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For Immediate Release: Saturday 12 September

My name is Marc Elrich, and I am the County Executive for Montgomery County.

Of the verbal testimony we have heard so far, we count that 85% of those testifying have opposed the project’s current recommendations.  By unjustly eliminating alternatives, the State has structured this project as an “all or nothing” choice about toll lanes.  This sets up this project to either act in violation of the public’s input, or do nothing despite a need for action. 

Furthermore, it would be difficult to make this project more confusing for the public.  Right now, the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) under review isn’t even for the project the State plans to build and should be withdrawn until the State is able to present documents that are consistent with their Phase 1 project.  

Like many of those we have heard from, we believe that better uses of resources exist that are more in line with both State and County priorities.  This includes focusing on transit as well as on the American Legion Bridge bottleneck.

Our review of the DEIS is still ongoing.  It is impossible to expect anyone to have reviewed the study’s extensive documents thoroughly in the time that has been available.  My comments tonight have been raised with MDOT previously, in most cases since the beginning of the project.  

Traffic impacts

This project claims to improve traffic, but the analysis itself finds that in many cases the Managed Lanes barely perform better than the General Purpose Lanes, and in some spots perform even worse.

And the General Purpose Lanes themselves worsen in most segments.  This creates a massive equity problem for those who are stuck in this project’s worse congestion and are unable to afford or otherwise access the Managed Lanes.

Shockingly, there has been no detailed evaluation of the interchanges and connections to local arterials.  This DEIS does not consider what will happen to roads like Gude Drive, Connecticut Avenue, or Colesville Road when more traffic is sent to them, faster.  Those exits are already heavily impacted by traffic and cannot absorb cars coming off of the Beltway and I-270,  and the existing backups on the exits will simply get longer.  What is the point of spending billions on gains in one place if you lose it all in another?  

We do not know the effects of the State’s Innovative Congestion Management project that is still under construction, and while many of COVID’s impacts may only last a few years, it appears that we are likely entering into a new and long-lasting era of increased telework. Traffic patterns have changed and will remain very different, dramatically increasing the risks of this project. This should be taken into consideration before a final determination is reached.  This project is predicated on a future that may arrive in a form different from what is anticipated.

Environmental/cultural/equity impacts

Although they are vital facilities, I-270 and I-495 are already scars in our environment, with impacts that have not been addressed for decades, including stream degradation, habitat loss, emissions, noise, and others.

Similarly, the State’s claims of this project being environmentally friendly are spurious given the multitude of other impacts, including impacts to parks, streams, inadequate consideration of construction impacts, and long-term impacts to Statewide traffic volumes. 

This project will encourage not only more vehicles, but also types of development will have intolerable long-term costs like more costly infrastructure, more severe impacts to habitat, and more significant contributions toward emissions and runoff. This will hamper our master planned efforts toward increasing non-auto travel and focusing growth in sustainable locations, and runs directly counter to the State’s Climate Emergency response. 

This project is a solution for a past era. It includes significant impacts to schools, historic properties, and homes, despite the Governor’s repeated assertions that these impacts would not occur.

Furthermore, the DEIS gives little consideration toward equity: impacts to property, noise, emissions, affordability, and other effects on historically underinvested communities.  As the General Purpose Lanes worsen, how are these communities affected? What options are provided for them?


The whole National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process has been structured around a public-private partnership (P3), but the State has not demonstrated its ability to manage an enormous P3, the Purple Line.  The P3 contemplated here is dramatically larger. 

Decisions about the environmental impacts of this project depend on knowing the details of the P3 now.  
What guarantees will be in place toward ensuring that projects that provide other choices are not sidelined, such as bus rapid transit (BRT) projects, or improvements to MARC, WMATA?  Or for that matter, anything that seeks to address problems in the General Purpose Lanes and for those unable to afford the Managed Lanes?

How will the proposals and designs from varying bidders be vetted and selected?  Not just its design, but how will the facility operate?  The Purple Line was studied for decades and still has encountered design issues that did not take into account obstacles that should have been known – this project has gone from someone’s notion to a P3 in a flash without a fraction of the evaluation that went into the Purple Line, and the cost of unaccounted for obstacles is now apparent.  

It is impossible for the State to receive valid input from the public on this project when so many critical issues are not addressed at the same time and through the same outreach processes.  


If the State has pre-determined to advance a toll lanes project despite overwhelming concern with its present track, then we have a duty as local officials to make the best of the situation for our residents.  It is with that in mind, that the following comments are offered.

The State has issued transit recommendations that are too limited to serve as a complete transit strategy for the study area.  If this project proceeds, we seek a demonstrated and continuous support of transit.

This support includes the construction of necessary physical infrastructure, such as depots, buses, park & rides, improved access to transit facilities, and other needs still under evaluation by our DOT and Planning staff.

This also includes that a portion of toll revenue be allocated to County governments for transit.  Dedicated funding will help support continued investment and operation of equitable alternatives to the Managed Lanes.

We seek complete mitigation of environmental, cultural, social, and equity impacts, and that the project provide master planned pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure on all reconstructed facilities, with connections and transitions to logical nearby endpoints.  I would expect this project to foot the bill of all the improvements that will be needed to mitigate problems created on the roads that have to accept this traffic.

We desire a complete rethinking of this project.  While transportation investment is needed in this region, this process has not provided an alternative that we can support.  We encourage MDOT/SHA to develop some better alternatives and make its intentions about a Phase 1 project clear and understandable to the public within this NEPA process.

Thank you for your time.

Release ID: 20-017