Report: Proposed Md. toll lanes could cost drivers more than $2 per mile along common commuter routes

Would you pay almost $50 to zip past miles of traffic on your commute from Frederick to Rockville? Or to avoid the slowdowns on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway?

That’s what a new report says it could cost you, based on an analysis of the planned toll lanes on Interstate 270 in Maryland. The analysis, which is based on data from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government, found drivers could eventually pay more than $2 per mile.

The council provided its research to the Maryland Department of Transportation as part of a deeper study into adding toll lanes to I-270 and the Capital Beltway in Maryland.

Turns out, the construction plans that would provide the most congestion relief would also be the most costly to commuters, ranging from nearly $1 to more than $2 per mile at peak hours.

For the trip from the intersection of Maryland’s Route 85 in Frederick to Interstate 370 in Rockville along I-270 — about 22 miles — the rush hour cost could be over $2 per mile according to one construction plan.

To get from Interstate 695, just south of Baltimore, to the Beltway in Prince George’s County — a distance of about 21 miles — it would cost over $58.

The goal for variable tolling is an average speed of 45 mph in the pay lanes, while the general lanes would remain free. The project will cost about $10 billion, and includes adding up to two toll lanes in each direction on I-270 and widening the American Legion Bridge, among other improvements. The projections are based on conditions in the year 2040.

The COG projections, part of a massive document released by MDOT (the table below was on page 883), warned that the information shouldn’t be considered “investment-grade” but is a good indication of which sections of the project will be most costly for drivers.

An analysis based on Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments data suggests some sections of a congestion relief project in Maryland could cost some drivers over $2 per mile.

The Maryland State Highway Administration, earlier this year, projected the cost per mile in the toll lanes to be in the range of 66 to 77 cents averaged out over all hours.

The Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition, which encourages the use of public transit, calls these toll lanes “Lexus Lanes,” and referred to the information about the cost of travel a “bombshell,” in a news release posted on October 15.

A state senator from Frederick, Ron Young, is quoted in the release saying that “there are better alternatives” than building “our way out of traffic congestion.” He called widening I-270 a “traffic nightmare.”

WTOP’s John Domen contributed to this report.

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