Letter: The Hogan-Franchot Compromise Is Magical Thinking

I read with interest Bruce DePuyt’s thoughtful article “Hogan-Franchot Highway Compromise Hailed as ‘Win-Win.'” Despite its title some communities and Montgomery County are clear losers.
The article did not note that Interstate 270 already has 12 lanes in the proposed expansion area, equaling the widest portion of the New Jersey Turnpike that includes truck lanes. Expanding I-270 to a 16-lane highway through residential areas of Rockville and Gaithersburg is a transportation solution even Los Angeles now recognizes is not the answer.
More troubling, while the governor, comptroller and county officials tout committing 10% of the future tolls to county transit funding, apparently no one has actually read the text of the Board of Public Works amendments. The money comes “AFTER P3 contractor gets reimbursed for construction costs.”
It will take at least five years (optimistic) before construction is finished and at least another 5-10 years before the billions in construction cost are paid off.
So, 2030 plus is when the first money will come for transit. In the meantime, you can bet the governor will keep saying, you have a commitment of money, so the state doesn’t have to include the counties in the urgent transit funding.
In addition, the state will go through a selection process to choose the contractor for the toll road in parallel with the federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. It states in the Board of Public Works amendments, “In the event that priced managed lanes are not part of the recommended preferred alternative, the solicitation would not proceed.“
I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you if you believe after fighting for a multibillion-dollar project that the contractor and its many subcontractors won’t turn on the political screws to assure that the decision is to build the toll road. This amendment, in my opinion, is designed to create that imperative.
Finally, I believe what is driving this hurried, narrow process is to be able to say, “I built the highway, and you did not have to pay for it.”  This is the 1960s-like magical thinking that now cripples our ability to find real transportation solutions.

— ARTHUR KATZ

The writer is a resident of Rockville.