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BALTIMORE -- The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced a decision Thursday to significantly reduce the scope of Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed I-270, I-495 and the Capital Beltway widening project. Originally estimated at over $11 billion, the initial project proposed expanding I-270 and I-495 to a combined 12 lanes, which would have impacted more than 70 miles of interstate, decimated hundreds of acres of natural parkland and streams and required the destruction of numerous homes. Abandoning the larger highway lane expansion, the project now only includes replacing and expanding the American Legion Bridge and adding multiple toll lanes to a portion of I-270.
A final vote by the Maryland Board of Public Works later this summer will determine whether the updated version of this project moves forward.
The car-dependent transportation sector is now Maryland’s number one source of greenhouse gas emissions and the state’s single largest contributor to the global climate crisis. On top of deadly air pollution, approximately 500 people die in vehicle crashes in Maryland annually, while thousands more are left severely injured.
Across the country, local officials are pressing on with billions of dollars worth of wasteful highway boondoggle projects, like the Capital Beltway expansion, that are worsening public health and climate change. MarylandPIRG and U.S. PIRG previously identified the Capital Beltway project as one of the country’s most wasteful highway expansions in the 2018 Highway Boondoggles report.
Emily Scarr, executive director of MarylandPIRG, issued the following statement:
“Gov. Hogan is responsible for stopping the construction of Baltimore’s Red Line light rail while proposing one of the most absurd highway expansions in the country. The dramatic downsizing of his Capital Beltway expansion is a huge victory for Marylanders, but it’s time to completely scrap this expansion project. Wider roads will mean more drivers, more pollution and more car dependency. Maryland needs to take a fresh approach to transportation spending and invest in healthier, cleaner and more sustainable electrified public transit, biking and walking.”
John Stout, Transportation advocate for U.S. PIRG, issued the following statement:
“This is a great first step to reducing the tremendously harmful impacts of a project that embodies a fundamentally outdated and misguided approach to transportation infrastructure. But Gov. Hogan’s project, even if scaled back, will still trap more Marylanders in their cars, increasing the amount of deadly air pollution and fostering greater inequity long after we emerge from the COVID-19 health crisis. We need to be smarter about how we spend our transportation dollars and focus instead on building a 21st-century infrastructure network. As we emerge from the pandemic, now is the time to to start building a better state, one with less pollution, less gridlock and more public and active transit.”
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