Ahead of Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, Brown Questions Governor’s Highway Plan

U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) File photo

A day before he holds a transportation town hall meeting with constituents, U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) expressed concern about Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan’s plan to widen the Capital Beltway (I-495) and Interstate 270.

In a letter to Hogan (R), Brown said the state’s plan relies too much on roads, lacks community support and hasn’t had sufficient environmental review.

He also said the Hogan administration’s approach won’t solve the Washington, D.C., region’s notorious traffic woes.

“Building new toll lanes will do little to improve congestion or address our underlying infrastructure challenges, and will amount to another financial burden on Maryland’s working families,” Brown wrote.

“Decades of traffic data across the United States show that increasing road capacity does not improve traffic,” the former Maryland lieutenant governor added. “Instead, widening highways encourages more people to drive and travel longer distances, thereby increasing congestion.”

Hogan’s plan would widen three roads — I-270, the Beltway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway — two lanes in each direction, using a private investment system in which the companies that build the lanes would get to set and collect tolls to recoup their upfront expenses.

A recent Washington Post/George Mason University survey found widespread public support for Hogan’s plan, though the numbers dipped in Prince George’s County.

Brown, who lost the 2014 governor’s race to Hogan, represents parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.

“We’re concerned about who’s losing homes, who’s losing businesses,” Brown said. “I’ve got people concerned about environmental impact. I’ve got people who are concerned about why are we going to toll the Beltway.”

Brown would like to see the state pursue rail across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and transit-oriented development around Metro stations in Prince George’s, so fewer of his constituents would need to leave the county each day to go to work.

“If I don’t hear anything else [from the state], it would be hard for me to support [the governor’s plan] because I don’t think my constituents can support it,” Brown said.

Hogan and Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn have argued there is no money to fund road projects except through public-private partnerships — and they have maintained that there is an urgent need to act quickly because of predictions that the D.C. region’s clogged roads will only become more congested over time.

On Tuesday, the governor’s press office distributed a “Traffic Facts” news release touting his “record funding in transit.” On Wednesday, Hogan’s team put out a list of the public workshops, legislative briefings, meetings with stakeholders and other Maryland Department of Transportation events where the public could learn about and offer feedback on the state’s plans.

Brown’s town hall will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center at 8001 Sheriff Road in Landover.

Among the speakers will be Prince George County Council Chairman Todd Turner and Terry Bellamy, director of the Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation. Bellamy recently agreed to serve on Hogan’s newly formed transit working group.

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