The May 29 citizens association meeting brought some 40 concerned citizens to the community center to hear from Carol Rubin, an attorney at the Maryland National Parks & Planning Commission, who also serves as the county’s project manager and liaison for the state’s Beltway Expansion project.
At the end of April, Rubin and her Prince Georges County counterpart wrote a report that raised major concerns about many aspects of the proposed project including the possible taking of private lands, the negative impact on parklands and the absence of mass transit options. Another major concern is that the plan seems more focused on easing the congestion for through traffic than addressing local traffic woes.
Eight days after the CJCA meeting, the planning commission voted to give an unfavorable recommendation for the six alternatives the state has retained for more detailed study. The commission vote came one day after a contentious vote by the three-person State Board of Public Works to allow the Department of Transportation to proceed with the project under a Public-Private Partnership (P3) arrangement.
However, as part of that vote, the state agreed to make phase one of the project focus on improvements to I-270. They also agreed that 10 percent of net toll revenue would go to local jurisdictions for mass transit.
At the meeting Rubin explained that in addition to a mass transit component, Montgomery County’s master plan calls for I-270 to be expanded and to see traffic demand management options, such as stoplighted access to the highways, implemented. She noted that the proposed expansion is not actually a congestion-relief plan but rather a regional bypass plan that will not ensure easy access to key business areas (e.g., Georgia Ave., National Harbor).
She also mentioned that the County Council does not want the Parks & Planning Commission to convey any parkland. (The State Highway Commission has eminent domain over private property but not public lands. If conservation easements are taken, or conveyed, they must be replaced fourfold in another location, but this cannot be done with stream beds.) Sierra Club, Friends of Sligo Creek, Rock Creek Conservancy, and Audubon Society, among others, also oppose the current expansion plans.
The montgomeryplanningboard.org site has a tool showing which Beltway access points are envisaged, as well as many documents on the expansion.
BY MEREDITH GRIGGS