Amid recount challenge, Montgomery Co. executive gives updates on infection outbreaks, road projects

Montgomery County, Maryland, executive Marc Elrich said he feels “pretty good” about his chances of coming out the victor in his reelection efforts after the Democratic Primary results are certified by the county Board of Elections on Friday.

Elrich’s rival, businessman David Blair, has made clear that he will petition for a recount. Elrich leads by 42 votes.

He told reporters in a briefing Wednesday that “not much changes in the world of recounts.” Elrich referenced his last contest with Blair in 2018, where he won by 77 votes. Blair asked for a recount in that election but only gained two votes when the process was over.

Updates on monkeypox, COVID-19

While the number of monkeypox cases have increased statewide to 219, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, county health officials were unable to say how many cases are in Montgomery County. That information has not been provided by the Maryland State Department of Health.

Kimberly Townsend, a senior administrator with the Montgomery County Department of Health, said during the briefing that 1,300 people had preregistered for vaccinations against the virus.

“We still have a limited number of monkeypox vaccine doses, and we are expecting additional vaccine in the coming months,” Townsend said.

Townsend added that county health officials are offering vaccines to those at highest risk, and there are plans to hold town hall style discussions with the public on monkeypox.

As for the coronavirus, Sean O’Donnell, manager of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Manager with the county’s health department, said Montgomery County is in the high range for COVID-19, with 224 cases per 100,000 reported along with hospitalizations at 10.7 per 100,000.

O’Donnell said that the “vast majority” of cases in the region could be attributed to the BA.5 variant.

Push for alternative plans for the Capital Beltway and I-270

During Wednesday’s briefing, Elrich thanked federal officials at the Federal Highway Administration for their recent action to delay a final decision on the plan to add managed toll lanes to part of the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270.

While Elrich repeated criticisms of the $7.5 billion project, he said something needs to be done to improve both roadways.

“But how it’s done, and what it costs to do it, are important questions,” he said.

The county executive also rejected assertions that a delay would necessarily cause the cost of the project to balloon.

“The project might also prove to be cheaper if it’s scaled back,” Elrich said. “It may also prove to be cheaper if the current price of construction materials continues to decline, so there’s no reason to think this is going to be a more expensive project.”

State Del. Jared Solomon attended the briefing and offered his remarks on the FHWA’s decision. Solomon, who raised numerous questions about the plan, said the decision is coming during an election year. Gov. Larry Hogan is in the final months of his second term in office.

“We have potentially a new administration coming in several months that will view this project very differently,” Solomon said. He added that moving ahead with the plan could potentially put the county and the local community “on the hook for funding and infrastructure for the next 50 to 100 years.”

The move to delay a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the plan was blasted by Hogan, who said last week that his administration was “blindsided” by the decision on the part of the Federal Highway Administration to hold off on issuing a “record of decision” on the plan.

Hogan announced plans for what he called a “transformative” road improvement project that would rebuild the American Legion Bridge and add toll lanes five years ago. Since then, the plan has evolved to include transit access and a hiker/biker path for cyclists and pedestrians.

The Hogan administration has threatened to sue the federal government over the decision to delay approval.

When asked about the lawsuit, Elrich said he didn’t know what role, if any, would the county play in a suit by the state against the federal government. However, when referring to helping federal transportation officials, the county executive lent his support.

“We’d be more than happy to provide supporting arguments and evidence that this is a prudent decision on their part,” Elrich said.

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.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up