The bi-county Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission expressed major concerns about a Draft Environmental Impact Statement during a briefing last week with the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration.
The DEIS is part of the state’s Managed Lanes Study to evaluate alternatives to improve traffic congestion along I-495 (Capital Beltway) in Maryland, and on I-270 from I-495 to I-370. The DEIS is required under the National Environmental Policy Act process for the project.
Last June, the M-NCPPC voted to “not concur” with the alternatives proposed for further study.
In addition to the NEPA issues raised in the DEIS, the members of the M-NCPPC expressed reservations about the financing of the project, estimated at about $11 billion.
“The revenue and cost estimates in the draft EIS show that MDOT SHA is going to be hard-pressed to deliver on the commitments made about how this project would be financed and what elements will ultimately be included,” said Casey Anderson, the commission’s chair, in a press release.
“In fact, it seems likely that toll revenue will be insufficient to pay for the first phase of highway expansions proposed by the governor, much less a meaningful contribution toward better transit service—and that’s without any accounting for the cost of water and sewer pipe relocations that are not included in the project budget,” Anderson’s statement said.
WSSC has estimated the cost of the relocations to be about an additional $2 billion.
Included among the list of nine major DEIS issues raised were:
- An insufficient analysis of the use of Intercounty Connector as a means of reducing traffic on I-495 between I-95 and I-270
- Failure to meet a stated goal of leveraging alternative modes of transportation, such as designing to allow for transit across the American Legion Bridge
- The need to expand the SHA’s current limits of disturbance for the project and the likely environmental impacts
- Failure to “sufficiently address impact to economically challenged populations or social equity as required under NEPA”
- The need to “include clear commitments that MDOT SHA and the private P3 partner apply such [required] avoidance and minimization efforts, and specific parkland mitigation” to all parkland affected by the project, as required by Federal Transportation Act and the Montgomery County Parks Policy for Park, Recreation and Open Space Plan 2017
- “The DEIS does not sufficiently address impact to economically challenged populations or social equity as required under NEPA,” and
- An inadequate approach to storm water management.
The full staff report on the M-NCPPC comments is available online.
MDOT recommended a 90-day period to study and comment on the DEIS, which is 300 pages long with about 18,000 technical documents; various parties contend 90 days is too short a time.
For example, County Executive Marc Elrich sent a letter to MDOT requesting at least 120 days for review, if not longer. Following a briefing yesterday (July 20), the County Council’s Transportation & Environmental Committee made a similar request to the Federal Highway Administration.
In the meantime, MDOT released a shortlist of private-sector teams eligible to respond to a Request for Proposals to be the developer of I-495 & I-270 P3 Program Phase 1.
“Phase 1 of the P3 Program would improve I-495 from the vicinity of the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia, across and including the American Legion Bridge to the I-270 west spur, and I-270 from I-495 to I-70. I-495 from the vicinity of the George Washington Memorial Parkway to the I-270 west spur, and the I-270 west spur to I-370, will be delivered first,” the announcement said.
The teams are:
Accelerate MarylandExpress Partners
Lead Project Developer / Equity: Itinera Infrastructure & Concessions, Inc.
Lead Contractors: Halmar International, LLC and Itinera S.p.A
Designer: Atkins North America, Inc. and Gannett Fleming, Inc.
Accelerate Maryland Partners LLC
Lead Project Developer / Equity: Transurban (USA) Operations Inc. and Macquarie Infrastructure Developments LLC
Lead Contractor: Archer Western Construction, LLC
Designers: Dewberry Engineers Inc. and Stantec Consulting Services Inc.
Capital Express Mobility Partners
Lead Project Developer / Equity: Cintra Global SE, Meridiam Capital Express, LLC, and John Laing Investments Limited
Lead Contractor: Ferrovial Agroman US Corp.
Designers: AECOM Technical Services, Inc.
Potomac Mobility Group
Lead Project Developer / Equity: ACS Infrastructure Development, Inc.
Lead Contractor: Dragados USA, Inc.
Designers: Parsons Transportation Group Inc., Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., and HDR Engineering, Inc.