Planning leaders from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties refused Wednesday to sign off on a study of how to add toll lanes to the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270, saying the state has not addressed their concerns about the plan’s finances, potential environmental impacts and lack of significant transit options.
The unanimous rejection by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission demonstrated broad local political opposition to the traffic relief plan by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and hinted at potential lawsuits against the project. That could include a legal challenge from Montgomery planning officials, who said they would fight any attempt to use the state’s power of eminent domain to condemn public parkland to widen the Beltway.
Moreover, local political opposition and even the suggestion of a protracted legal battle could spook the private companies and financiers whom the Maryland Department of Transportation plans to pursue to build, finance and operate the toll lanes as part of a public-private partnership. It took just one lawsuit to delay construction of Maryland’s light-rail Purple Line, also being built through a public-private partnership, by a year and potentially add hundreds of millions to its cost.