Don't tear down homes to widen the Beltway!
Governor Larry Hogan
On September 21, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan revealed a $9 billion plan to add four lanes to I-270, I-495, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
While it is commendable for Hogan to seek opportunities to reduce congestion and improve the commute for Maryland residents, elements of his plan are not in the best interest of Montgomery County residents.
In particular, adding more lanes to the Capital Beltway is a terrible idea for the following reasons:
This project could displace hundreds or even thousands of properties. The image above shows the potential impact on a 2,000-foot stretch in Forest Glen. Imagine the impact on all 50 miles of I-495 in Maryland!
Road widening projects will not alleviate congestion on I-495 in the long-run. Experience has proven that increasing the number of lanes on I-270 and I-495 encourages more people to drive and more miles will be driven to fill that road space. We saw this before when I-270 was widened to 12 lanes in the 1990s (Washington Post, 1999: "Md.'s Lesson: Widen the Roads, Drivers Will Come") and again in when the Wilson Bridge was widened the early 2000s (Washington Post, 2009: "Bridging the East-West Divide Is Key to Solving Transportation Crisis, Officials Say"). Another road-widening project might bring some temporary relief, but in the long-run, experience tells us that it will cause more people to drive than before, even if the lanes are tolled.
Expanding the capacity of I-495 and I-270 will result in more traffic on local and arterial roads. It will encourage more people to travel through already-congested areas like Gaithersburg, Rockville, Bethesda, Kensington, Chevy Chase, Forest Glen, Four Corners, and Silver Spring. Think about it: if there are more cars on the Beltway, there will be more cars getting off at each interchange, spilling more vehicles onto crowded streets.
This idea has already been studied before, and the results were unfavorable. In 2012, USDOT, National Park Service, and MDOT determined that widening the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to six lanes “will likely result in levels of traffic congestion similar to those experienced today.” The Maryland State Highway Administration also explored widening of I-495 in 2004 and did not recommend adding four express toll lanes to the Capital Beltway because "Construction costs would be prohibitively high".
In order to pay for this $9 billion project, the toll rates would have to be exorbitantly expensive, meaning that the people that would most benefit from this project are the wealthy people that can afford the tolls. One-way trips on the I-495 express toll lanes in Virginia are increasing to double-digit numbers during rush hour (Washington Post, 2015: "Estimates on I-66 tolls may shock commuters").
While we appreciate Governor Hogan's efforts to provide congestion relief to Montgomery County, it would have been wise of him to consult with Montgomery County government and civic leaders before announcing this plan, parts of which will have damaging impacts to communities along the Beltway and the taxpayers of Maryland.
Privacy note: this petition is sponsored by the Action Committee for Transit. You may receive a few emails from ACT with updates on this proposed project and alternative solutions for reducing congestion on I-270 and I-495, and we will ensure to keep the emails relevant to the reason you signed this petition (opposing widening of I-495). Your contact information will NOT be shared with other organizations. You can unsubscribe at any time using the link at the bottom of any email you receive from ACT.
Governor Larry Hogan
From: [Your Name]
While we appreciate your efforts to provide congestion relief to Marylanders, adding more lanes to the Capital Beltway is not a long-term solution to our region's traffic woes.
The cost and scale of this project would be an immense burden on taxpayers, and there is not enough space on the Beltway to add four new lanes. Hundreds, if not thousands of homes, offices, schools, and parks will be affected by the proposed widening.
We have already added lanes to I-270 and I-495 before, and those highways are still some of the most congested in the country. Most transportation and planning experts agree that widening does not work in the long-run.
Please drop this unpopular plan to widen the Beltway and instead work with government and community leaders in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties to develop innovate and cost-effective solutions to improve our commutes.