Area leaders, including U.S. Representatives John Delaney and Chris Van Hollen, and a host of local and state officials from Montgomery and Frederick Counties, gathered today to launch a new coalition effort to re-start two long-delayed project studies that hold great promise for unlocking the severe traffic nightmare that is I-270 during both rush-hours. Congressman Delaney is the group’s Honorary Chair and played a key role in its creation.
The bipartisan group of business, civic and elected leaders will press for multimodal solutions, including new express-toll lanes and regional bus-rapid-transit (BRT) using those new lanes, with the current general-purpose lanes remaining free of charge. Two project studies, the I-270/US 15 Multimodal Corridor Study and the Western Mobility Study have been on hold for decades and would be necessary to complete before any long-term construction projects to add significant new lane capacity could begin. The Fix270Now coalition is urging leaders in both parties to make restarting those project studies a top priority, and to include a multimodal express-toll and BRT alternative, running from the Virginia side of the American Legion Bridge, up the 270 Spur and the entire I-270 corridor, all the way to Frederick.
In the short term, the coalition is supporting efforts by Governor Larry Hogan to upgrade key interchanges and provide an additional $100 million to explore innovative congestion management strategies.
In the long-run, studies show the addition of new toll lanes integrated with a regional BRT system that includes the long-planned Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) would improve peak-hours speeds for outbound travelers in the afternoon rush-hour by up to 87%, and for inbound morning rush-hour travelers by up to 70%.
Maryland cannot afford further delay on proven steps to keep traffic in the state’s number-one job-creation corridor moving. SMTA is strongly supporting this effort, as both I-270 and the American Legion Bridge are among our top-priority projects that area transportation experts identified as urgent investment priorities to support our region’s economy and protect our quality-of-life. Please take a moment to add your support for this important effort by using the “sign-up” button at Fix270Now.org. Let’s get Maryland moving!
Morning rush-hour conditions created the perfect backdrop for the launching of Fix270Now.
In the last week of the Maryland General Assembly, both the Maryland House and Senate narrowly voted to override Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of legislation (HB 1013), dubbed the “Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016,” establishing new measures by which the Department of Transportation (MDOT) is required to score future major capital projects. SMTA has long been a vocal advocate for using objective performance criteria to evaluate and make funding decisions on major transportation projects across all modes. However, we testified against this bill for several reasons. Most importantly, the particular standards and performance metrics that were originally included in the bill were badly flawed, arbitrary and did not even address the number-one issue to Maryland voters when it comes to transportation — traffic congestion.
Second, the state already uses a wide range of transportation performance standards for use in making funding and prioritization decisions, and has an extremely transparent process in which County priority letters are posted online, along with information on every major project, and MDOT officials come out to a series of public meetings in all 24 local jurisdictions, known as the annual “road show,” to go over their draft capital program, and solicit input and feedback from local officials and the public before the plan is finalized (and also available online for anyone to see). This bill was meant to address a problem that does not exist, in our view at least.
For MDOT to develop standards, based on knowledgeable input from transportation professionals, with lots of public input along the way, is one thing. For the General Assembly to legislate arbitrary standards that make no sense to transportation experts or voters, we thought would be counterproductive. MDOT officials and Governor Hogan agreed with that assessment but the General Assembly did not.
The good news is, the legislation was significantly amended to address the most glaring flaws in the standards, and the Department now has more flexibility in implementing this new mandate. The bad news is, the legislature made the mistake of overriding a veto it should have let stand. This bill was not needed in the first place, was extremely poorly drafted initially, and will end up costing taxpayers for lots of extra work by MDOT staff that will not produce any significant improvement in either transparency or performance.
In a major development in Annapolis today, Governor Larry Hogan just announced his support for the Purple Line, one of SMTA’s top-priority projects, and a major investment in Maryland’s underfunded roads and bridges across the state. Details of his announcement include the following:
- Maryland will invest nearly $2 billion in long overdue road and bridge improvements all across the state (including two of SMTA’s top priorities – interim improvements to I-270 and construction of the Greenbelt interchange on 495). The Governor is committed to restoring the local highway user funds that previous administrations have diverted from the Transportation Trust Fund. This is a major victory for Maryland residents and will provide a significant boost to our economy for years to come.
