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I-270 Widening Should Not Be in the Constrained Long-Range Plan

Testimony to the Metropolitan Washington Transportation Planning Board

November 14, 2010

The Action Committee for Transit objects vigorously to the proposed CLRP allocation of $3.4 billion to widening I-270 and US 15 north of Shady Grove. This is a grievously mistaken policy decision. Furthermore, the TPB is making this bad decision with an utter lack of transparency.

As best we can determine, the proposal represents a $3.4 billion increase in the amount previously allocated to this project in the CLRP. But the incomplete and confusing documentation of this plan issued by the TPB leaves the public without the information necessary to evaluate the proposal. It is inexcusable to make such a vast investment with such an utter lack of openness. Missing from the proposal are:

What’s more, spending more than three billion dollars on widening I-270 is a terrible idea:

Our organization has worked for many years to include alternatives to the failed policy of highway widening in the planning process for the I-270/US 15 corridor. This work included, in 1997, prompting the TPB to reject a Major Investment Study and to insist that an all-transit alternative must be analyzed. But the State Highway Administration's response was compliance on paper only. The SHA’s so-called “transit” alternative was to add both general-purpose and HOV lanes to I-270, for a total highway width of 14 lanes in places.

In 2009, we proposed a specific all-transit alternative at a cost comparable to the I-270 widening. This won wide support from the public and from Montgomery County legislators. Yet SHA is still refusing to consider real alternatives to its highway widening policy.

Proposing to spend $3.4 billion on highway widening is particularly unwise at a time when the public favors investing in transit over roads by a 2-1 margin and traditional sources of transportation revenue are drying up. In its last session, the Maryland legislature created a Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation to search for new sources of transportation revenue. Will the public support new taxes for transportation, if the money will be spent on the highway projects the public opposes?

We urge the TPB not to include or even consider construction funding for I-270 widening in the CLRP until a true all-transit alternative for the corridor has been fully evaluated.