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Officials Urge Hogan Administration Not to Postpone I-270 Study

Montgomery County officials joined with Frederick County officials in urging the Hogan administration to not postpone a study on potential improvements to I-270 in the UpCounty.

In September of 2017, Hogan stood on a hill overlooking I-270 in Gaithersburg and shocked many local Montgomery County government and civic leaders with a massive bombshell about his administration’s plan to ease traffic congestion and widen three major commuter highways in the State of Maryland.

However, last week it was revealed that the plan will fall short of widening the very portion of I-270 which the announcement overlooked. The current study will only include the portion of I-270 from I-495 to I-370 in Gaithersburg. The section of I-270 from I-370 to I-70 in Frederick County line will be part of the next phase of the study which is vaguely scheduled for the “future study” according to a document outlining the details of the Managed Lanes Study provided by the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Earlier this week, County officials from both Frederick and Montgomery counties sent a letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Secretary of Transportation Pete K. Rahn urging the State not to postpone a study on potential improvements to the I-270 highway between I-370 and Frederick County. The letter encourages the inclusion of one or more transit elements in the study to reduce automotive traffic and congestion.

A similar study has already been conducted on the southern portion of I-270 as part of the State’s Traffic Relief Plan, announced in 2017, which would add express toll lanes to I-270. Council President Riemer and the Council believe that the plan as currently envisioned would exacerbate congestion on I-270 between Gaithersburg and Frederick.

“While we are gratified that a portion of the I-270 corridor will be analyzed,” said the letter which was signed by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Council President Hans Riemer, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, and Council President Bud Otis, “we are very concerned about MDOT’s announcement that it intends to postpone — indefinitely — the study of improvements on I-270 between I-370 and the City of Frederick. Without changes to the northern portion of I-270, the major expansion of southern I-270 will only exacerbate the severe congestion between Gaithersburg and Frederick. This congestion results from the significant reduction in existing capacity (from 12 to 4 lanes) that occurs as one travels north along I-270 between I-370 and Frederick.”

“While we are pleased that the Governor has put widening I-270 on the agenda, we are dismayed to learn that he has decided to stop any potential new construction at I-370 in Gaithersburg,” said Hans Riemer in a statement. “Residents north of Gaithersburg need relief as well. Additionally, we are calling on the Governor to make this project multi-modal by including a major transit investment in the infrastructure plan.”

The Montgomery Council also urged MDOT to include addition of transit elements to the Traffic Relief Plan, to provide an efficient, environmentally-friendly alternative to driving and reduce the glut of cars on the highway.

The letter concludes, “We strongly urge you to incorporate in the study one or more transit elements to complement your proposed highway improvements. We have long believed that the solution to mobility in the I-270 Corridor is one that provides more options to travelers. Transit improves commuters for drivers by taking more cars off the road, moving more people per lane, and making the transportation network more efficient. This is an essential component of the long-term solution for this corridor.”

The $9 billion Traffic Relief Plan announced in the fall of 2017 is aimed at reducing congestion for millions of drivers on I-270, I-495, and MD-295. While making the announcement Hogan said, “These three massive, unprecedented projects to widen I-495, I-270, and MD 295 will be absolutely transformative, and they will help Maryland citizens go about their daily lives. These projects will substantially and dramatically improve our state highway system and traffic in the region.”

Photos by Germantown Pulse. Video courtesy Montgomery County Council.