Maryland's Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn did not rule out solutions, including stacking elevated beltway lanes or putting lanes in underground tunnels as Montgomery County Council Members questioned him this week about a $9 billion plan to widen Maryland's portion of the Capital Beltway and I-270 to Frederick.
"I don't have a preference," Rahn said as he was quizzed by council member Tom Hucker Thursday at a briefing of the councils Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee.
Rahn said he does not want to comment further on the issue until potential bidders for a proposed public-private partnership have a chance to submit conceptual ideas. Submissions are expected by December 20th.
The ambitious highway project was proposed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan in September to add two toll lanes in each direction to the entire length of the Maryland's portion of the Capital Beltway and on I-270 between the Beltway and Frederick.
But Montgomery County residents and council members immediately questioned how widening would be possible in narrow sections of the roadway such as at the interchange with Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.
"How do you get four lanes in there unless you are planning on stacking or undergrounding," asked Hucker.
"You don't want to take homes," said council member George Leventhal. "You don't want to have an adverse affect on Holy Cross hospital. You don't want to have an adverse effect on Rock Creek and Rock Creek Parks."
Rahn confirmed that the Maryland Department of Transportation will make it clear to potential bidders that their bids should reflect a priority is to avoid those effects.
Rahn also said he could not envision the project without the widening or replacement of the American Legion Bridge from Cabin John, Md. to McLean, Va.
When he announced the dramatic highway expansion in September, Governor Hogan said costs to Marylanders would be minimal. Hogan said the state would seek a privately-financed partner to construct and operate the project, which would be paid for by tolls paid to travel only on the expanded lanes.
Rahn called such public-private partnerships known as P3's the "Big Kahuna."