Roads, Traffic, and Transit

I-495/I-270 Expansion

Issue: Should I-495 and I-270 be expanded to accommodate the current and anticipated [as of 2040] traffic.  If so, at what financial cost and at what cost to the environment?

Background.  According to the Maryland Department of Transportation [MDOT], the I-495 & I-270 P3 Program is a historic effort to reduce congestion for millions of travelers in the National Capital Region by seeking input from the private sector to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain improvements on both I-495 and I-270.  See MDOT Overview.  The project has been estimated to cost as much as $11B.

Latest Update.

  • 02/25/2021 Maryland Transit Authority released it preliminary estimate of toll rates on an expanded I-495
  • MDOT has selected a developer for Phase I. See press announcement and more details here
  • MDOT SHA recommends that Alternative 9 be identified as the Preferred Alternative in the FEIS for the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study (MLS). MDOT SHA and FHWA concluded the extended public comment period for the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study Draft Environmental Impact Study [DEIS] which was open for 123 days from July 10, 2020 until November 9, 2020.  See links to the executive summary, the full report, and the public hearings and associated materials here.
  • The Maryland National Park and Planning Commission has announced its opposition to the plan
  • A number of senators and delegates to the Maryland General Assembly, including Senator Jeff Waldstreicher, and Delegates Al Carr, Emily Shetty, and Jared Solomon, all of whom represent Parkwood, have written to MDOT “…to express our frustration and extreme concern with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study.” Their full letter can be seen here.
  • The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has voted unanimously to reject the proposed expansion for now, particularly because of the potential impact on parkland.
  • The WSSC has reported that the expansion may require alteration in pipelines that could cost as much as $2B. 
  • MDOT announced that it has received ” three very competitive proposals from highly qualified private sector teams to become the developer responsible for overseeing predevelopment work on Phase 1″, which will begin with the expansion of the American Legion Bridge. See MDOT Press Release below under More Information.
  • The selected developer is expected to address and resolve the issues raised during the public comment period.

Next Steps

  • According to MDOT “there will be no contract submitted to the Board of Public Works (BPW) for the final award to construct managed lanes until the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study Final Environmental Impact Statement is complete.”
  • Again according to MDOT, the “earliest that contract would be brought to BPW would be summer 2022, if a build alternative is identified in the Record of Decision. The current solicitation is part of a progressive approach with predevelopment work being completed before taking any construction contract to BPW.”

More Information.

information added 03/016/2021

Purple Line


Issue: Work on the Purple Line halted because of a dispute between the state and the private contractor over who should pay for cost overruns. The questions are how will it be completed, by whom, and at what cost?

Background., The Purple Line is a rail line intended to link metro stations in Bethesda and New Carrollton in Prince Georges County.  Since the original contractor withdrew from the project, the Maryland Department of Transportation [MDOT] assumed management responsibility and sought a new contractor. Total costs of the project are now uncertain. 

Because this was [and could still remain] the most expensive public-private partnership in the state of Maryland to date, it has implications for the same approach to funding proposed by the governor for the expansion of I-495/I-270.

In late November the Maryland Department of Transportation announced it will pay an additional $250 million to ensure a 36-year partnership with the companies managing construction of the delayed Purple Line.

Maryland’s three-member Board of Public Works approved the $250 million legal settlement Dec 16.  Under the agreement, the firms will hire a new construction contractor within one year, although news stories report that it is expected to take closer to six months plus another three months or so to refinance the remaining work — the project is about 40 percent complete — before construction would resume in earnest.

Latest Update. 

03/05/2021: County Executive Elrich has asked the Maryland Transit Administration to explore whether the Purple Line could be single-tracked inside the Bethesda station to allow enough room for the county to rebuild the Capital Crescent Trail there.  Several Councilmembers have opposed this action. See Washington Post article.

01-09-2021: The Purple Line Transit Partners [PLTP] announced that they expect to select and reach financial closure with a new design-build contractor to complete the project in September 2021.

More Information.  See the Purple Line website and this report in Wikipedia.

information added 03/07/2021