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Hogan plans to widen I-270, I-495 and B-W Parkway

This was the scene Saturday as the soon-to-be opened express lanes sat empty, left, during heavy northbound traffic on Interstate 495, the Capital Beltway, near Tysons Corner in Fairfax County, Va. The $2 billion, 14-mile express lanes, a decade in the making, are set to open Saturday. The four express lanes, two northbound and two southbound, supplement the existing eight lanes on the Virginia side of the Beltway.

Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed widening the Capital Beltway, shown here, Interstate 270 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. (File photo)

Marylanders stuck in traffic on three major thoroughfares could have some relief to look forward to as a result of a massive construction plan announced Thursday by Gov. Larry Hogan.

Hogan, a Republican wrapping up his first term, announced Thursday a $9 billion proposal to add four lanes to the full length of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and to Interstate 270 as well as the Maryland portions of the Capital Beltway.

Hogan called the proposals “transformative,” shortening commute times and spurring economic activity.

“These ambitious and unprecedented traffic relief plans will collectively be the largest (public-private partnership) highway project in North America,” Hogan said.

“We have constantly challenged our administration to think outside the box and develop new, forward-thinking creative solutions, and that is exactly what our team has done with the proposed plans for these three projects,” said Hogan.

The governor cited the costs of traffic congestion as the reason behind pushing for three major projects simultaneously.

Hogan, as part of his announcement, said the state today issued requests for information seeking proposals from private-sector companies interested in partnering with the state.

“I’m pleased to announce that work on all three of these major transportation initiatives will begin right now,” said Hogan.

But that doesn’t mean shovels are going into the ground anytime soon.

Hogan’s proposal calls for the use of public-private partnerships to build toll lanes similar to those used on I-95 between eastern Baltimore County and Baltimore City or the Intercounty Connector.

Earlier this month, Hogan named the Intercounty Connector in honor of Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who ran on a campaign that included supporting the construction of the toll highway.

As part of Hogan’s plan, four lanes would be added to Baltimore-Washington Parkway between Baltimore City and Washington. In order to build the lanes, the state would need to transfer control of portions of the highway from the federal Department of the Interior to the state. The governor said those negotiations have started.

Expansion of the Capital Beltway would occur between the American Legion Bridge and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

And the state would add four lanes on I-270 between the Capital Beltway and Frederick, Hogan said.

Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., D-Montgomery and vice chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said Hogan’s announcement falls far short of being an actual plan.

“This is really just a publicity stunt,” Madaleno said. “It’s not a plan. All he wants to do is get positive headlines to make it look like he’s doing something, anything.”

Madaleno, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Hogan in 2018, attended the governor’s announcement Thursday.

If finalized, the partnerships between the state and the private companies would need the approval of the General Assembly and the Board of Public Works.

“Larry Hogan is spending money like a college kid who was given a credit card by his parents with no appreciation for who is going to pay the bills because he knows it won’t be him,” Madaleno said. “This is another mess I’ll have to clean up when I become governor.”

Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said in a statement that the projects represent a risk of wasting taxpayer money and called on Hogan to rethink the proposals.

“The fiscally prudent approach is to study and adopt reasonable alternatives that include land-use solutions,” said Schwartz. “Smart growth, demand management, and transit investments are the only fiscally responsible long-term approach, but the big multinational toll road construction consortiums have been hijacking our transportation planning process promoting massive toll lane projects.”