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The I-495 & I-270 Public-Private Partnership (P3) Program is the largest initiative in the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration’s (MDOT SHA) Traffic Relief Plan (TRP). The I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study is the first element of the P3 Program. The Study will determine the potential improvements for the study corridors, evaluate environmental impacts associated with those improvements, and seek public feedback on the study’s key components.

THE P3 PROGRAM

What is the P3 Program?

The I-495 & I-270 P3 Program (P3 Program) tackles congestion on Maryland’s two busiest highways. The P3 Program includes improvements for more than 70 miles of interstate in Maryland, including I-495 from south of the George Washington Memorial Parkway to east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and I-270 from I-495 to I-70, including the east and west I-270 spurs.

The first element of the P3 Program is the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study. It will include a review of existing and future traffic, roadway, and environmental conditions to identify alternatives and assess potential impacts. The Study limits for this first project will extend along I-495 from south of the George Washington Memorial Parkway to west of MD 5 and along I-270 from I-495 to I-370, including the east and west I-270 spurs.

Is transit being considered as part of the Program?

Yes. The Program and the Managed Lanes Study are a part of a complex, regional transportation plan.

With $5.6 billion in new transit investments from the private sector for the Purple Line and $1 billion in new or dedicated funding for WMATA, MDOT is investing in a balanced transportation network in both transit and road investments.

The Purple Line resulted from one of the original Capital Beltway studies. This study determined that the region needed both transit and highway improvements to fully meet travel demand and protect safety within the I-495 and I-270 corridors.

Our region’s adopted long-range plan (Visualize 2045) calls for a regional network of managed lanes as part of $291 billion in new transportation expenditures, of which 66% is going to Public Transit and 34% to highways. The Managed Lanes Study will complement the $5.6 billion Purple Line P3 project that will connect existing transit lines – MARC, WMATA, Montgomery County’s Ride On, Prince George’s County’s The Bus and University of Maryland at College Park’s shuttle bus.

Additionally, MDOT has recently organized the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Transit Work Group. This group consists of local, state, and federal agency representatives working collaboratively to identify and explore methods in which the proposed managed lanes can better complement and benefit local transit in the National Capital Region.The development of managed lanes on these roadways would allow for more reliable traffic flow and decreased delays for riders, ensuring more timely arrival of transit riders, as well as motorists.With transit improvements already under development in the region, the I-495 & I-270 managed lanes proposal is another important facet of the solution.

Is congestion really that bad that we need this sort of big solution?

Yes! Traffic congestion in the National Capital Region is among the worst in the nation. Drivers navigate between seven and 10 hours daily in traffic congestion on I-270 and I-495. It is time for innovative solutions to this congestion. Congestion has hit a saturation point that is now spilling over onto local roads, and peak travel hours are growing longer and longer.

Congestion will only get much worse if we do nothing. The population in the region is expected to grow by nearly 1.3 million people by 2040. In 2018, the Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) on I-270 from I-370 to I-495 was 259,000 vehicles a day and that number is expected to increase to 299,000 by 2040.

On I-495, from the Virginia line to I-270, the AADT is 253,000 and that number is expected to increase to 282,000 by 2040.

Can these billions of dollars be better spent on schools, transit or other state programs rather than roads?

No. Simply stated, state funding does not exist for this Program. One of the benefits of the public-private partnership (P3) delivery model is that the private sector is able to obtain financing to invest in the state’s infrastructure, in return for the revenue generated through a P3 Agreement.

Without the P3 Program, the only answer going forward for the State of Maryland is continued gridlock. The state does not have funding through its current means to deliver improvements of this magnitude without new, innovative funding sources or increased funding from existing sources. The goal of this Program is to provide congestion relief to the region at no net cost to the state.

How does the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study relate to the P3 Program?

The I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study is part of the broader I-495 & I-270 P3 Program and is the first environmental study under the P3 Program. As part of the P3 Program, future environmental studies will cover the remainder of the 70 miles along both the I-495 and I-270 corridors. The next study will extend along I-270 from I-370 North to I-70 in Frederick, Maryland and is currently underway. The final segment of the P3 Program will extend from MD 5 to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and will be included in a separate environmental study coordinated with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Why does the P3 extend to I-70, but the Managed Lanes Study limits stop at I-370?

