Maryland planning board to reconsider Capital Beltway toll project

July 19, 2021

Tyson Fisher


Shortly after the Maryland Department of Transportation urged the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board to reconsider a vote regarding the Capital Beltway toll project, the board has included a revote in its next meeting’s agenda.

On Wednesday, July 21, the Transportation Planning Board will hold a vote to include Phase 1 of the Capital Beltway toll project in its air quality conformity analysis, which is necessary to secure funding for the multibillion dollar project. In June, the board voted to exclude the project from the analysis.

The possible reversal comes after MDOT Deputy Secretary R. Earl Lewis Jr. sent a letter to the board requesting it to vote again on the Capital Beltway toll project on Interstates 495 and 270. In the letter, Lewis asked the board to propose a new motion to be added to the agenda on its next meeting that will revisit the June 16 vote. The board did just that.

According to the agenda, the Transportation Planning Board will vote to adopt a resolution that will add the Capital Beltway toll project to its conformity list for its long-term plan called Visualize 2045.

“At the request of several TPB member jurisdictions from Maryland and Virginia, in the first part of its action, the TPB will entertain a motion to amend the June 16, 2021 project list approval to add the Maryland I-270/I-495 HOT Lanes construction project to the list of projects to be included in the conformity analysis,” the agenda states. “Inclusion of this project in conformity inputs will reestablish the fiscal constraint of all MDOT projects that will be included in the conformity analysis.”

Phase 1 of the Capital Beltway toll project will cost $6 billion, $1.5 billion of which would have come from the private sector. MDOT has threatened that it will cut $1.5 billion worth of projects. MDOT provided a preliminary list of possible projects to cut totaling nearly $3 billion.

If the planning board doubles down on its vote to remove the Capital Beltway toll project from the conformity analysis, it will issue a notice of a special meeting on Aug. 18. During that meeting, the board will remove additional MDOT projects from the conformity analysis to pay for the toll project.

It appears that the board will vote to reverse its June vote.

According to government documents, MDOT informed the board after the June vote that eliminating the Capital Beltway toll project from the conformity analysis had “removed the private revenues that supported that project and had thus disrupted the fiscal constraint for all the projects MDOT had submitted.”

That information, particularly the unintended consequences, was not known to the board when it voted for the project removal.

Attempts to keep the Capital Beltway toll project alive comes as dozens of residents and elected officials expressed opposition to the project. Last week, the Maryland Transportation Authority held public hearings as part of the toll rate range setting process public comment period. Several local and state lawmakers are concerned about the high cost of the proposed toll rates. Many residents and officials are opposed to any tolls.

For more information about the Capital Beltway public-private partnership program, go to LL