Prince George’s Co. planners weigh in on Beltway-widening plans

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Planners in Prince George’s County, Maryland, have expressed to the County Council their misgivings about Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to relieve traffic congestion in the region by widening portions of the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 and installing toll lanes.

In a Monday briefing for the council the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission told council members that it had a number of objections to the state’s study that calls for the road widening and toll lanes.

Planners are critical that the state is leaving out of its widening plans a five-mile section of Interstate 495 from Maryland state Route 5 to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

“How will that function if the lanes that are toll lanes simply end, you could end up with a bottleneck, and you could end up making the situation in that area … worse in terms of congestion. This project is not supposed to make things worse,” said Debra Borden, principal counsel for the MNCPPC.

Planners also pointed out that the state plan would omit any widening on I-270 north of Interstate 370 to Frederick.

The Prince George’s County planners also object to the state plan focusing on road widening while not boosting public transit.

“We feel very, very strongly that transit is the way that we are going to build ourselves out of this congestion. We don’t think building roads will be the only solution to solving the problem of mobility in Prince George’s County,” said Terry Bellamy, director, Prince George’s County Public Works and Transportation.

In addition, planners in Prince George’s County have questioned the phasing of the project and raised doubts over whether road widening will achieve its intended result.

“Adding lanes doesn’t generally solve your problem if you have too many cars on the road. I know that’s counterproductive to us non-engineering types, but it’s true,” Borden said.

Hogan’s plan calls for the I-270 segment to be widened first, followed by the Capital Beltway in Montgomery and then Prince George’s County.

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