Through the P3 Program, MDOT SHA is considering transformative improvements along the entire length of I-495 and I-270. Meanwhile, the limits of the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study were established based on federal requirements, including establishing limits based on logical end points and independent utility. In establishing the limits of the Study, MDOT SHA considered travel patterns and determined that a large percentage of traffic exists and enters I-270 at I-370. Therefore, a new study for the northern portion of I-270 up to I-70 was initiated this spring. This study will build upon the previous I-270/US 15 Multi-Modal Corridor Study.

I-270 FROM I-370 TO I-70 PRE-NEPA ACTIVITIES

What are Pre-NEPA Activities?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a federal law that directs federal agencies to conduct studies to ensure proper consideration of the environment prior to undertaking a major federal action.

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA), under the I-495 & I-270 Public-Private Partnership (P3) Program and in coordination with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is now conducting Pre-NEPA planning activities for potential congestion relief improvements on I-270 from I-370 to I-70, which include:

  • identifying the purpose and need;
  • developing a range of alternatives;
  • reviewing the existing and future traffic volumes, and existing environmental conditions; and
  • engaging the public in the Pre-NEPA planning activities.

The Pre-NEPA effort will conclude with a summary report of engineering, traffic, and environmental activities, as well as input received from the public. These preliminary activities may result in the initiation of a NEPA study. Decisions made during these early activities will be applied toward any NEPA environmental review process.

How are the Pre-NEPA Activities related to the I-495 & I-270 P3 Program?

The I-270 from I-370 to I-70 Pre-NEPA activities is one of the environmental efforts currently within the broader I-495 & I-270 P3 Program (P3 Program). The P3 Program tackles congestion on Maryland’s two busiest highways. The P3 Program is considering improvements to more than 70 miles of interstate in Maryland.

The P3 Program includes the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study, which is evaluating a range of alternatives to address congestion, improve trip reliability on I-495 and I-270 within the study limits, and enhance existing and planned multimodal mobility and connectivity. The I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study includes the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) evaluating potential improvements to the study area and the related environmental impacts.

I-495 & I-270 MANAGED LANES STUDY (MLS)

What is the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study?

The I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study is being done in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of various projects or “alternatives” proposed to help relieve congestion on I-495 and I-270. The limits of the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study extend along I-495 from south of the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia, over the Potomac River to west of MD 5, and along I-270 from I-495 north to I-370, including the east and west I-270 spurs.

The purpose of the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study is to address congestion, improve trip reliability on I-495 and I-270 within the study limits and enhance existing and planned multimodal mobility and connectivity. This I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study includes the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under NEPA. The EIS will evaluate the potential improvements to the corridor(s) and the related environmental impacts.

How does the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study relate to the P3 Program?

The I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study is part of the broader I-495 & I-270 P3 Program and is the first environmental study under the P3 Program. As part of the P3 Program, future environmental studies will cover the remainder of the 70 miles in both the I-495 and I-270 corridors. The next study will extend along I-270 from I-370 North to I-70 in Frederick, Maryland and is underway. The final segment of the P3 Program will extend from MD 5 to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and will be included in a separate environmental study coordinated with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

What is the purpose of the Managed Lanes Study and what does it include?

The purpose of the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study is to develop a range of reasonable alternatives that address congestion, improve trip reliability on I-495 and I-270 within the study limits and enhance existing and planned multimodal mobility and connectivity. This I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study includes the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The EIS will evaluate the potential improvements to the corridor(s) and the related environmental impacts.

Why does the P3 extend to I-70 and the Managed Lanes Study limits stop at I-370?

Through the P3 Program, MDOT SHA is considering transformative improvements along the entire length of I-495 and I-270. Meanwhile, the limits of the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study were established based on federal requirements, including establishing limits based on logical end points and independent utility. In establishing the limits of the Study, MDOT SHA considered travel patterns and determined that a large percentage of traffic exists and enters I-270 at I-370. Therefore, a new study for the northern portion of I-270 up to I-70 was initiated in May 2019. This study will build upon the previous I-270/US 15 Multi-Modal Corridor Study.