- Maryland is moving forward with the Purple Line, at a reduced price-tag and with a couple of conditions (the continued federal commitment of $900 million and an increased commitment from Montgomery and Prince George’s County), but moving forward nonetheless, as SMTA has been advocating.
- Maryland will NOT move forward with Baltimore’s Red Line, which did not meet an acceptable level of cost-effectiveness in the Governor’s view.
This is a big win for Maryland and for SMTA and will help advance the road and transit projects we need to get Maryland moving! Here is the Washington Post’s recent blog post on today’s news:
The Baltimore Sun reports today that Governor Hogan, after riding some of Japan’s most advanced maglev (Magnetic Levitation) train systems, some of which can exceed 300 mph, he will seek $28 million in grants to study bringing this technology to the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
Here is a link to the Baltimore Sun article:
Various proposals have been put forward to introduce Maglev technology into the United States, and particularly the crowded Northeast corridor, as a way to provide more efficient city-to-city service. Cost estimates for a Maglev line from DC to Baltimore run into the billions, perhaps as much as $10 billion for construction, although operating costs for Maglev tend to be much lower than other transit modes because they can be more fully automated and have much few moving parts (wheels, brakes, bearings, etc.) that require extensive ongoing maintenance with heavy and light rail systems.
Moving forward with a study, as the Governor apparently wants to do, will answer a lot more questions about the practicality of such a system, but this is not anything that will likely be implemented soon, and much more immediate priorities for the DC region remain unfunded — a topic that will be the focus of SMTA’s upcoming Transportation Summit on June 12th.
Stay tuned. Maglev may be a topic we’ll be hearing a lot more about in the future.
After several meetings with Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn and other senior Hogan Administration figures, SMTA and other Purple Line supporters continue to present our case. Today, County Executives Ike Leggett and Rushern Baker met with Governor Larry Hogan in Annapolis. Initial press reports indicate it went pretty well, but it now seems likely a decision won’t be made until June.
See the two articles below for details.
We encourage all SMTA supporters to continue making the case that the transportation and economic benefits of the Purple Line make this a worthwhile project, and it will be one of the topics discussed at our Transportation Summit on June 12th, along with SMTA’s other regional priority projects. Register here for the Summit.
Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance (SMTA) Vice Chair, Richard Parsons, spoke out strongly in favor of the Purple Line at a recent debate at the AFI Theater in Silver Spring, organized by the Maryland Public Policy Institute. Parsons squared off against noted transit critic, Randall O’Toole of the Cato Foundation.
Parsons made the case that both the economic development the Purple Line would bring — tens of thousands of new jobs every year in addition to thousands of short-term construction jobs — and the transportation benefits from creating a regional transportation network by linking existing metro lines together into a more robust system — would be well worth the $2.5 billion investment.
The debate was featured in several articles including this one in the Gazette.
SMTA is urging our members to contact Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to support construction of the Purple Line as soon as possible.
The Washington Post recently ran a provocative article submitted by two leading transportation experts, Alan Pisarski and Peter Samuel, entitled Expand the Intercounty Connector for a Truly Regional Transportation Network.
The authors note correctly that — contrary to the “spin” we often hear from anti-road activists — tens of thousands of people are using the Intercounty Connector (ICC) every day. In fact, more passengers are traveling on the ICC each day than on the much more expensive Silver Line, traffic on the parallel section of the Beltway has dropped 8% since the ICC opened, and significant traffic relief is already being felt on surrounding local roads. It is clearly a big success. The question is, what’s next?
The idea of future extensions of the ICC — both to the west, into Northern Virginia, and to the east, to Route 50 in Prince George’s County are both worth exploring. The economic benefits from tying our region together with a more efficient highway network could be extremely significant, and it would open up new possibilities for a truly regional bus-rapid transit network using the new capacity.
