ROCKVILLE, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to put toll lanes on I-270 in Montgomery County has been on the ropes in recent weeks. But supporters are hoping to breathe new life into the idea Wednesday by convincing a big regional transportation planning board to reverse a recent vote against it.
The Transportation Planning Board, or TPB, includes local leaders from D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Their approval is critical because the federal government won’t give environmental approval for a big regional interstate highway project without the board’s support.
In June, the TPB voted against Hogan’s plans for widening the American Legion Bridge, a portion of the Capital Beltway and I-270 up to the ICC by constructing privately operated toll lanes. After the setback, Maryland asked for reconsideration, and the new vote is scheduled for Wednesday.
In the meantime, the Hogan administration announced nearly $1.25 billion worth of road projects in other counties, including the widening of 301 in a section of Prince George's County, which might not happen if the toll road isn’t approved.
Montgomery County leaders who oppose the toll lanes denounced the move as bullying tactics.
“The governor will be keeping the other lanes so congested that people are willing to pay to get out of those lanes," Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said. "Creating soul-crushing traffic for everybody else until they reach the point where they're willing to pay a toll? Those kinds of bullying tactics and misinformation is what he's been doing."
Elrich and other county leaders say they support widening the American Legion Bridge and rebuilding portions of I-95 and I-270 with reversible rush-hour lanes that are free for all users and that extend all the way to Frederick.
Hogan's private toll lane plan would go as far as the Intercounty Connector and would feature peak tolls of up to $18.60 for a one-way rush-hour trip, according to Maryland Transportation Authority estimates.
To further sweeten the deal for some reluctant TPB members, the Hogan administration announced it would add $60 million for a dedicated commuter bus lane either on I- 270 or Rockville Pike. Elrich called the offer a sign of desperation, urging the TPB to uphold its previous vote to reject the toll lane idea.