Larry Hogan’s Highway Building Binge Threatens to Force Hundreds of People From Their Homes

Widening I-270 in Montgomery County may require the demolition of hundreds of homes, according to a 2009 study. Image: Montgomery County
Widening I-270 in Montgomery County may require the demolition of hundreds of homes, according to a 2009 study. Image: Montgomery County <a href="http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/Resources/Files/agenda/cm/2009/090713/20090713_te1.pdf" PDF

Uprooting economically vulnerable people to make room for roads isn’t a relic of the 1960s — it’s alive and well in Maryland in 2018.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan wants to add lanes to highways all over the state. His massive $9 billion road widening plan would add four tolled lanes to each of Maryland’s three most congested highways.

It’s a terrible plan that will induce more traffic, pollution, and sprawl. And beyond all that, it’s going to force hundreds, maybe thousands, of people from their homes.

Joe Allen at Greater Greater Washington reports that a previous study of widening I-270 in Montgomery County concluded that as many as 365 housing units would have to be demolished. That’s just for one 35-mile stretch on one of the three highways that Hogan wants to expand.

Census data shows that people who live near the highway tend to have lower incomes than the county as a whole. The homes at risk are a rarity in this part of Maryland: affordable to people who don’t qualify for or can’t secure housing subsidies. Allen writes:

These are not state- or federally-subsidized homes, but rather are “market-affordable” homes, something that is increasingly rare in our region. Fewer units in these complexes contributing to maintenance and upkeep may prompt the remaining owners to sell their properties for redevelopment.

Given that there are no affordability protections on these properties, the resulting redevelopments would only have to follow the 15% workforce housing requirement instituted by the City of Gaithersburg. The result would be a loss of a large segment of housing that property records show are valued between $80k – $300k, depending on the size of the unit in a prime location near job centers.

Hogan’s plan is in the early phases of environmental review, and it’s too soon to say how many people it would displace. His administration claims there’s nothing to worry about as it seeks to fast track the process, Allen says.

If that sounds familiar, maybe it’s because Hogan is same governor who killed a light rail project that would have benefitted black neighborhoods in Baltimore, claiming that a bus network overhaul would be an adequate substitute. Local residents regard it as a “consolation prize.”

We know that highway lanes have to gobble up land to give motorists enough room to travel at high speeds without crashing into each other. Bulldozing a path for more lanes on I-270, I-495, and MD 295 won’t be a victimless process.

  • Jeremy

    Maryland has a gubernatorial election in November. The Democratic primary is June 26. Front runners are Rushern Baker, Ben Jealous, and Richard Madaleno. Baker and Madaleno have a Transportation section on their Issues pages. I did not see one on Ben Jealous’s website.

    https://www.rushernbaker.com/infrastructure

    http://madalenoformaryland.com/transportation/

    https://benjealous.com/issues/

  • J. Geoff Rove

    There must be some kind of National Plan by the GOP governors to put these toll lanes in cities. Rauner in IL is pushing taking one lane from the current 4 lane (each way) I-290 and making it a toll lane. Also pushing for the Lexus lanes on I-55. These One Percenters love the tax-free state bonds used to build this. One Percenters avoid stocks and love tax free interest.

  • TakeFive

    It’s not about politics so much as the next trend in trying to efficiently move traffic.

    Arizona, one of the reddest states going will open the new 22-mile, 8-lane ‘South Mountain’ freeway in 2020 with just the standard HOV (2+) lane. In fact metro Phoenix has zero miles of tolled lanes.

  • TakeFive

    It’s a terrible plan that will induce more traffic, pollution, and sprawl. And beyond all that, it’s going to force hundreds, maybe thousands, of people from their homes.

    News flash: they don’t add lanes to an existing freeway just to sit there looking pretty; ofc it adds new capacity which draws (induces) traffic from other arterial roads. That’s a good thing. It needn’t create more sprawl and can even encourage more density depending on other factors. Pollution may actually be reduced if traffic is able to move more freely. In any case the coming surge into Hybrids and EV’s are a much better catalyst for reducing auto-emission pollution.

  • Jason

    “if traffic is able to move more freely.”

    If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

  • TakeFive

    The added toll lanes as in these proposed projects will indeed allow for four lanes of traffic to move freely.

    In addition ‘tolled lanes’ can also be used to create great BRT/Express bus service. It is working well between Boulder and Denver in Colorado where the now BRT buses use the toll lane and/or a shoulder depending… and it has been so successful that they need to buy more buses to add frequency.

  • Winston Smith

    I traveled I-270 for years, has to be one of the worst bottlenecks in the country. Very wealthy Montgomery Co. has 6 lanes of traffic terminate at the end of their county into the same 2 lanes that were built in the 50s. It’s been a geopolitical boondoggle for decades.

  • J. Geoff Rove

    Thats different. Phoenix is the capital of GOP AZ. IL and MD have GOP governors and are pushing HOV-Toll lanes on blue cities. Also they extended the sales tax “Maricopa County voters ­renewed a 0.5 percent sales-tax ­increase ”
    https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/gilbert/2014/12/24/officials-extension-needed-transportation-tax/20885935/

  • TakeFive

    It’s true that Phoenix is a more typical southern, sprawling metro. Topography is also a factor. They do happen to have an exceptional freeway system that Tom Tom rates 49th for congestion even though they’re the 11th largest MSA. That’s why happy taxpayer renewed the sales tax; with the renewal 35% is now dedicated to transit.

    In any case tolled Express Lanes make eminent sense regardless of a state’s color. 🙂

  • Sir Bikesalot

    You mention Illinois and blue cities. Chicago has lost close to 1,000,000 residents since the 1950 census. We can argue all day about why these folks moved, but they obviously saw a better life for themselves OUTSIDE the blue city as most moved to nearby suburbs. This, in turn, created the need for more and wider roads. So let’s be honest here. Forcing blue city ideology on people who want nothing to do with it is one of the primary creators of sprawl. You’re complicit, Geoff. It’s not just red state governors and monsters under your bed. .

  • The question is, what are those “other factors”? Time has proven again and again that highway widening only increases the lucre of the next available greenfields further down the corridor, quickly turning them into development opportunities, which then induces more road demand and traffic on the same highways the DOT had just widened. While the lanes certainly won’t just “sit there looking pretty”, they will likely offer very, very short-lived relief, again at the cost of numerous homes.

    But maybe you know some “other factors” that will prevent this from happening in Montgomery County? I’m genuinely curious. This region generally boasts some innovative planning solutions.

  • J. Geoff Rove

    The surrounding farm land that became suburbs was owned by the politically connected GOP and Dem. honchos. Easy to force people to move when Chicago Boss Daley never snow plowed residential streets and maintained a Mob controlled police dept. Own it Springfield Combine mobsters.

  • J. Geoff Rove

    But no HOV-toll lanes in NV or AZ. Transponders are for LA, OC, and SF counties ! And its too HOT to wait for transit in the AZ summer monsoons and sand storms.

  • TakeFive

    lol, it do warm up. Interestingly, the first light rail line built (now 26 miles) has very impressive ridership/per mile. Likely they’re trying to get out of the heat. 😉

  • oogernomicon

    Yes, when cities go out of their way to incentivize suburban flight and automobile transit, they surprisingly end up with such. Shocks us all to then find out when an unsustainable system has been put in place. But don’t come to Streetsblog of all places trying to argue that it’s just some simple, fair market that drove that population movement.

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