GOP Leader Does About-Face (Sort of) on Local Toll Bill

Del. Sid Saab (R-Anne Arundel)

A Republican leader in the House of Delegates who backed a measure opposed by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) has moved to have his name taken off the bill.

The measure, House Bill 292, would require the state to get the approval of affected counties before building a toll-financed highway, bridge or tunnel.

Existing law requires the state to get local approval in nine Eastern Shore counties. HB 292 and its Senate cross-file, SB 229, would expand local sign-off power to all 23 counties and the City of Baltimore.

House Deputy Minority Whip Sid Saab (R-Anne Arundel) agreed to co-sponsor the bill at the start of the session. But he has since filed to have his name removed.

Saab still believes local governments should have a seat at the table when toll facilities are being planned. But he only wants Anne Arundel County to gain new power.

In an interview on Friday, he struggled to explain the apparent double-standard.

“I believe that our citizens should have a say, that local governments should have a say where things go,” he said. “I just didn’t know that [HB 292] is going to cover the entire state, which could create some issues in the future for other projects, especially in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County.”

The Hogan administration is pursuing a public-private partnership to build a new, expanded American Legion Bridge between Montgomery County and Fairfax County, Va. The project, financed by private firms that would be repaid through future toll revenue, would also widen a portion of the Capital Beltway and the southern-most portion of Interstate 270.

Saab denied that the administration leaned on him to remove his support for a measure that could derail those efforts. Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said on Saturday he was unaware of any lobbying efforts by the governor’s staff or the Department of Transportation.

“I think those things should be based on [a] county-by-county thing, because sometimes those big projects can be very complicated and it requires a different approach,” Saab said. “And I want each county to do what’s right for its own citizens.”

Hogan also wants to build a new span across the Chesapeake Bay. While MDOT is currently evaluating a handful of different potential alignments, Hogan said in August that a crossing next to the existing bridge spans is “only one option I will ever accept.”

Saab, a second-term delegate and possible candidate for Anne Arundel county executive, said he will focus his efforts on making sure his county is guaranteed a voice in that project.

“I really want to make sure that Anne Arundel localities, the locals, have the autonomy, especially on our side, to say where the bridge goes,” he said.

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Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.