Floreen, Berliner vote to continue the cycle of sprawl and pollution
Yesterday, the Montgomery County Council's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee voted to recommend Alternative 7, which would widen I-270 to 8 regular lanes and two or three reversible HOT lanes. Councilmembers Nancy Floreen (at-large) and Roger Berliner (Bethesda/Chevy Chase) voted for the option, while the third committee member, George Leventhal (at-large) was not present.
Alternative 7 is projected to cost $3.88 billion. One argument highway boosters are making to the County Council is that all the money will just come back in tolls on the HOT lanes. They argue, therefore, that we couldn't spend the $4 billion instead on transit improvements, such as better commuter rail service to Frederick, light rail from Rockville to Gaithersburg and Germantown, and other possibilities.
However, the SHA's own numbers don't bear that out.
According to ACT, SHA projects the toll lane traffic to only move 2 0-1 mph faster than the free lanes. Obviously, almost everyone would choose to pay nothing over paying something to only gain a tiny bit of speed. Therefore, the tolls would have to be extremely low to keep a reasonable volume of traffic in the proposed lanes. With such a low toll, the road can't possibly come even close to paying back its $4 billion price tag.
Even if the road were free, triggering enormous sprawl out to the County line and into Frederick County, increasing auto-dependence, traffic and pollution throughout the County, and driving economic growth away from the parts of the County that most need it would only harm Montgomery. It's time for the Council to finally say no to more car lanes and more sprawl and choose a different path before it's too late.
In March, Councilmember Marc Elrich called the Council's support for the ICC a "mistake." It will take a severe health toll on residents along its route. 270 already exists, but adding more cars and more traffic will deepen the health cost to residents along the corridor and elsewhere in the County. Montgomery can't afford another mistake.
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