What is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a federal law that directs federal agencies to conduct studies to ensure proper consideration of the environment prior to the federal government undertaking any proposed action that may affect the environment. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is working closely with MDOT SHA to conduct the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study. Public involvement is a large part of the NEPA process and public input received throughout the process is taken into consideration before making a final decision.

What is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a public NEPA document prepared for a project when the proposed action will have significant environmental effects. It considers a range of reasonable alternatives, analyzes the potential impacts resulting from the alternatives, and demonstrates compliance with other applicable environmental laws and requirements. The EIS documentation consists of a Draft EIS (DEIS), Final EIS (FEIS), and Record of Decision (ROD). For the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study, the FEIS and ROD will be combined.

What is a Record of Decision (ROD)?

A Record of Decision (ROD) formally concludes the NEPA process for an EIS. The ROD explains the lead federal agency’s decision and discusses measures for mitigation of environmental impacts.

What is the timeline for the process?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study will take approximately two and a half years from the Notice of Intent, which was published in March 2018. The NEPA Study team has been obtaining input from the public through various public meetings. Public comment was invited via mail, e-mail and telephone. FHWA and the State have also been seeking and obtaining input from other federal, state and local resource agencies. The input received will be incorporated into the Draft Environmental Impact Study which will be published at the end of 2019 with a series of public hearings in early 2020. The NEPA process will conclude with a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision planned in Fall 2020.

What is a Managed Lane?

Highway facilities that use strategies, such as lane-use restrictions or congestion pricing, to optimize the number of vehicles that can travel the highway to maintain free-flowing speeds. Managed lanes may include, but are not limited to: high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, high-occupancy toll lanes, express toll lanes, and bus only lanes.

Who benefits from Managed Lanes?

All travelers on the highway system and the local area network benefit from managed lanes. Managed Lanesimprove highway operations and provide the driving public, as well as transit riders, with reduced congestion and improved safety.

Travelers who choose to pay a toll will experience reliable and reduced travel times. Travelers who continue to use the free (general purpose) lanes will also see reduced travel times as seen along the I-495 and I-95 HOT Lanes in Virginia and the I-95 Express Toll Lanes north of Baltimore.

In addition to more efficiently moving traffic through the corridor, travelers will benefit from the following:

  • An improved American Legion Bridge, a known regional bottleneck.
  • New bridges and smoother pavements for all travelers at no cost to the Transportation Trust Fund.
  • Reduced travel times on the local roadway network.

Transit riders and transit service will experience the following benefits:

  • Buses and transit riders using these highways will have reduced travel times because buses will use the Managed Lanes.
  • Enhanced transit mobility and connectivity to existing and planned transit facilities.
  • Improved highway system will provide less-congested and more reliable routes for bus service.
  • Direct and indirect access to existing transit stations and transit-oriented developments will be included at Greenbelt, New Carrollton, Branch Avenue, Silver Spring, and Shady Grove Metro stations.
  • Provides opportunities for new express bus service in National Capital Region, such as between Bethesda and Tysons.

Will there be a toll and what will the toll rates be?

The MDOT SHA has been studying multiple congestion-relief solutions, including tolled and non-tolled alternatives. If priced managed lanes are selected as the preferred alternative, a toll analysis process would be started and separate toll hearings would be held by the Maryland Transportation Authority to present, discuss, and take comments on toll rates in an open, public process. While it is too early in the process to predict what the toll rates would be in the I-495 and I-270 corridors, Virginia’s experience with managed lanes on I-495 and I-95 offers one example of how a similar system has performed. According to the Washington Post, the average toll rates for Virginia’s managed lanes on I-495 and I-95 are $5.40 and $8.45 per trip, respectively.

Those choosing to use the priced managed lanes, including transit and ridesharing, would get a faster and more reliable trip. Those traveling in the regular, non-tolled general purpose lanes would benefit from fewer people in their lanes, which means a faster trip for everyone. Neighborhoods and communities would also benefit because fewer commuters would turn to local roads using traffic apps that direct them to cut-through routes to avoid congestion.

Experience in Virginia on I-495 and I-95 shows strong customer satisfaction rates — 85 percent for weekly rush hour commuters and 80 percent for monthly customers. On I-495, 82 percent of customers spend less than $20 a month and 85 percent of trips were less than $12. On the I-95 Express Lanes, 74 percent of customers spend less than $20 a month.

