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Gansler: No HOV or HOT Lanes at American Legion Bridge

Wednesday - 8/14/2013, 7:37am  ET

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Attorney General Doug Gansler gives a presentation before the Montgomery County Action Committee for Transit in Silver Spring about focusing on alternatives to heavy road construction, namely public transit. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

SILVER SPRING, Md. - Attorney General Doug Gansler tells WTOP his vision for Maryland's future doesn't include High Occupancy Vehicle or Toll lanes between the Interstate 270 spur and the American Legion Bridge.

"My view is that if you have the Purple Line, you have the ICC, you have the Corridor Cities Transitway and you bring jobs back to Maryland and take them back from Virginia, then that should solve many of the problems and perhaps vitiate the need for another American Legion Bridge span," Gansler tells WTOP in a one-on-one interview.

Gansler spoke to WTOP after a presentation before the Montgomery County Action Committee for Transit in Silver Spring where he told guests that Maryland needs to shift its transportation vision from road-centric to transit-preferred alternatives. He is expected to announce a bid for governor in September.

"There clearly needs to be a preference for public transportation because the more public transportation, the fewer cars you'll have on the road and the less need you'll have for more lanes or new highways," he says.

Gansler told the group that his top transportation priorities as governor include building the Purple Line from Bethesda to New Carrollton and funding the Corridor Cities Transitway from Gaithersburg to Clarksburg.

"The hope and the idea is that the I-270 spur and across the American Legion Bridge will be alleviated, in terms of congestion, by building the Purple Line and using the ICC (Intercounty Connector) more," he says.

The Purple Line is a 16-mile light-rail line with construction due to begin in 2015 and service beginning in 2020.

The project will cost about $2.15 billion and would likely require a combination of state, federal and private dollars. Gov. Martin O'Malley recently announced a $400 million investment into the Purple Line, with Gansler saying he'll continue funding the project if elected.

The Corridor Cities Transitway would be a bus-rapid transit line connecting the Shady Grove Metro station to the Metropolitan Grove MARC station, bypassing I-270. Eventually, the CCT could be extended to COMSAT in Gaithersburg. Gov. O'Malley recently announced $100 million for design and right-of-way acquisition for the project.

"In terms of new roads, new highways or adding lanes, other than small projects, I don't think there is huge appetite right now for ICC-like projects," Gansler says.

Gansler added that he doesn't endorse HOV or HOT Lanes as options to ease congestion near the American Legion Bridge, along the Capital Beltway or other highways between Baltimore and D.C., even though he said he would be willing to explore it.

Last month, Maryland Transportation Secretary Jim Smith also told WTOP that his agency is not actively considering HOV or HOT Lanes on I-270, the Capital Beltway or near the American Legion Bridge.

"There are so many priorities that are already in queue that we're concentrating on them. Adding lanes or other modifications to 495 or 270 is not something that's on the radar right now. We have our plate full right now," Smith told WTOP in July.

Virginia teamed up with company Transurban-Fluor to build the Capital Beltway Express Lanes (HOT Lanes) from Tysons to Springfield and the two are now building similar lanes from Garrisonville Rd. in Stafford County to Turkeycock Run in Alexandria on I-95. Those lanes are scheduled to open at the end of 2014.

According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, more than 226,000 vehicles travel across the American Legion Bridge on a typical weekday, with the number expected to rise to 269,000 by 2040.

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