ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Governor Larry Hogan is threatening legal action against the Federal Highway Administration, over its reported plans to delay Maryland’s Traffic Relief Plan for the American Legion Bridge and the Capital Beltway.
The project itself has been in the works for about six-years.
One part is to replace the 60-year-old American Legion Bridge, that would consist of converting the one existing HOV lane in each direction on I-270 to a toll lane, while adding another new toll lane along the way between I-495 and north of I-370.
It also calls for two toll lanes to be added on I-495 in each direction from the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Fairfax County, Virginia, to Old Georgetown Road in Maryland.
Back in November 2019, Hogan and former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam officially agreed to rebuild the bridge which connects the two states over the Potomac River.
Since then, the project had to overcome multiple hurdles.
The State and Federal Highway Administrations published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in July 2020.
That resulted in some changes made to the initial project plans including complete avoidance of Morningstar Cemetery in the Cabin John area, Plummers Island, and a research site for the Washington Biologists Field Club.
Then in June 2021, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board voted to sideline the project in part because some in Montgomery County, including County Executive Marc Elrich, rejected adding any toll lanes on I-270 from the Capital Beltway to I-370 in Gaithersburg.
A month later, that same board revived the plan, green lighting a federal air quality analysis.
In October of last year Maryland opened a two-month public comment period, before advancing into further stages.
But now that seems to be in jeopardy.
"We were completely blindsided by this action, particularly given that every comprehensive analysis we submitted had already been reviewed and approved by the agency," Hogan wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden and Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, asking them to reveres this latest decision by the acting federal highway administrator. "In fact, only a few weeks ago, the agency’s professional experts praised our study as a model for other states. This is just the latest example of how the acting administrator is undermining the law and longstanding practices that govern the approval of critical state projects. We cannot stand for this irresponsible and incompetent federal overreach," Hogan continued.
Today I sent a letter to President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg calling on them to immediately reverse the acting federal highway administrator’s decision to overrule the agency’s professional staff and delay the State of Maryland’s Traffic Relief Plan.— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) August 5, 2022
Read my full letter: pic.twitter.com/2lT6iPKbeJ
Hogan says delays have already caused the estimated cost of the project to increase by 20 percent.
Anymore he fears could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, especially due to unprecedented inflation, supply chain issues, labor shortages, and interest rate increases.
“This has been called the most important and transformative transportation project for the National Capital Region in the last 50 years, and with so many Marylanders still stuck in soul-crushing traffic, we are not going to let politics delay it any further,” Hogan concluded.