Our C&O Canal’s Beauty, History, and PreservationPart II
President’s Letter by Barbara Brown
The C&O Canal has been neglected for years! Now we are paying the price with extensive repairs for at least two years. Speaker John Noel will give updates on these plans. Hopefully the repairs will be done sporadically so walkers and paddlers can still enjoy the beauty and enduring combination of the Potomac River and the C&O Canal.
Cancel the 495 Toll Lane / I 270 Widening Project
Submitted by Carol Van Dam Falk
Recently WMCCA submitted the following letter to Maryland Governor Wes Moore, Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld, and Acting Director of the Environment Eddie Lukemire:
First of all, a hearty congratulations to you, Governor Moore and your entire team! We recognize the significance of your victory and hope we can work with you to make Maryland an even greater place to live, work, and play. We are writing to get acquainted with all of you and your staffs, but also to urge you to shelve forever former Governor Hogan’s ill-conceived 495 Toll Lane/I 270 Widening Project. As we have learned from so many highway projects that have gone before, widening the freeway and adding lanes may curb congestion initially, but it often encourages people to drive more and does not solve the root problem.
You may recall that just a few short years after I-270 was widened decades ago, we were facing just as much congestion and even more noise and air pollution, particularly increased greenhouse gas emissions. As the New York Times reported Jan. 6, every year states spend billions of dollars to expand highways while other solutions to congestion, including public transit and pedestrian projects are handled by city transit authorities “and receive less funding.”
States will get $350 billion in federal money for highways through the infrastructure law enacted last year, and while some will follow federal guidelines that encourage a “fix it first” approach, many will continue to spend billions of dollars to widen highways.
We don’t want to see that happen in Maryland, and we’re not alone. The Biden administration has suggested states should be more thoughtful in their solutions to congestion. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg rightly pointed out that options other than widening should be considered, such as fixing existing roads or providing mass transit. We agree. I’d like to share a few excerpts from our Nov. 20, 2020 letter to Lisa Choplin, DBIA Director of the I- 495/I-270 P3 Office, which laid out a myriad of reasons why MDOT should cancel this project:
“The Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) and other independent analyses has [have] shown that Governor Hogan’s beltway expansion project would hurt local ratepayers, Maryland taxpayers and would be especially devastating for local residents. In March, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) estimated the cost would be $2 billion to move water and sewer pipes to make way for the project; that’s more than double the original estimate from MDOT. The state has consistently refused to acknowledge who will cover the cost. WSSC fears it may have to raise ratepayers’ water bills. Despite Governor Hogan’s claims that the proposal will cost Maryland taxpayers nothing, the DEIS admits that upwards of $1 billion in state subsidies might be needed to complete the project (Washington Post).
The cost would be wildly excessive, but our overriding argument against this project is the environment. The damage would be irreversible. Over 550 acres of new impervious surfaces would be added, drastically increasing storm water runoff, pollution, and flash flood risk for local communities. Nearly all of the storm water mitigation efforts would need to be done off site, frequently outside the impacted watersheds, further burdening local communities and their watersheds. In addition, the project would disproportionately impact local communities, particularly low-income communities and communities of color, all of whom would be forced to cope with increased noise and air pollution and increased risk of flooding and water pollution. We also should be realistic about current driving patterns post-pandemic. Many companies and federal agencies have allowed permanent telework agreements with employees and contractors to remain in place, a decision that has significantly reduced congestion.”
REMINDER: IT’S TIME TO RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP FOR 2022-2023!
Please renew or become a new member of WMCCA. Download a membership form from http://www.wmcca.org or join using PayPal: Individual: $25 / Family: $50. We encourage donations to our Legal Fund. While we strive for positive results without litigation, sometimes it is unavoidable and highly effective. Contributions from members enabled us to join efforts to successfully address several issues as they affect the Potomac Subregion Master Plan, zoning, and environmental threats to the “Green Wedge”, our creeks and water supplies, and the Agricultural Reserve. If you have any issues or concerns in your neighborhood, please contact WMCCA. Thank you for your support !!
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