Md. panel funds $90M study of widening Capital Beltway, I-270

Traffic zooms through Silver Spring, Maryland on the Capital Beltway late at night. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)(WTOP/Dave Dildine)
WASHINGTON — Maryland’s Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved a $90 million contract to begin the process of widening Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway.

Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot voted in favor of the proposal, which will provide the money for studying the planning, final design and construction of the added capacity to the two major commuter routes. State Treasurer Nancy Kopp abstained, saying she remains skeptical of the plan.

They voted after discussion and public comment that included a request for more time to study the contract from Josh Tulkin with Maryland Sierra Club.

Rich Parsons, co-founder of the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance, asked the board to move ahead with the plan. Parsons said delays on past projects, such as the Intercounty Connector, cost the state millions of dollars.

“I urge you to move swiftly and not let delay and wasted money be the typical pattern repeating itself again,” Parsons said.

Kopp voiced concerns over what she called “a confusing process” and a lack of detailed information on the contract. Referring to the agenda item about the contract at Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting, Kopp said, “See, all we have is a page — less than a page — saying ‘Let’s spend $90 million.'”

Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn and State Highway Administrator Greg Slater explained that the contract with four concessionaires takes the project from plans to design, allowing for input along the way.

They also emphasized that the state is committed to staying within current rights of way, although Rahn conceded the challenges are great.

“We are directing the concessionaires that their proposals need to be within our existing right of way,” Rahn said, but he added, “That is very difficult in our very first phase, where you get around Holy Cross Hospital and LDS [the Mormon Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints] and all those areas. It’s really tight.”

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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