Maryland Transportation Authority Set to Vote on D.C.-Area Toll Lane Plan

    The Maryland Transportation Authority Board is slated to vote Tuesday on a public-private partnership agreement for the toll-lane widening of portions of Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway (I-495) in Montgomery County.

    The special meeting of the authority board was scheduled last week. Environmental and advocacy groups called for the meeting to be delayed, citing concerns about an ongoing environmental review, a protest lodged by a losing bidder and a lack of transparency.

    “The Hogan Administration is cutting corners by putting the private toll lanes contract up for a vote prematurely. Maryland cannot afford to start sealing the deal on a multibillion-dollar project that poses such significant, long-term risks to our communities, climate, and public lands,” said Josh Tulkin, director of Maryland Sierra Club.

    The board is scheduled to give contingent approval for the developer of the expanded highways, as well as for the public-private partnership agreement to govern the construction and operation of toll lanes from the American Legion Bridge over the Potomac River to I-70 in Frederick.

    An agenda for the meeting was posted Thursday afternoon, according to a Transportation Authority spokeswoman. However, supporting documents for the agenda had not been posted as of midnight on Tuesday, the day of the meeting.

    If the board votes to approve the developer or public-private partnership agreements, a 30-day public and legislative review period begins. The board’s decisions are subject to final approval by the Board of Public Works.

    In March, one of the losing bidders for the road widening project — a consortium called Capital Express Mobility Partners — filed a protest and is contesting the Department of Transportation’s decision to award the multi-billion dollar project to a rival, Accelerate Maryland Partners.

    “MDTA has a duty to manage state money wisely, and greenlighting this contract for review exposes the state and its taxpayers to major legal and financial risks all while the project faces increasing controversy and an unresolved bidder protest,” Stewart Schwartz, executive director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said in a statement.

    Advocates are planning to rally in opposition to the road widening Tuesday at noon in Rockville.

    The Transportation Authority’s board meeting is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., with a closed session “to receive legal advice.”

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    Danielle E. Gaines
    Danielle Gaines covered government and politics for Maryland Matters for two years before moving into an editing position. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post ― as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at The Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.