- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

The grinding, stop-and-go traffic of rush hour around the metropolitan Washington area could stretch to 14 hours a day by 2020, according to a new analysis released by a transportation task force.
The finding is based on the latest population projections and current plans to add no new lanes to the Beltway, said Richard Hawthorne, transportation planner for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
The analysis was drafted for Montgomery County's Transportation Policy Report Task Force, which did not include the rush-hour projections in its report. Thirteen of its members are pushing to add the projections and a call to build more roads immediately to the panel's report, which they say doesn't go far enough to address burgeoning congestion.
"You do not plan and build a road in this county in less than 10 years if we don't get started soon, we are going to be in trouble," said task force member Edgar Gonzalez, Montgomery County's deputy public works director.
Even task force members who oppose building major new highways agree that rush-hour level congestion will continue to increase.
"Any way you look at it, if Montgomery County grows the way it's expected to, we're going to get more hours of congestion," said Marc Elrich, a teacher and Takoma Park City Council member who served on the task force.
Mr. Elrich and other slow-growth proponents contend that building roads actually fuels development and congestion rather than solving those problems. They favor improving neighborhood roads and expanding bus and rail service.
Road proponents on the task force say the region's congestion already among the worst in the nation cannot be lessened without more roads.
Trent Kittleman, a Marriott Corporation vice president who wrote the dissent to the report, notes that the capacity of area roads is slated to increase only 13 percent while the number of vehicle miles traveled on them is expected to increase 46 percent.
The disparity is underscored by a recently released report from the D.C.-based Corporation for Enterprise Development that ranks Maryland 41st among the states and Virginia 46th in adequacy of roads.
Advocates of building roads also argue the feasibility of other solutions: The Washington area ranks first in car pooling and telecommuting and second in use of mass transit in national studies, yet still it has awful congestion.
"We clearly develop before we provide the infrastructure to support it, and that needs to change," said Natalie Goldberg, a retired software engineer from North Bethesda and task force member who described her own stance as middle of the road.
Mrs. Kittleman said what drove her to try to amend the transportation report was frustration that philosophical stalemates had kept the task force from reaching the two-thirds consensus required to recommend any concrete solution. Most of the panel's recommendations are broad policy goals.
Mr. Elrich said more might have been achieved if pro-road factions had considered scenarios other than those that would let growth continue at low-cost to developers.
Despite their divisions, a 60 percent majority of the panel did support several transit and road projects, including a new Metrorail Purple Line inside the Beltway that would run from Bethesda through Silver Spring and out to Langley Park and Riverdale, as well as a highway north of the Beltway from Interstate 270 to Interstate 95 known as the Inter-County Connector (ICC).
Of the solutions modeled, only the ICC would significantly relieve congestion, Mrs. Kittleman said.
Although the ICC has been on plans for more than three decades, opposition by environmentalists and property owners has delayed its construction.
Maryland and Virginia officials have discussed creating new bus and high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on the Beltway, but policy differences and limited space have kept them from moving forward.

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