The Washington D.C. Beltway and I-270 corridor may soon be expanded, Governor Hogan has introduced potential plans that would lessen traffic congestion.
A few of Maryland's busiest highways soon may undergo large scale expansions in an effort to lighten the often sluggish daily commutes of DC and Baltimore area residents as Governor Larry Hogan has just introduced a new highway construction plan. The office of the Governor is calling his plan "The Highway Relief Plan"
and said that the proposed plan will be a "massive" and "unprecedented" highway construction project that would add two additional toll lanes in each direction of the highways included in the proposal. The Governor says that the program's goal is to improve the quality of life of the thousands of daily commuters who deal with some of the most congested traffic conditions in the entire nation, however the plan's opponents maintain that the Governor's plan is a mere quick, short term fix that would not solve the overall rush hour traffic problem.
More than the majority of commuters do not use the toll lanes which are considered by some as being the "Lexus lanes." Only a small minority of motorists are able to utilize metro area toll lanes. In addition to questions as to whether or not lane expansions are necessary, the proposed expansion of highways also has raised environmental concerns with regard to the destruction of trees in construction and the long term impact of increased traffic flow. Many who are skeptical of Hogan's plan have pointed out that more cars on the road equates to more pollution in the air while during the proposed construction phases homes and communities near the highways would be affected by suburban sprawl and noise pollution, among other factors. Hogan's plan has also caused skeptics to point that rather than expanding so called "Lexus Lanes," government funds might be better invested in expanding public transportation which also would also help to lighten traffic while helping to reduce mass transit's effect on the environment.
Skeptics and opponents to the plan also feel that expanding toll lanes would do little to alleviate daily traffic congestion as the number of cars on the roads would soon increase and commute times and congestion would be the same, only on a larger scale
. With next year being an election year for the Governor, the Governor's proposal has to also been perceived by some as early campaigning on Hogan's part and that the plan is only a temporary solution designed to boost the Governor's image and ultimately would not work very well.
Hogan also revealed that the Highway Relief Plan would carry a hefty price tag
, the doubling of toll lanes between Washington D.C. and Baltimore on the Baltimore Washington Parkway alone would cost $1.4 billion while the construction costs on the Capital Beltway and I-270 would cost roughly about $7.6 billion. This may come as a concern for some taxpayers, however Hogan has assured the public that his plan would be funded by toll revenue generated by more toll lanes and also that toll revenue may even bear profits for the state's economy and government while construction would create jobs, although only temporarily. Hogan's plan asserts that the project would ultimately pay for itself
as a construction contract would be awarded to a private company to build the new toll lanes in exchange for portions of future toll revenue, -a governmental public-private highway construction partnership/practice that has come to be known as "The Highway Business." However creation of more "Lexus Lanes" would not mean that average daily commuters would be using the toll lanes and also that the goal of reducing rush hour commute times would be met.
Hogan's Highway Relief plan would affect the toll lanes on the Baltimore Washington Parkway, Interstate 270 and the Maryland half of the Capital Beltway while regular traffic highway lanes would remain as is. Adding new toll lanes could also cause commute costs to increase as has happened in Virginia and other states, some are predicting that the average commute could rise to as high as $40 for the more than 200,000 daily metro area commuters using Maryland's metro area highways everyday. As to the plan's likelihood for success, Hogan's chances are pretty good, the executive branch in Maryland does not need legislative approval from the State Senate
unless further funding is needed. Companies will soon likely begin bidding for contracts under Hogan's public-private proposal which is likely to be finalized within a year and a half
after which construction would soon begin.