Feds, Md. agree to work toward BW Parkway toll lanes

WASHINGTON — In a step that could help bring more toll lanes to Maryland, and pave over land controlled by the National Park Service along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the Trump and Hogan administrations have agreed to look more seriously at transferring the roadway from federal to state control.

An agreement between the U.S. Department of the Interior and the State of Maryland acknowledges that any official transfer would require federal legislation, but formalizes “the parties’ interest in evaluating future operation and ownership alternatives.”

Secretary Ryan Zinke signed the agreement earlier this month, and Gov. Larry Hogan signed it Friday.

The federal government agreed to evaluate whether selling entirely or just allowing state toll operations along the parkway would be “an appropriate use of this Federal resource.”

The Hogan administration promised to work with Maryland’s Congressional delegation on a bill that would transfer control of the parkway to Maryland either as part of a sale or trade of property to the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Initial work to iron out some of the details is expected to include surveying and photography, research on ownership of the land, and appraisal of any land that might be sold or traded.

The Baltimore-Washington Parkway is part of Hogan’s proposed massive approximately $9 billion expansion of toll lanes around the Washington region. It would also include the entire length of the Capital Beltway in Maryland and some or all of Interstate 270.

On the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the plan would widen the road with additional lanes in each direction. Since federal legislation is required, the approximately $1.5 billion project has been separated from the $7.5 billion idea to add toll lanes around the Capital Beltway and on parts of Interstate 270.

The state has developed preliminary plans to add privately-operated toll lanes on those two highways. The details of the potential alternatives are scheduled to be presented at public meetings July 17-25, but the State Highway Administration declined to release the details ahead of those meetings.

For Interstate 270, the initial study has limited any toll lane plans to the area south of I-370/ the Intercounty Connector in Gaithersburg. The Maryland State Highway Administration now promises a separate study of a possible extension of those I-270 lanes to Frederick will start in 2019.

The accelerated timeline for the initial Beltway and I-270 study aims to have the next rounds of technical analysis of the I-495 and I-270 toll lane alternatives done this fall. A planned $68.5 million contract tied to the plan was pulled this spring due to conflict of interest concerns.

Virginia plans to extend its I-495 Express Lanes up to the Legion Bridge to meet Maryland’s Beltway toll lanes if and when those are constructed. Since Maryland is responsible for the bridge, any improvements to the bridge would also be part of the toll lane project.

The next public workshops on the Beltway and Interstate 270 toll lanes are from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.:

  • Tuesday, July 17
    Eleanor Roosevelt High School
    7601 Hanover Parkway
    Greenbelt MD 20770
  • Wednesday, July 18
    Clarksburg High School
    22500 Wims Road
    Clarksburg MD 20871
  • Tuesday, July 24
    Central High School
    200 Cabin Branch Road
    Capitol Heights MD 20743
  • Wednesday, July 25
    Thomas W. Pyle Middle School
    6311 Wilson Lane
    Bethesda MD 20817

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