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Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Maryland's Big Highway Widening Project Released

The state of Maryland is moving forward with a highway widening plan that would spend $11 billion in a private-partnership to add toll lanes to two Capital Beltway highways.
July 15, 2020, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Highway Widening
Maryland Department of Transportation

"The state of Maryland has released its long-awaited draft environmental impact assessment for the Hogan administration’s controversial Beltway expansion project," reports Margaret Barthel.

The environmental review for a plan that would widen parts of I-495 and I-270 in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties totals 18,000 pages. The project would add new highway capacity by adding express toll lanes or high-occupancy toll lanes, and the estimated $11 billion price tag would be covered in part by a public-private partnership.

According to Barthel, the study argues that the project would mitigate worsening traffic congestion and meet the demands of expected population growth. 

The report reduced the number of alternatives on the table from 15 to seven, but all the remaining project alternatives are likely to have significant impact, according to Barthel's explanation of the report. 

But all seven options would have significant environmental impact, the study determined. In all seven, more than 140 acres of public parks and historic sites could be affected, as could more than seventy acres of wetland. Close to 1,400 acres of forest canopy would be cleared, damaged, or disturbed.

Under all seven options, about 34 residential homes and four businesses would have to be relocated. More than 4,000 noise-sensitive land areas–like homes, schools, churches, and parks–could be impacted by the sound of the expanded highway.

More on the response of critics, who have voiced vocal opposition to the project before, is included in the source article.

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