Cite Failure to Complete Environmental and Alternatives Analysis and Financial Risks
Several groups called on the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) to delay their recently announced June 8th vote on the initial I-495 and I-270 toll lanes expansion plan contract until the Final Environmental Impact Statement is released.
“We don’t see the need for the rush, and it makes a mockery of the environmental review and any consideration of alternatives,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “We do not yet know the extent of the potential impacts on communities, parks, and streams, or the relative benefits of alternatives with less impact.”
The environmental review is not scheduled to be completed until Spring 2022. Meanwhile, MDTA is rushing to a contract with Transurban despite a competing bidder having filed a challenge.
“The Hogan Administration is cutting corners by putting the private toll lanes contract up for a vote prematurely. Maryland cannot afford to start sealing the deal on a multibillion dollar project that poses such significant, long-term risks to our communities, climate, and public lands,” said Josh Tulkin, Director of Maryland Sierra Club.
“We already know that this contract would at a minimum put $50 million of taxpayer money on the line should there be a successful challenge from another bidder, failure of the federal government to sign off on the environmental review, or the proposal otherwise falls through,” said Janet Gallant, Co-Coordinator of DontWiden270.org.
“There is also a lack of transparency and clarity for the public with these Public-Private Partnerships, which are largely closed-door deals and hold drivers hostage to one private company for 60 years (in this case),” said Nancy Soreng, League of Women Voters of Maryland.
Contracts with the selected company can include complex hidden clauses that put the taxpayers at risk and also block investment in transit projects that the public seeks.
“MDTA has a duty to manage state money wisely, and greenlighting this contract for review exposes the state and its taxpayers to major legal and financial risks all while the project faces increasing controversy and an unresolved bidder protest,” said Schwartz.
“Chopping down the Beltway I-495/I-270 expansion project into pieces will have the same detrimental consequences in the long run for people and the environment. MDTA must not move forward with the highway expansion until the final environmental impact statement is complete,” said Denisse Guitarra, MD Conservation Advocate at Audubon Naturalist Society.