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Fixing What We've Got

Robert Flanagan, Maryland's transportation secretary, and State Highway Administrator Neil Pedersen presented their transportation improvement plan in Montgomery County last night. The intercounty connector stands out as one of the few brand new roadways planned for the Washington region. In the Maryland suburbs, roads will be widened and straightened and made more efficient. That's expensive enough.

Same pattern holds in Virginia. The widening of I-66 and the interchange construction on Route 28 are examples of Northern Virginia's big roadway projects.

Most of the brand new things in Maryland will be transit lines -- either bus rapid transit or light rail, according to the state's plan. There's the Red Line in Baltimore. And in the Washington suburbs, there's the Bicounty Transitway, or Purple Line, and the Corridor Cities Transitway. Big problem for us will be that the three projects are scheduled to enter their construction phases about the same time in the next decade. We may have a problem paying for all three at once.

The really big road project looming is a rebuilding of the Capital Beltway's 42 miles in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The Beltway "is taking a beating," Pedersen said. "Substantial and very expensive improvements" will be needed for pavement and bridges. This isn't just the repaving we see from time to time. This gets down to rebuilding the underlying structure and would cost more than a billion dollars.

"Sobering to think about," Pedersen said.

Separately, Maryland is joining Virginia in studying how traffic flow on the Beltway could be improved. Maryland's attention is focused on what Flanagan described as "the worst of the worst": the Beltway between I-270 and the American Legion Bridge.

Despite the lack of brand new roads, there's still plenty of asphalt going down. Take a drive up and down Route 29, peel off onto a connecting roadway, like Greencastle Road, and you'll see plenty of new streets in the subdivisions under construction or just completed. New streets, new cars, new congestion.

It's a problem we can solve, but we've got to pour money into the solutions at a greater rate than the developers are pouring asphalt.

By Robert Thomson  |  November 3, 2006; 8:04 AM ET
Categories:  Congestion  
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