By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer,

In an attempt to alleviate traffic congestion on the Capital Beltway, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is endorsing a plan that may affect homeowners in Prince George’s County.  Most experts believe the most feasible way to reduce delays is to expand the current roadways that surround the nation’s capital, but dozens of homeowners could be forced to move.

According to a report that was released by the Maryland State Highway Administration, expanding I-495 and I-270 to four lanes could reduce delays in the area by more than 30 percent. However, there are still environmental and other concerns that must be addressed which cross multi-jurisdictional boundaries.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHA), the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the State Highway Administration (SHA) are working to eradicate congestion on Interstates 495 and 270. (Courtesy Photo)

The Federal Highway Administration (FHA), the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the State Highway Administration (SHA) began it’s I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study in March 2018.  The study was designed to collect traffic data regarding locations where the heaviest volumes of traffic enter and exit the highways.

Traffic congestion in the National Capital Region is rated amongst the worst in the nation. The report concludes that on I-495 and I-270, heavy traffic lasts between seven and 10 hours every day. That gridlock also affects local roads as drivers look for alternate routes to avoid the congestion.

Potentially, 1,500 properties along the Beltway and I-270 would be “directly affected” by the expansion efforts.  Those properties could also include 34 homes and four businesses along the Capital Beltway that would be demolished altogether.

“I can simply say on behalf of the County Council, there are a lot of serious questions,” Prince George’s County Council Chair Todd Turner said to WTOP-FM in response to the report.  “There was a lot of information about how ‘we’re not going to take homes, we’re not going to take land or try not to … obviously with the report we received today, you have to question that a little bit.”

With regional population expected to grow by nearly 1.2 million people by 2040, the travel time for using routes including I-495 and I-270 are expected to increase and place further stress on the already heavily burdened highway system. Recent transportation studies have shown that both transit and highway improvements are necessity if Maryland is going to meet its future travel needs.

While the MLS report recognizes that expansion of the highway system is necessary for Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, extra lanes will only lessen the burden of traffic on the beltway.  Public transportation such as Metro’s purple line, which is currently under construction, and public buses will be allowed to use the managed lanes to connect passengers to existing and planned transit facilities.  They include: Greenbelt, New Carrollton, Branch Avenue, Silver Spring and Shady Grove Metro stations.

According to the report, I-270 and I-495 are far too vital to transportation to be inactive in fixing the congestion issue.

“The consequence of inaction will severely impact the quality of life for Maryland’s citizens, and dampen the State’s economy,” the report said. Residents of Prince George’s County are being encouraged to attend workshops that are scheduled to learn more about the MLS report and how its findings could impact them.

Tuesday, April 23 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. there will be a forum at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, 7601 Hanover Pkwy in Greenbelt.  On Saturday, April 27 a workshop will be held at Suitland Community Center, 5600 Regency Lane from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. The final workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, May 14th from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Oxon Hill High School 6701 Leyte Dr.