- - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

For decades, Maryland has been plagued by some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation and the statistics bear this out: Our state has the second-longest commuting times in the country, and the National Capital Region is the most congested region in the nation based on annual delay and congestion cost per auto-commuter. It is not just time that is being wasted sitting in traffic, this is costing the state and our citizens real money. The statewide cost of congestion, based on auto delay, truck delay and wasted fuel and emissions, was estimated at $2 billion in 2015, an increase of 22 percent from 2013, and more than 98 percent of the weekday congestion cost was incurred in the Baltimore-Washington region.

Thankfully, relief is on the way.

Getting traffic moving again along our clogged highways requires a series of bold, innovative and multifaceted solutions. Our administration has outlined a statewide Traffic Relief Plan that will substantially improve our transportation system. Individually, any of these projects will greatly reduce our traffic congestion problem. When all of the elements of our Traffic Relief Plan are added together, we will have significantly improved our quality of life in Maryland.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of drivers are slowed to a crawl during their rush hour commutes — this has to end. Our plan calls for major widening and targeted technological improvements to the Capital Beltway, I-270, the Baltimore/Washington Parkway, the Baltimore Beltway and I-95 north of Baltimore, bringing them into the 21st century and greatly reducing the traffic problems on these vital roadways.

This $7.6 billion Public-Private Partnership (P3) will add two express lanes in each direction along the entire length of I-495, including the American Legion Bridge to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, and the entire length of I-270 from I-495 up to I-70 in Frederick County. As the largest highway partnership of its kind in North America, this project epitomizes the ways in which Maryland is a leading state for transportation innovation.

For the 120,000 drivers who depend on the constantly clogged Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD 295) every day, the Traffic Relief Plan also includes a $1.4 billion project to add two express lanes in each direction. As part of our $7 billion investment in new transportation projects in the Baltimore region, we are also investing $461 million to add 27 miles of new highway lanes on I-695 (Baltimore Beltway) and I-95 north of Baltimore.

From Maryland I-95 express lane successes in northeast Baltimore County to Virginia’s I-95 and I-495 express lane projects, express lanes are a proven solution to provide congestion relief. Virginia’s express lanes alone resulted in $5.3 billion generated in economic activity, 28,000 jobs supported and $765 million in small-business, women and minority contracts.

Improving our highway system must go hand-in-hand with mass transit solutions. In September, I became the first regional leader to put a substantive offer on the table to fix the Washington, D.C., Metro system’s funding shortfall and, with legislation recently passed in Maryland and Virginia, the National Capital Region is poised to make a historic investment in Metro’s future. The Purple Line in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties and BaltimoreLink in the Baltimore region are part of a “system of systems” approach in Maryland, which takes successful projects across the state and ensures they work together as a true transportation network. This also includes Maryland’s $100 million investment in the I-270 Innovative Congestion Management project that will help build a foundation for long-term relief while also replacing outdated, unresponsive traffic lights with new smart signals that can respond to traffic incidents on the fly without human intervention.

Our holistic approach to solving Maryland’s congestion problems will allow Marylanders to go about their daily lives much more safely and efficiently. At the same time, these projects will help attract new economic development in the region as businesses recognize the value of a smoother, safer and faster commute for their employees.

Our administration is committed to making sure that Maryland is a great place to live, work, start a business and raise a family. Our Traffic Relief Plan is another way that we are changing Maryland for the better.

Gov. Larry Hogan is Maryland’s 62nd governor.

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