Opinion: Commentary: Free Lanes for I-270 Expansion

Opinion: Commentary: Free Lanes for I-270 Expansion

In 30 years of law practice I am proud to have served as a champion for small business men and women.

The very poor have government money and the very rich have their own money. But those who need a job and want to work have no money.

What they do have are the optimism, strong backs and vision of small business men and women. We’re told that small businesses create the bulk of jobs in America, and having represented them for years — I can assure you that’s true.

So it’s from a small business perspective that I read with interest Ginny Barnes' article in the Dec. 5 Potomac Almanac opposing Governor Hogan’s plan to expand I-270.

I’m sure you’re with me in having heard about expanding I-270 as a means of easing its gridlock for years. And I bet you’re with me also in thinking — we need it so why not?

Why not make life easier and transportation better for all of us and most importantly, for folks like my friend Carlos.

Carlos is a small businessman who employs one truck and four workers. The picture of death for Carlos’ business and the livelihoods of the four families those four jobs provide, is his truck sitting in inevitable I-270 gridlock, burning gas and bleeding money.

Thus I traveled to the Wednesday night Dec. 12 Western Montgomery County Citizens Association meeting, out of angst and curiosity over Ms. Barnes’ anti-expansion article.

Once there, I was met with the monotone drone of cynical anti-progress arguments. For example, it was stated more than once that the proposal to expand I-270 is simply a ploy to advanced Governor Hogan’s political career.

The same tired menu of potential increases in public transportation as alternatives were also blazoned on a wall screen: designated bus lanes, incentives to people for carpooling, expansion of the purple line etc. Yet the apparently anti-Hogan crowd and experts in attendance admitted that these options are uncoordinated and inadequate at best.

Clearly these were folks who are activists and old hands at these kinds of meetings. I commend their civic-mindedness but point out that their singular focus on the use of I-270 by commuters, and how best modify commuters' behavior, is misguided.

You see, no one was thinking about Carlos. No one was thinking about the small business men and women courageously out on the road, trying to get their workers for whom they provide jobs quickly from point A to point B. And in retrospect I should have asked for a show of hands as to how many in the room owned or ran small businesses. I'm certain no hands would have gone up.

Let’s not oppose the expansion of I-270. Let's support it for the sake of small businesses and hard working folks like Carlos.

However, instead of agreeing to the Governor's current plan which includes the addition of expensive toll “Lexus lanes,” let's embrace a new idea: free lanes for the I-270 expansion.

That’s right. The new lanes should be for the people, and they should be free!

Governor Hogan came to office in the first place because of Marylanders’ frustration over $8 billion in new taxes suffered at the hands of eight years of the Martin O’Malley Administration. Where is that money?

Why not spend it, we should ask, to help my friend Carlos and others like him, courageous small business folks and their workers, out there on the road, by expanding I-270 not with expensive toll lanes but with free ones. Let's thus empower all Maryland tax payers, including our small business men and women, the engines of our economy. Let’s demand, in this way, affordable transportation policy for the people!

Fellow Marylanders, I say we shout this together into a crescendo of public support, loud and clear to our lawmakers in Annapolis this coming session: free lanes, free lanes, free lanes on I-270 supporting jobs jobs jobs!

Editor's note: The writer is a long-standing resident of Potomac and he welcomes comments pro or con by email to mikeanestos@gmail.com