How are High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes and Express Toll Lane (ETL) fees assessed and charged per vehicle in real time? Does it depend on cameras, prepaid passes, etc.? Will there be monthly billing?

If a HOT or ETL alternative were chosen as part of the NEPA study, the tolls would likely be collected electronically, similar to how they are collected on MD 200 (Intercounty Connector). Tolling equipment (cameras, transponder readers, etc.) would be installed on gantry structures, which would allow tolls to be collected without vehicles stopping. The tolls would be dynamically priced to allow continuous management of the priced managed lanes, which would help to ensure higher speeds in the lanes and allow for trip reliability when using the lanes. Options for tolling would include electronic toll collection (ETC) either by use of a transponder, or by use of license plate tolling, where the user would receive a bill after using the facility.

How is this Priced Managed Lane Project different than I-66 ITB (Inside the Beltway) with high tolls?

There are two different I-66 Managed Lanes projects in Virginia. The project that is under operation is the I-66 Inside the Beltway (ITB). There is also the I-66 Outside the Beltway (OTB) that is currently under construction through a P3 delivery method in which Virginia is receiving more than $500 million in concession payments from the private sector. That project is planned to be open for operation by the end of 2022.

Regarding tolls on I-66 Inside the Beltway (ITB), VDOT has reported that 0.13% of all toll payers chose to pay more than $40 during the first year and the average toll for a round trip was $12.59, but the I-66 ITB project has no bearing or relationship to the proposed managed lane options Maryland is exploring for I-270 & I-495.

The I-66 ITB project is different than Maryland’s proposed program. Here are a few key differences:

  • Single-occupancy vehicles were not allowed on I-66 ITB during peak periods, prior to the new tolls going into effect, and no new lanes were added when this change was made. I-66 ITB was a mostly two-lane (each direction) interstate highway with HOV (2+) use on peak directions of eastbound in the morning and westbound in the afternoon.
  • This changed to High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes for peak period and in peak direction only, in the eastbound direction from 5:30 am to 9:30 am and in the westbound direction from 3 pm to 7 pm. In contrast, MDOT SHA’s proposed alternatives include Priced Managed Lanes full time and would add new lane capacity, while allowing the existing general purpose lanes to remain free and open to all users, including single-occupancy vehicles.
  • The I-66 ITB project has no general purpose lanes alongside the High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. If you are not an HOV or toll paying commuter, you must use alternate roadways. We propose to continue to have general purpose (free) lanes alongside any priced managed lanes, allowing users to have a choice along the same corridor.

Have Managed Lanes worked elsewhere?

Yes. Managed Lanes exist in other states including Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, California, Utah, and Washington. There are over 60 locations in operation with some type of managed lanes nationally and another 22 under study, design, or construction.

  • Where ETLs on I-95 north of Baltimore were added, the general purpose lanes saw a 12% reduction in delay.
  • In Virginia, trends show a 7% reduction in travel time on the I-495 northbound free general purpose lanes in the morning peak time and a 15% reduction in travel time on I-95 southbound general purpose free lanes in the evening peak time over the last 5 years.

On I-95 in Florida where Express Lanes were added (4 general purpose lanes + 2 Express Lanes), the Express Lanes maintain a greater than 55 mph speed while the general purpose lanes improved from 19 mph to 41 mph during the evening peak. Traffic simulations show that average speeds and overall throughput are greater with Express Lanes (4 general purpose lanes + 2 Express Lanes) than if all six lanes were general purpose.

Would Managed Lanes actually improve congestion?

Yes. The alternatives under development could reduce the cost of congestion by 60% in the National Capital Region.

All the Alternatives Retained for Detailed Study are projected to reduce peak period delays on I-495 and I-270 by anywhere from zero (in the case of the No-build Alternative) to as much as 35% under the various build-alternatives. These findings are preliminary and may be revised as the design process moves forward, but the preliminary analysis does indicate significant reductions in congestion from several of the screened build alternatives, including congestion relief for vehicles choosing to use the general purpose lanes.

Furthermore, congestion relief would also be expected on many of the local arterial roads due to reduced demand and less cut-through traffic, with up to nearly a 7% reduction in delays projected on the local roadway network on a daily basis in the design year. These alternatives are proceeding through a more detailed analysis, which will further evaluate the traffic relief benefits and the environmental, social and cultural impacts of all the remaining alternatives.

