Montgomery, Frederick officials want to revive plans to widen 270

WASHINGTON — Leaders from Montgomery and Frederick counties want to push ahead with long-term plans to widen Interstate 270 even as a separate plan to add rapid bus transit in the congested corridor faltered this week.

Montgomery and Frederick county elected leaders want the state to restart a study of the I-270 and U. S. 15 corridor that in 2009 had suggested the potential for new toll lanes, bus lanes or other expansions of the congested highway.

Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner and Frederick County Council President Bud Otis sent the letter Thursday to Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn.

“Improvements to the corridor have been under study for more than twenty years and traffic conditions have continued to deteriorate, impacting travel by car and bus along with freight movement,” the letter says.

The county leaders acknowledge the Hogan administration’s short-term plans for $100 million in quick fixes along I-270 could help somewhat. But they write that the planned improvements fall short of the congestion relief that the 2009 study plans called for.

“It’s a regional issue. A huge regional issue. You just have to look over to 270 any morning to see what a mess it is. And (you‘ve) got to scratch your head and say why hasn’t anything been done?,” Floreen said in an interview.

The letter asks the state to include funding to finalize the study so that new lanes could eventually be built.

In the same corridor, the state’s six-year transportation plan no longer includes funding for a major bus rapid transit project in Montgomery County. This week, the Hogan administration pulled state funds needed to move the Corridor Cities Transitway toward construction over the next few years as part of statewide funding shifts.

“We have been assuming that the state would be in the game with us,” Floreen said. “Just this week we were informed that again dollars for that from the state have been shelved, and put off until sometime in the future, which we’re pretty unhappy about as well.”

Floreen laughed when asked how soon commuters might see improvements. She said construction along the corridor should be a top priority.

“I wouldn’t hold my breath. At the rate we’re going, it’s going to be some time before anyone sees any genuine effort to improve 270. It’s really, really frustrating for those folks … but if we don’t keep pushing, we’re never going to get anything done,” she said.

A group focused on widening the road launched a concerted lobbying effort last month.

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