State Actions on Beltway Expansion Prompts CJ Advocacy

Various state agencies are taking critical action on the state’s Beltway expansion plans, prompting what could be the last opportunity for Cabin John residents to weigh in on the massive project. 

Most anticipated, is the expected mid- September publication of the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS), which will trigger the last 45-day public comment period and public hearing of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for the Beltway expansion. 

The project would replace the American Legion Bridge and add four toll lanes – two in each direction – from the Virginia side of the bridge, up the Beltway to the I-270 spur, and up l-270 to l-370. 

Plan to attend the Sept. 29 CJCA meeting, 7:30 p.m. which will be held via Zoom, for a briefing on the latest developments and ways to provide comments. The citizens association also will be asking the community to authorize up to $2,000 to, once again, engage VHBMetroDC, to review the SDEIS and provide technical points on traffic and other negative impacts. 

The initial DEIS, produced by the Federal Highway Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation and published for comment in July 2020, was 19,000 pages and yet still inadequate. Of particular concern to Cabin John was its failure to address construction and long- term impacts on our local roads as well as the noise and visual impacts of the planned exit ramp to River Rd. The supplemental DEIS is supposed to address many issues raised in the public comments submitted last fall. 

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS THAT WILL BE TALKED ABOUT INCLUDE: 

A Sept. 8 communication from the SHA saying it is proposing that the Beltway expansion “completely avoids” the Morningstar Moses Hall and Cemetery as well as the adjacent MDOT SHA right-of-way for the current Beltway after archaeological mapping and ground penetrating radar surveys at the cemetery this summer indicated 14 probable graves and the potential for as many as 34 burials within the current Beltway right-of-way, according to report findings released by the SHA to the CJCA, the Friends of Moses Hall, and other consulting parties to the Section 106 process. 

The surveys, which only covered a portion of the cemetery, also found the potential for hundreds more graves than the 80 that have been identified by the Friends of Moses Hall through historical records. Under Section 106, the government is required
to review the Beltway expansion project’s potential impact on historic properties. 

The transmittal letter explained that the state’s selection of a preferred design alternative in January prompted the SHA to update the Section 106 review. Other historical properties near Cabin John in the review include the C&O Canal and Plummers Island. The SHA is asking all consulting parties to provide comments on the updated Section 106 documentation by Oct. 8. 

The August 11 action by the Maryland Board of Public Works giving two Maryland Department of Transportation agencies approval to move forward with the Public-Private Partnership Agreement with Accelerate Maryland Partners LLC (Transurban) for pre-development work on the New American Legion Bridge I-270 Traffic Relief Plan. 

BPW’s approval is a significant milestone in advancing the Beltway expansion project as the predevelopment agreement gives the go-ahead for Transurban to work towards a 30% design level for the project, so it will be vitally important for community stakeholders to engage during this process. 

By Charlotte Troup Leighton, CJCA Vice President for Advocacy 

Susan Shipp, CJCA President 

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