Governor says five major projects in the county are in peril unless law changes
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Wednesday plans to introduce emergency legislation to repeal a transportation scoring bill that he said will kill 66 out of 73 transportation projects, including five major projects in Montgomery County.
The General Assembly overrode his veto of the bill in April.
Hogan at a press conference in Annapolis identified individual legislators by name and listed transportation projects in their home jurisdictions he said will die if the bill is not repealed. He did not single out any individual legislator from Montgomery County.
“Montgomery County legislators voted to kill many of their own top priorities,” said Hogan. “If this legislation is not immediately repealed, our critical improvements to I-270, which is the most congested road in Maryland, will be immediately canceled. The new interchange at I-270 and Watkins Mill Road, which is vital, will be eliminated. All the important improvements to I-495, Maryland Route 97, and U.S. Route 29 will also be killed.”
In a statement, Hogan said the bill “will wreak havoc on the entire state transportation system and usurp important authority away from local governments and away from the executive branch of state government, giving authority instead to lobbyists and special interest groups.”
He later added, “The repercussions of this law are quite simply disastrous for our state, and I can assure you that on behalf of our citizens, I will not stop fighting until this catastrophic bill is repealed.”
State Del. Pamela Beidle (D-32), who sponsored the bill and chairs the Motor Vehicle and Transportation Subcommittee of the House of Delegates Environment and Transportation Committee, said she disagreed with his assessment.
“I have no idea where he gets that number form other than they’ve already overpromised $1.6 billion of transportation projects,” said Beidle, later adding, “We tried to work with the administration to try to develop this project-based scoring system. But they have the right to take a project out of order and fund whatever they want.”
House Speaker Michael Busch (D) said Hogan “overpromised and under-delivered on his transportation budget.
“Nonpartisan analysts reported last month that his promises are $1.6 billion over-budget, so he needs a scapegoat to explain away his inability to deliver,” said Busch. “The people of Maryland want a transparent government where they understand how politicians are spending their money. The law requires the Governor to simply explain his spending decisions, not hide behind them.”
The Montgomery County projects Hogan said that are canceled because of the bill include:
· The Watkins Mill Road interchange on Interstate 270;
· Safety, capacity, and operations improvements to MD 28/MD 198 between MD 97 and Interstate 95;
· Capacity improvements to Interstate 495 at the I-270 spur and Virginia line;
· The US 29 interchange at Musgrove Road and Fairland Road; and
· The MD 97 interchange at MD 28.
Beidle said Hogan’s administration “already killed” the Watkins Mill interchange “before this bill.”
She said the administration instead prioritized widening MD 404 from two lanes to four lanes heading into Delaware.
The General Assembly this year overrode Hogan’s vote of House Bill 1013 largely along party lines, with an 88-52 margin in the House and 29-17 margin in the Senate.
According to Beidle, the bill affects how the Department of Transportation scores and ranks major transportation projects.
“It fundamentally asked them to rank projects based on nine issues; economic development, safety, and all the issues that you’d expect to be important in transportation,” said Beidle, noting the goal is for “the most important projects to be completed first.”
“I think he’s just trying to develop hysteria in all the counties,” she added. “Obviously they don’t like the bill.”
County Council President Roger Berliner (D-District 1), who chairs the council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment committee (T&E), said Bill 1013 would not cancel state infrastructure projects in the County.
“I think he is not well served to pick these kind of battles when there so much that we could agree upon,” Berliner said.