By Mark Gray, Special to the AFRO, email@example.com
Just prior to the Memorial Day weekend traffic jam, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) continued urging Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan to reconsider his proposal to try and ease traffic congestion by widening and tolling the Capital Beltway before his town hall meeting in Landover.
In his letter to Governor Hogan the Prince George’s County congressman expressed his “growing concern” with pIans that would expand over 70 miles of interstate roadways in Maryland by adding toll lanes to I-495 and I-270 which connects through Montgomery County. Congressman Brown said the the Public-Private Partnership (P3) Program conflicts with Hogan’s campaign promises that were made before the 2018 election.
“Decades of traffic data across the United States show that increasing road capacity does not improve traffic,” Brown wrote in his letter. “Dozens of homes and business could be destroyed, and thousands could be negatively impacted.”
Brown also called for Hogan to consider other transportation ways that will reduce the amount of auto traffic while limiting interruptions to established neighborhoods and businesses to benefit drivers of all income levels. Several communities in Prince George’s County could be impacted by the public-private partnership project and he urged the state to respect the concerns of citizens who worry their homes could be taken in the course of the development without their voices being heard.
“As the D.C. region grows significantly over the next 25 years and we continue to work to attract good-paying jobs to our area, 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’s letter continued. “Maryland must consider a variety of transportation modes that will take cars off the road. Most importantly, there must be strong community support before moving forward on any proposal.”
Brown’s letter to Governor Hogan came on the eve of the first town hall meeting with his constituents at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex near FedEx Field. It was the first community forum where Prince George’s County residents were provided detailed information about the potential impact of the project on the area. The Congressman told the audience of concerned citizens, options to reduce traffic should be explored, including building up the Metro and expanding the Purple Line over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
Brown was joined by Prince George’s County Council Chairman Todd Turner who also asserted that toll roads were not a priority in the area. Turner echoed the sentiments of Montgomery County Councilman Tom Hucker that also believes other options should be explored before toll lanes are employed.
“People are concerned about the same things, they’re concerned about the impact on neighborhoods,” Hucker said. “The impact on our environment, the lack of progress on real congestion because of the imbalance, because of the fact it doesn’t include transit.”
The concerns for residents in both counties is a stretch of the 1,500 properties along both highways that would be affected. It also includes 34 homes that would also be procured to make room for construction through eminent domain. Eminent domain would require the state to pay fair market value for any property it secures. Residents are concerned about the absence of transparency in the process and that the impact of P3 plans has not been fully communicated to them.
“We are never, ever, ever asked how we feel, what do we want,” said Sherry James, of Landover. “Stuff is always just pushed upon us. All of a sudden a plan is developed and its thrown out there, saying this is what it is. And it’s just not fair!”