M-NCPPC Authorizes Final Comments on Interstates 495 and 270 Managed Lanes Study
October 21, 2020
Major concerns regarding permits, potential effects on parkland, environment, and transportation remain
WHEATON, MD – The governing body of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) received a briefing from M-NCPPC staff on the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration’s (MDOT SHA) Interstates 495 and I-270 Managed Lanes Study during its online meeting on Wednesday, October 21. M-NCPPC staff raised several serious deficiencies in the plans for the project to the M-NCPPC commissioners, who comprise the Planning Boards of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. The main issues are with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), as well as concerns related to applications for joint permit applications (JPA) to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment for impacts to wetlands, streams, and other aquatic resources under the Maryland Clean Water Act.
The virtual meeting was streamed live and consisted of a briefing to the M-NCPPC commissioners on the major concerns related to impacts to M-NCPPC parkland resources and the environment as well as the lack of best practices in land use and transportation planning. Staff stressed that M-NCPPC is obligated to hold MDOT SHA to the highest standards to avoid, minimize, or mitigate any impact to parkland resources, and MDOT SHA must demonstrate that the proposed plan to expand the two major highways is the most appropriate way to address congestion in region.
The final comments from M-NCPPC are scheduled to be transmitted to MDOT SHA on November 6, 2020 and will become a part of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) which will ultimately need to be followed by the winning concessionaire, if the project progresses.
“The state’s project team is still not delivering on what it promised with the assessment and analysis phase of this project. We cannot agree with the direction of the Managed Lanes Study until our land use, transportation, and environmental concerns are addressed, and that just hasn’t happened despite months of trying to get answers,” said M-NCPPC Chair and Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson.
“As the regional planning agency and the steward of the natural and built environments in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, M-NCPPC is responsible for making well-reasoned and informed decisions with regard to any impacted parkland, including the cultural and historic resources held in trust for the residents of both Counties,” said M-NCPPC Vice-Chair and Prince George’s County Planning Board Chair Elizabeth Hewlett.
Summary of M-NCPPC Major Issues:
- MDOT SHA and the Federal Highway Administration have eliminated alternatives from detailed study, including the MD 200 Diversion Alternative, transportation demand management, and transit alternatives, that are practicable and would be much less damaging to the environment.
- The limits of disturbance (LOD) in the DEIS do not adequately address the likely impacts of the project on aquatic resources.
- The JPA and supporting documents fail to adequately address required mitigation.
- The JPA and supporting documents do not comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
- The Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification and the Coastal Zone Management Act (CMZA), Section 307 consistency should be reviewed prior to the FEIS.
- Insufficient accounting for the Intercounty Connector (ICC). The MD 200 Diversion Alternative should be studied in more detail as a reasonable and practicable technique to avoid impact to critical environmental resources. Various modeling assumptions should be considered in the analyses with and without the I-95 segment.
- LOD modifications after FEIS and ROD and Managed Lanes access issues.
- Making Parks Whole Again.
- Adherence to the Capper-Cramton Act. M-NCPPC will need a complete understanding and commitment from MDOT SHA regarding parkland impacts and mitigation before approval from the National Capital Planning Commission is sought for a change in use or ownership of Capper-Cramton parkland.
- Social equity. The DEIS does not sufficiently address impact to economically challenged populations or social equity as required under NEPA.
- Alternative modes of travel. The DEIS does not meet the stated goal of leveraging other modes of transportation.
- Non-auto driver mode share (NADMS). NADMS is a primary performance metric and a goal in many Montgomery County master plans, particularly for the urban centers, yet the DEIS does not address how the project will impact those goals or how negative impacts to these goals will be mitigated.
- Non-conformance with the Historic Preservation Act. The DEIS does not adequately fulfill the Historic Preservation Act, Section 106 requirements as part of the NEPA process.
- Inadequate stormwater treatment. The storm water management (SWM) approach presented in the DEIS is insufficient and ignores decades of degradation that the existing highways have inflicted on local land.
Anticipated NEPA and Procurement Schedules:
- Late 2020: Notice of Intent to begin NEPA process for 270 North portion of the project.
- 11/6/2020: Close of public comment period for JPA
- 11/9/2020: Close of public comment period for DEIS.
- 5/2021: Selection of Recommended Preferred Alternative, Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) for Managed Lanes Study.
- 5/2021: Final selection of Private Partner for Phase 1 P3 Agreement. Phase I is from and including the American Legion Bridge north on I-495 and up the western spur of I-270 to I-370, then combining that segment with the northern extension of I-270 from I-370 north to I-70 in Frederick.
About the I-495 and I-270 Managed Lanes Study
The I-495 and I-270 Managed Lanes Study was initiated by MDOT along I-495 (Capital Beltway), as well as along I-270 (Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Highway). 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. M-NCPPC’s project coordinators for the Managed Lanes Study are Carol Rubin for Montgomery County and Debra Borden for Prince George’s County.
About The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is a bi-county agency empowered by the State of Maryland in 1927 to acquire, develop, maintain, and administer a regional system of parks within Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, and to provide land use planning for the physical development of Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. In addition, the agency gained responsibility for the public recreation program in Prince George’s County in 1970.
The governing body of M-NCPPC consists of 10 members, five appointed by Montgomery County and five by Prince George’s County. The commission coordinates and acts on matters of interest to both counties, and meets at least once a month. The members of the commission from each county serve on separate county planning boards to facilitate, review, and administer the matters affecting their respective counties.