The 10-member governing body of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) voted 9 to 1 to not concur with the alternatives retained for detailed study (ARDS) proposed by the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA). The ARDS is part of the state’s study to relieve traffic congestion on Interstate 495 and Interstate 270.

The decision was reached during a June 6 teleconference. M-NCPPC asserts that MDOT SHA’s recommended ARDS narrows the scope of the study so much that reliable conclusions for a complete environmental review cannot not be achieved. Its decision is based on four main reasons:

1) Segmentation and Phasing – Identifying the need and scope of improvements to I-495 is dependent on addressing whether by-pass or through traffic can be diverted to I-270 and drawn off of the constrained area of I-495 between I-270 and I-95. The phasing is an important factor because diverting traffic to use the Intercounty Connector (ICC) requires the I-270 phase to be completed first.

2) Termini – The Study Area in Montgomery County omits I-270 north of I-370 (from Rockville to Frederick), and in Prince George’s County omits I-495 from MD 5 to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The impacts from those omitted areas will result in incomplete conclusions for environmental impact.

3) Transit – Meaningful, local serving transit and transportation demand management must be integral components of the project for any of the alternatives to be studied.

4) Parkland Management – The public value in parkland extends to passive and active impacts – recreation, stormwater management, water quality, etc. It is imperative for the study alternatives to attend and account for the Commission’s parkland acquired either under the Capper-Cramton Act or the agency’s other statutory responsibilities.

About the I-495 and I-270 Managed Lanes Study

The I-495 and I-270 Managed Lanes Study was initiated by MDOT SHA as an element of a broader plan to relieve traffic congestion on the busiest routes in the region. The study considers improvements along I-495 (Capital Beltway), as well as along I-270 (Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Highway). The Managed Lanes Study will evaluate a range of alternatives within the specific area of I-495 from the Virginia side of the American Legion Bridge in Fairfax County to Exit 7 on the Maryland side of I-495/I-95 and on I-270 from I-495 to I-370.

A notice of intent to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Managed Lanes Study area was issued by the Federal Highway Administration on March 16, 2018, and under Executive Order the agency is tasked with reaching permit stage in two years.

MDOT SHA proposes that the purpose of the I-495 and I-270 Managed Lanes Study is to develop a travel demand management solution that addresses congestion, improve trip reliability on I-495 and I-270 within the study limits and enhance existing and planned multimodal mobility and connectivity. MDOT SHA has expressed its intent is to utilize a public-private partnership (P3) in order to design, construct, operate and maintain any proposed infrastructure improvements.

Managed lanes consist of a highway facility or set of lanes where operating strategies are used to control the number of vehicles using the lanes at any given time. Any selected build alternative is likely to have significant impacts on parkland and the associated facilities, programs and natural and cultural resources in both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties as well as on communities in those counties.

Learn more about the MDOT SHA Managed Lanes Study.

The Commission’s project coordinators are Carol Rubin for Montgomery County and Debra Borden for Prince George’s County.