the two highway corridors

Toll Revenue: The revised agreement also says that 10% of the toll revenues will go toward transit improvement in the state before the total cost of the project is paid off. MoCo County Executive Elrich already said that the hope is that Montgomery will be able to use new state aid to do a rapid bus project transit on MD 355. We don’t know what is the Prince George’s County has a similar plan to implement a more transit-oriented solution.

Transportation plan
We should continue to advocate for smarter and more sustainable ways to address the congestion problem in the beltway.
There are local and regional transportation plans out there that can be used for this purpose. The MNCPPC has recently published a report on the North County transportation studies, called “Transportation Guide for Urban Communities” recommending some alternatives in College Park and Prince George’s County. The recommendations include Leverage transit
Complete the bicycle network, Supply, and managed parking. Additionally, Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition also recommends more transit-oriented solutions, such as more frequent MARC train service.Recently, the Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich office has been in talk of potential state-county agreements on alternatives to the current MDOT plan. Similar engagement is necessary from the Prince George’s County’s leadership.