Why do some people call Managed Lanes “Lexus Lanes”?

Managed lanes benefit everyone. No matter what kind of car you drive or bus you take, MDOT SHA wants to free you from traffic congestion. Everyone benefits when we’re not bumper to bumper!

The ‘Lexus-Lane’ claim has been dismissed by studies based on actual user data that shows users of all incomes benefit from reduced travel times, including managed lane users and those who continue to use the general purpose or toll-free lanes. Managed lane usage is not closely correlated to income. The managed lanes that we are studying could provide more options for people needing a reliable trip time. Nationwide research shows a majority of travelers choose to use price managed lanes occasionally for critical or important trips, such as reaching an appointment or a school event. 

Experience in Virginia on I-495 and I-95 shows most users spend less per month on tolls than they do on a single tank of gas. Most trips cost less than lunch at a fast, casual restaurant. The Washington Post reported in 2018: “…most 495 and 95 express users are not affluent…. About 60 percent of the frequent users said they have household incomes of less than $100,000…” Also according to a Washington Post report, the average toll rates for Virginia’s managed lanes on I-495 and I-95 are $5.40 and $8.45 per trip, respectively. Experience in Virginia on I-495 shows that 82 percent of customers spend less than $20 a month and 85 percent of trips were less than $12. On the Virginia I-95 Express Lanes, 74 percent of customers spend less than $20 a month.

How were the Screening Criteria developed? Is the ranking of criteria based on a formal screening model?

The initial screening of the Preliminary Range of Alternatives included an evaluation based on fifteen criteria under six major elements established from the Study’s Purpose and Need.An alternative was dropped from further consideration if it clearly did not meet the Study’s Purpose and Need. Screened Alternatives were identified as those that met the majority of the screening criteria or required additional analysis to determine their ability to meet the Purpose and Need. This approach for screening alternatives follows MDOT SHA's standard practices and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidance from FHWA.

How were the alternatives developed?

A range of 15 alternatives, the Preliminary Range of Alternatives, were developed for initial consideration. The Preliminary Range of Alternatives included the No Build Alternative as well as alternatives that included elements such as transportation systems management (TSM) / travel demand management (TDM), additional general purpose (GP) lanes, High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, priced managed lanes, collector-distributor lanes, contraflow lanes, reversible lanes, and transit. The 15 alternatives were derived from previous studies with input from the agencies and the public during the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) scoping process. Transit alternatives considered three transit modes: heavy rail, light rail, and bus. Additionally, options were identified for alternatives that could be applied to either I-495 or I-270 as well as different transit modes.

The Preliminary Range of Alternatives was presented to the public at four public workshops held on July 17, 18, 24, and 25, 2018. Comments from the public were accepted until the end of August 2018. Following the Alternatives Public Workshops, the alternatives were modified based on the comments received. Alternative 13C was added to retain the existing HOV lane on I-495 as part of the reversible alternatives and the definition of price managed lanes was removed and clarified with high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes or Express Toll Lanes (ETL). Further, the existing Collector-Distributor lane system was removed on all I-270 alternatives to minimize the footprint and associated impacts.

Why weren’t transit alternatives carried forward?

Stand-alone rail and bus transit mode alternatives were considered in the preliminary range of alternatives. The anticipated effect on existing congestion and long term growth was negligible. Potential costs, as well as environmental, social and cultural impacts of a stand-alone rail alternative, were significantly higher. While rail and bus transit in Maryland produce some revenue through fares charged to each rider, these revenues do not cover the cost of construction, maintenance and operations and would require major government investment/subsidies and the state does not have these financial resources.

Additionally, studies show that no single solution, transit or highways, can address congestion in the region alone. A combination of new transit service (like the Purple Line that is now under construction), and new lane capacity has been found to be the most effective approach. The Purple Line will provide a great transit travel choice, but significant congestion will still exist on I-495 parallel to the Purple Line once it is opened for service. In 2040, even with the Purple Line in operation, speeds on many sections of I-495 parallel to the Purple Line will be less than 15 mph in the PM peak. Highway improvements are needed to address this travel demand.

