- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 13, 2021

Maryland transportation officials have nixed plans to widen most of the Capital Beltway after months of opposition by local leaders.

State officials announced Wednesday that they will pursue a “new recommended preferred alternative” to creating toll lanes along 30 miles of highway between Interstate 270 in Bethesda and Route 5 in Prince George’s County.

The new plan will allow for the project to focus “solely” on constructing a new American Legion Bridge and two high occupancy toll lanes along the bridge, they said.

Montgomery County President Tom Hucker applauded the decision in a series of tweets.

“Their proposal was deeply flawed, opposed by our local governments and bipartisan Planning Commission, and violates the new climate and equity screens the Biden-Harris administration is using to approve transportation projects,” Mr. Hucker, a Democrat, tweeted Wednesday.

Gov. Larry Hogan said during a press conference that the bridge is the most “critical” part of the plan because that’s “where the biggest bottleneck is.”

Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater echoed his sentiments in an email Thursday to The Washington Times.

“This new alternative better aligns our environmental review with our commercial approach focusing both now on delivering a new American Legion Bridge and [high occupancy traffic] lanes over the new bridge and up I-270 to I-370,” Mr. Slater said. “The most critical part of this program is replacing the 62-year-old American Legion Bridge.”

Meanwhile, a poll released this week shows growing support for a maglev high-speed train between Baltimore and the District.

Of the 600 residents surveyed in Prince George’s County who said they knew of the train proposal, more than two-thirds (68%) expressed support for it, while 19% were opposed.

A maglev, or magnetic levitation, uses the repulsive force of magnets to create a frictionless surface on which a train can travel. A maglev train can run up to 300 mph and would be able to transport passengers between Washington and Baltimore in 15 minutes.

“We are gratified to see the growing level of support for the Maglev Project coming from our local communities,” Wayne Rogers, CEO of the project sponsor Northeast Maglev, told WTOP.

Northeast Maglev hired Lake Research Partners, a D.C.-based democratic polling firm, to conduct the survey in early April.

Local residents reportedly told pollsters that less traffic, quicker travel and more job opportunities made the proposal appealing.

Proponents also hope the train would expand in the future to allow travel between the District and New York City in under an hour.

At least 40% of respondents, however, were not aware of the project and some voiced concerns over the multi-billion-dollar price tag and the potential impact on the environment and property values.

Northeast Maglev says the train would not cost taxpayers a dime because it would be fully funded by private financiers.

The 90-day public comment period on the train proposal runs until May 24, according to the company’s website.

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