Officials from the State Highway Administration and Maryland Department of Transportation addressed county residents several times in 2005 regarding plans to add express toll lanes to the Capital Beltway on most of its 42 miles in Maryland — from the American Legion Bridge to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
A toll lanes study, now several years underway, grew out of an earlier proposal to add one High Occupancy Vehicle lane on the same stretch. That project originated in the early 1990s.
At an April 18 meeting of the Transportation Committee of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board, State Highway Senior Project Manager Sue Rajan said the project would cost more than $4 billion and remains in the “detailed study” phase, with three proposed alternatives on the table and construction at least seven years off.
Many questions about the toll lanes remain unresolved, including the amount of the tolls and whether they would vary based on fixed schedules, with the tolls being higher during peak travel hours, or on a real-time basis, with the tolls increasing in proportion to traffic congestion regardless of the time of day.
The tolls would be collected by an all-electronic system of overhead sensors similar to the existing EZ-Pass tollbooth technology.
Current plans call for a final recommendation on one of the options, including detailed environmental study and location approval in fall, 2006.
The Washington, D.C., area ranks third worst in the country in traffic congestion among major metropolitan areas, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration, in spite of ranking first in telecommuting and carpooling and second in transportation infrastructure.
Virginia agreed last year to a public-private partnership to build similar toll lanes along a stretch of the Beltway beginning just miles from the American Legion Bridge.