Cost-effective transit elements are included in all of the alternatives being retained for detailed study: express and local buses will be allowed to use the new managed lanes to provide faster and more reliable transit service throughout the region, and we will improve access to transit stations.

Transit options do not address the need to move freight through the I-495 and I-270 corridors. The amount of freight shipped through Maryland is expected to double in the next 25 years and highway improvements are vitally important to efficiently moving goods as 77% of goods are carried by trucks and 16% by courier or multi-mode deliveries.

Can Managed Lanes Help Reduce Greenhouse Gases?

Managed lanes allow for free-flowing travel. If you average anywhere between 35 and 65 miles per hour in a trip, the average carbon emissions per mile traveled barely changes at all. However, the situation is quite different when congestion causes travel speeds to drop below that.

For example, MDOT’s Maryland-specific greenhouse gas analyses and plans indicate that cars traveling at 50 mph emit 25% less CO2 than cars traveling at 25 mph. Likewise, a University of California study found that, when motorists travel speeds increase from 25 mph to 45 mph, carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 12% in addition to saving motorists time and aggravation.

Will my property be needed for the project?

Property needs are preliminary. As a stated goal in the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study purpose and need, MDOT SHA is striving to avoid and minimize community impacts. As the study moves forward, we will incentivize the private sector to provide innovative solutions that will provide the most minimal impact and disruption to properties.

We are focused on improvements that provide the greatest amount of congestion relief to Marylanders with as little as possible disruption to their lives or communities. Congestion relief, innovation and minimizing disruption to Marylanders are all the highest goals and objectives for the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study.

What are the future steps in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study?

MDOT SHA will identify the Recommended Preferred Alternative and document the traffic, environmental, engineering, and financial analysis in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and supporting technical reports. Further avoidance, minimization and mitigation will be prioritized to reduce environmental impacts. The DEIS will be published and made available for agency and public review prior to holding public hearings on the DEIS in early 2020. The NEPA process will be completed with the issuance of the Final Environmental Impact Statement/ Record of Decision (FEIS/ROD) in the Fall of 2020.

Is there a physical barrier or otherwise limited access to the High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes and Express Toll Lanes (ETL)? If so, on I-495 how frequently can a vehicle change from toll to general purpose lanes? Will lane selection occur only at existing exits/entrances to the Beltway?

While preliminary studies are ongoing, access for the HOT lanes or ETL alternatives are proposed to be limited to direct access ramps at interchanges or defined locations along the mainline. The HOT lanes or ETL are proposed to be separated from the general purpose lanes by a buffer with flexible posts, similar to what you see on I-495 in Virginia where their Express Lanes exist.

What is the difference between High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes and Express Toll Lanes (ETL)?

  • ETLs are dedicated managed lanes that motorists may use by paying a variably priced toll.
  • HOT lanes allow for reduced tolls when a vehicle has a minimum number of occupants.
  • Opportunity for travelers to choose to pay a toll using the ETL or HOT lanes. All general purpose lanes will remain toll-free.
  • Both ETLs and HOT lanes would operate with dynamic congestion pricing. Congestion pricing uses tolls that change based on time of day and traffic conditions to ensure the traffic in the lanes continues to flow and does not break down. Congestion pricing has been noted by FHWA to be the single most viable and sustainable approach to reducing congestion.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

What is a Public-Private Partnership?

A Public-Private Partnership (P3) is an alternative model for delivery of a capital project. A P3 is a partnership between the public or governmental sector with private entities. The P3 seeks to harness private sector expertise, innovation and funding in order to deliver public infrastructure for the benefit of the public owner and users of the infrastructure. P3s seek to successfully leverage the respective strengths of the public and private sectors to deliver large, complex infrastructure projects in a cost effective and timely fashion. Functions under a P3 agreement may include designing, building, financing, operating, and maintaining a transportation facility.

Why would MDOT SHA consider using a P3?

