On June 5, 2019, the Board of Public Works will review and have the opportunity to vote on whether to allow a Public Private Partnership program to move forward in the state of Maryland. The BPW will review a PreSolicitation report created by MDOT and submitted earlier this year to the General Assembly budget committees, including Appropriations on which I serve. Although we held a hearing and discussed this report – and its inadequacies – the P3 process, created by a 2013 law, is almost entirely out of the control of the Legislature. It was designed to give flexibility to our Governor and Transportation Secretary to pursue P3s to complete infrastructure projects in the state. One such project that is currently underway is the Purple Line. Unfortunately, Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn has subverted the 2013 law in an attempt to push through a massive P3 – one of the largest in the country in fact – and is doing so without the support of the counties through which the project will run. This P3 seeks to add lanes to some of our most congested highways – 495 and 270 – in an attempt to relieve congestion. This P3 is a bad idea: it will not solve our transportation challenges, it will cost drivers an excessive amount of money, and it will add to air pollution/carbon emissions.
It will not solve traffic congestion: I hate sitting in traffic. I go see my family in Montgomery County frequently, I drive around the state – I know how bad traffic is and I hate it. But I want to support solutions to truly alleviate traffic, not just pretend. Every year, more studies come out and more examples abound that demonstrate that adding lanes to highways has the reverse effect: it actually creates worse traffic. We need a Transportation Department who takes creating alternatives seriously – MDOT simply hasn’t studied increasing MARC service to Frederick, expanding lanes strategically to end bottlenecks, or adding BRT where helpful.
In addition to creating more traffic, adding more highways will increase air pollution – car emissions are the number one source of dangerous carbon pollution in Maryland today. We can’t afford to keep adding more pollution when our kids and the Bay are already suffering the effects of air pollution in the state.
Finally, these roads don’t make economic sense – to drivers or the state. These roads will be prohibitively expensive to drivers – Virginia has had numerous experiences that should give our state leaders serious pause. And, although Secretary Rahn likes to claim that he wants to do a P3 because it will have no cost to the state, we know that isn’t true. Inevitably, the state will be on the hook for payments, for costs, and if the project were to fail, for everything. Because MDOT has not seriously looked at how much it would cost for MDTA to build out lanes and keep them publicly-created though, we don’t even know how much it is likely to cost us. (And this isn’t discussing the fact that it will cost people their homes!)
Because I am opposed to this project, I have signed several letters to the BPW explaining my opposition. THIS LETTER is from 60 legislators, and THIS LETTER is from Appropriations Leaders asking the members of the BPW to carefully consider our concerns.