What do you think? Give the article a read and share your comments here. Does extending the ICC across the Potomac and over to Route 50 make sense to you? What other priorities should we also be looking at that could deliver the same kind of game-changing impacts on congestion and overall transportation network performance across the Washington region? Let us know.
The Purple Line, a long-debated light-rail transit line running from the Bethesda through Silver Spring, College Park and eventually connecting all the way to New Carrollton, may be facing new hurdles with the election of Larry Hogan as Maryland’s next Governor. As reported in the Washington Post, during the campaign Hogan expressed skepticism regarding the need for the Purple Line, though he later moderated his comments and now says he will keep an open mind. We hope so.
SMTA has long supported the Purple Line as an important suburb-to-suburb connection between key activity centers on both ends of the Metro Red Line, as well as the Green and Orange Lines. It creates a far more robust transit backbone for suburban Maryland communities and brings with it significant economic development and job-creation benefits. Moreover, the Purple Line enjoys overwhelming support from voters in the DC suburbs and enjoys strong backing from the local business community — including all the local Chambers of Commerce and the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
While the new political terrain in Maryland may pose new challenges, and perhaps a new round of questions regarding the most cost-effective way to build the Purple Line, it is hard to see the project itself coming to a halt at this point. Millions has already been invested in right-of-way acquisition, planning and engineering, and prior studies indicate significant economic and transportation benefits.
Maryland leaders should always seek to maximize taxpayers’ return on investment on major projects like this, so such questions should be asked (and have been). However, we find that often the best way to reduce cost is to push for swift completion of projects to avoid the cost inflation that always comes from delay and inaction.
When it comes to the Purple Line, and other priority transportation projects in the Greater Washington region, it may be that further delay is the most expensive option of all.
Washington Post Editorial, Annapolis Press Conference, Add to Question 1 Momentum as Election Reaches the Home Stretch
Today was a big day: SMTA released a letter signed by three former Maryland Secretaries of Transportation — David Winstead, John Porcari and Robert Flanagan — endorsing the Lock-box amendment. The three former Secretaries served both Republican and Democratic former Governors, reflecting the broad support for Question 1 from across the political spectrum. Read more.
Supporters of Question 1 in Maryland — the Transportation “Lock-box” amendment — were cheered by a strong editorial in Sunday’s Washington Post that also called on voters to vote FOR Question 1. See the Washington Post Endorsement here.
Then, at a rally in Annapolis, supporters gathered to highlight the strong bi-partisan support Question 1 has attracted from all parts of the State. Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch joined SMTA and other representatives from the Coalition to Protect Maryland’s Transportation Fund in calling on Maryland voters in both parties to vote FOR Question 1.
This is it: Polls open tomorrow, Tuesday, November 4th, from 7:00 am until 8:00 pm. Don’t miss this opportunity to get out and vote to protect our ability to invest in Maryland’s future transportation needs. This is a critical moment for all Marylanders, for a brighter economic future, reduced congestion, improved safety and better quality-of-life for all citizens of the Free State.
Get out and vote! Vote FOR Question 1!
Maryland voters will have a chance on Tuesday, November 4th, to cast their votes on “Question 1”, which would amend the Maryland Constitution to create a “lock box” provision to protect dedicated transportation funds from being diverted to other uses. SMTA urges Maryland voters to vote FOR QUESTION ONE, as this will make it much harder for future state leaders to “raid” the Transportation Trust Fund, as Governors from both major parties have repeatedly done in the past.
A broad coalition of Marylanders is coming together to support Question 1, and a new website has been created at: VoteForMD1.com.
We need your support to restore the “trust” the Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund, and make sure the funds we collect from fuel taxes and vehicle fees go to pay for critical investments in the road and transit systems on which we all depend. For job creation, better transit options, reduced congestion and more predictable funding levels for future projects, voters should support this amendment and VOTE FOR QUESTION ONE.