Reasons for utilizing a P3 include:

  • Projects Constructed Faster: P3 projects can move forward when the state does not have available funding because the private sector finances the improvements based on future funding or revenue. It would take more than 25 years to fund I-495 & I-270 P3 Program congestion relief improvements relying on state funds and would use all of MDOT’s capital expansion budget for this one project.
  • Transfer of Risks: The state and the private sector share the risks based on who can best manage each risk to provide the best value to the state.
  • Operations and Maintenance: The state can benefit from having the private sector operate the highway and maintain it (for example, pavement repairs, grass mowing) at a more economical cost. Without the P3 Program, it is estimated that MDOT will need to invest $1.7 billion in bridge replacement/rehabilitation and pavement rehabilitation over the next decade simply to just maintain the existing roadways on I-495 and I-270 in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in a state of good repair, with no congestion relief.
  • Limited Government Funding: Projects that include a future revenue source may be constructed with limited or no governmental funding upfront. In fact, the I-495 & I-270 P3 Program has a goal to implement the Program at no net cost to the state.

Is P3 the same as privatization?

No. The state will retain ownership of the new facility and its highway improvements and be responsible to ensure the facilities meet its public function throughout the life of the agreement. When the agreement ends (typically 30 to 50 years), all the assets will be returned to the state in a pre-agreed condition.

How will the state select the developer?

The state will use a competitive solicitation process to ensure the best value for the state. This solicitation process will be concurrent with the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study. We anticipate issuing a Request for Qualifications for Phase 1 in Spring 2019 and expect an agreement with the successful proposer by the end of 2020.

How is the state allowed to select a P3 company concurrently with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); doesn’t that mean you’ve already decided on a solution?

The P3 solicitation is being done concurrently, but independently, from the Managed Lanes Study (MLS), so it can be ready to go if a managed lane alternative is selected. In the event the No-Build Alternative is selected, the P3 would not go forward. The P3 solicitation milestones will align with the MLS schedule, which is being conducted in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to maximize efficiency in delivery of congestion relief while ensuring the integrity of the NEPA process. No actions may take place by potential private sector partners that would bias the Study toward a particular alternative prior to the conclusion of the NEPA process.

How does the private sector partner make its money?

The private sector partner will receive its compensation through revenues generated from tolls. Tolls will be used to repay the private sector for its investment in the Program. The private sector investment will be at their risk and non-recourse to the state.

STAYING CONNECTED

Do Maryland citizens have a voice in this process?

Yes! There are multiple opportunities for Marylanders to have a voice in this process. To date, MDOT SHA has hosted 16 public workshops in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The first four scoping workshops were held in April 2018. Four additional public open houses were held in July 2018 to update the public on 15 Preliminary Alternatives as well as the criteria to refine them into Screened Alternatives to carry forward.

Since March 2018, we have received and recorded nearly 3,000 public comments and we welcome the next round of comments in Spring 2019. Public outreach and comments from the 2018 efforts are summarized in reports that can be found on the P3 Program website.

Public comment has contributed to the addition of Alternative 13C, the elimination of the Collector/Distributor Lanes on I-270 to reduce potential impacts, additional emphasis on Multi-modal connectivity, and acknowledgment that buses would use the managed lanes in all build alternatives. Also, in response to community requests following release of the Screened Alternatives, the Study Team has presented at more than a dozen community association meetings between January and May 2019.

Spring 2019 outreach included eight public workshops held in April and May throughout Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Comments for the Alternatives Retained for Detailed Study (ARDS) will still be accepted through June 14, 2019 and can be submitted online, emailed, or mailed. There are many opportunities for the public to provide input and we are still in the early stages of this program.

To find up-to-date information on upcoming activities in the process, please visit:

https://495-270-p3.com/your-participation/upcoming-events/

How can I learn more about the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study?

The website provides the most up-to-date information about the study. Please visit 495-270-P3.com. You may also contact the team via email, phone, or mail.

MDOT SHA also will come to you. We participate in local community events and brief neighborhood groups and community-based organizations throughout the study area. E-mail MDOT SHA to request a presentation for your community association meeting.

How can I comment on the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study?

There are many ways to comment on the Study. Provide your comments online, by email, by phone, or through the mail. Visit our contact page for contact information or to sign up for email notifications to stay up to date on the P3 Program.

How can I provide input into the I-270 Pre-NEPA Activities?

As MDOT SHA evaluates congestion relief for I-270 from I-370 to I-70, we welcome your feedback. Provide your comments online, by email, by phone, or through the mail. Visit our contact page for contact information or to sign up for email notifications to stay up to date on the P3 Program.