SHA answers questions (sort of) on I-270
Maryland Politics Watch reports that the State Highway Administration has provided the Montgomery County Council with a series of answers to the council's questions about a $4.6 billion proposal to widen Interstate 270 by two lanes in each direction between Shady Grove and Frederick.
The SHA letter is an elegant example of bureaucratic tiptoeing through a political minefield, and many of the answers are really non-answers. The message, if you read between the lines, is "we really don't want to talk about this yet." But -- surprise, surprise -- this highway agency doesn't see transit -- apart from one line called the Corridor Cities Transitway -- as a solution in the corridor.
The SHA answers carefully sidestep the question of using tolls at existing facilities to finance the I-270 expansion -- even though the council asks that very question. Give these highway folks credit -- they know political poison when the smell it.
The answer about GARVEE bonds points out a strategy that opponents of the project can use to keep it from getting off the ground -- persuade the General Assembly to just say no to any attempt to raise the debt limit for a single project. Committing a big chunk of future federal revenue to a single project benefiting a single corridor is contrary to the interest of every other part of the state.
MPW's Adam Pagnucco and I don't see eye to eye about all aspects of the project, but I certainly agree with his assessment that any attempt to raise the debt limit "guarantees some interesting politicking down the road."