“Property and environmental needs are preliminary at this point,” the administration said in the report. “As the study moves forward, further avoidance and minimization to reduce property and environmental needs will be evaluated and prioritized.”
Adding four lanes to both of the highways could reduce delays in the area by more than 30%, according to the report unveiled as the Maryland State Highway Administration launched a series of public workshops during which people can share their opinions and learn more.
“I can simply say on behalf of the county council, there are a lot of serious questions,” Prince George’s County Council Chair Todd Turner said in response to the report.
“There was a lot of information about how ‘we’re not going to take homes, we’re not going to take land, or try not to … obviously with the report we received today, you have to question that a little bit.”
“We are really encouraging people to attend the public workshops to see the information that we have prepared and ask questions,” said the administration’s Lisa Choplin. “We will have staff available to walk individuals through information displays, handouts and interactive mapping.”
The meetings also feature a system that lets people type in their commute and see how much time the toll lanes could potentially save them.
Pyle Middle School in Bethesda hosted another workshop Saturday, April 13 from 10 a.m. through noon. Public comments were accepted both at the workshops and online.
Workshop attendees had a variety of opinions on widening certain highways.
Bethesda resident Drew Magary said widening the Beltway would encroach on his property.
Jerry Garson, transportation chair of the Montgomery County Civic Federation pointed out that when highways get clogged, drivers start taking alternate routes through neighborhood roads.
“If we don’t get the traffic on main roads, they start using local roads and having accidents with pedestrians,” Garson said.
In all, the administration is considering seven various proposals that include plans for express toll lanes or high occupancy/toll lanes on the highways.
On Express Toll Lanes, toll prices can vary based on the time of day or on actual traffic conditions. High occupancy/toll lanes, on the other hand, are free to high occupancy vehicles, while lower occupancy vehicles can use them by paying a toll.
WTOP’s Dick Uliano and Kate Ryan contributed to this report.
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