Md. transportation official lists 15 projects that could be ‘downgraded’ if American Legion/I-270 toll plan fails

Maryland’s Deputy Secretary of Transportation, R. Earl Lewis, Jr., has written a letter to a regional panel identifying 15 projects that could be put on hold unless plans for the American Legion Bridge and the I-270 corridor get a second look.

In a July 7 letter to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), Lewis wrote that the vote that sidelined the project, which would replace the American Legion Bridge and add toll lanes to I-270 from the Capital Beltway to I-370 in Gaithersburg, means projects in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Frederick counties could be “downgraded” or removed from study.

Lewis said the removal of the “Traffic Relief Plan I-495/270 HOT Lanes” project from consideration by the TPB last month means that projected funding from the public-private partnership would no longer be available for the 15 projects identified in the letter.

Those projects include plans to widen US Route 40 in Frederick from I-70 to Maryland Route 26; establishing Montgomery County’s planned Corridor Cities Transitway; a bus rapid transit project, and upgrades to Prince George’s County’s Route 5 from I-95/495 to U.S. Route 301.

Lewis called the June 16 action by the TPB “hasty,” and said the vote that took the multi-billion dollar plan off the list for study as part of the region’s long-range plans “was rushed without a full understanding of the impacts.”

The plan to widen I-270 and add managed toll lanes has been championed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who said when the plan was introduced that it would be “transformational” and would help break regional gridlock throughout the region.

Lewis wrote that without moving ahead with the Hogan administration’s project, “the National Capital Region will continue to be one of the most congested in the country which will severely limit its economic opportunity.”

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, a vocal critic of the toll lane project, said on Wednesday he is worried by the approach Hogan has taken, pushing for a new vote by the TPB.

“I’m worried that he’s threatened jurisdictions, basically holding them hostage and telling people what projects he’s going to kill,” Elrich said.

The TPB’s next meeting is scheduled for July 21.

WTOP has asked officials in Prince George’s, Frederick and Montgomery counties for comment.

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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