November 20, 2019
Maryland State Highway Administration officials outlined reasons for eliminating MD 200 and Alternative 5 as part of selected alternatives for study at meeting in Silver Spring
SILVER SPRING, MD – The governing body of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) received a briefing from the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) during its meeting on Wednesday, November 20 at the Montgomery County Planning Department headquarters (8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD). MDOT SHA staff provided updates on the revised alternatives retained for detailed study (ARDS) for the Interstate 495 and Interstate 270 Managed Lanes Study.
At a previous briefing in June 2019, M-NCPPC voted 9 to 1 not to concur on the ARDS and all seven commissioners attending the November 20 meeting reaffirmed this vote. The November 20 decision not to concur is based on the lack of information needed to evaluate the selected ARDS and MDOT SHA’s failure to address the reasons why M-NCPPC did not concur with the ARDS at the outset.
During the November 20 meeting, MDOT SHA officials presented an analysis showing why the MD 200 (Intercounty Connector) Diversion Alternative does not warrant consideration among the alternatives retained for detailed study. The M-NCPPC, National Capital Planning Commission and Montgomery County had asked MDOT SHA to consider the ICC as a way to avoid significant impact to critical environmental resources if I-495 between I-270 and I-495 is expanded.
The MDOT SHA conclusion to eliminate MD 200 was based on factors such as system-wide delay, travel time index and increased commutes that ranked last or nearly last compared to other alternatives. The ICC does not address the worst performing road segments in Maryland and provides no traffic relief, according to the transportation officials.
MDOT SHA officials also explained the reasons for eliminating the Alternative 5 from the ARDS. This proposal would have provided a high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane on I-495 and converted an existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane into a HOT lane on I-270. Studies showed it had the worst results in terms of system-wide delay, travel time savings and average speed compared to the other alternatives considered.
Given the significance of environmental, cultural and historic resources along the constrained stretch of I-495 between I-270 and I-95, M-NCPPC staff believes the elimination of the lesser-build Alternative 5 and ICC Diversion Alternative from further study does not provide sufficient alternatives for review under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), particularly since both of those alternatives provide some congestion relief and do so with less environmental impact.
M-NCPPC expressed concerns over the economic and traffic analyses used to determine the selected ARDS. Commissioners emphasized the need to accommodate transit in the project overall and specifically on the rebuilt American Legion Bridge. They reiterated their request for more detailed information about the data used to evaluate the ARDS and pledged to continue to work with MDOT SHA on the project.
The MDOT SHA briefing to the M-NCPPC is available online at https://montgomeryplanningboard.org/meetings/watch-online/
For more information
The public and other interested parties are encouraged to comment online at the study’s website (https://495-270-p3.com), by email at 495-270-P3@sha.state.md.us or hard copy during the public workshops held by the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration. Hard copy comments can also be mailed to the I-495 and I-270 P3 Project Office at the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, 707 North Calvert Street, Mail Stop P-601, Baltimore, MD 21202.
The I-495 and I-270 Managed Lanes Study was initiated by MDOT SHA as an element of a broader plan to relieve traffic congestion on the busiest routes in the region. The study considers improvements along I-495 (Capital Beltway), as well as along I-270 (Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Highway). The Managed Lanes Study will evaluate a range of alternatives within the specific area of I-495 from the Virginia side of the American Legion Bridge in Fairfax County to Exit 7 on the Maryland side of I-495/I-95 and on I-270 from I-495 to I-370.
A notice of intent to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Managed Lanes Study area was issued by the Federal Highway Administration on March 16, 2018, and under Executive Order the agency is tasked with reaching permit stage in two years.
MDOT SHA proposes that the purpose of the I-495 and I-270 Managed Lanes Study is to develop a travel demand management solution that addresses congestion, improve trip reliability on I-495 and I-270 within the study limits and enhance existing and planned multimodal mobility and connectivity. MDOT SHA has expressed its intent is to utilize a public-private partnership (P3) in order to design, construct, operate and maintain any proposed infrastructure improvements.
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.
The Commission’s project coordinators are Carol Rubin for Montgomery County and Debra Borden for Prince George’s County.
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.