Toll lanes (Lexus lanes) proposed for Beltway on MD side and I-270

The MD State Highway Administration has announced a "traffic relief" plan for the Beltway and I-270 that has been reported elsewhere to include widening both roads and making all of the new lanes "variable-toll" lanes that are meant to ensure the wealthy can bypass traffic congestion. States have learned the hard way that widening roads doesn't reduce congestion, so the focus now is paid bypasses for the rich.

For all other drivers, these lanes are a dangerous nuisance. First and foremost, the experience of Virginia with I-66 tolls that can reach $40 has shown the true purpose of these projects. The prices ensure that "getting to work on time" is not in fact a viable use of these roads except for salaries white-collar workers. Someone working for $10 an hour driving both ways on I-66 to and from work could consume 100% of their wages for that day on tolls. Before Virginia's "HOT lane" conversion of I-66 to toll or carpool/EX pass requires, anyone could use it by carpooling. Now anyone who does not have or want an EZ-pass is forbidden from using that road even with six passengers in the car. That reduces the supply of available carpools, forcing more traffic back onto other Virginia roads.

Those who do not have or want an EZ-pass must carefully avoid accidentally driving onto such a road or lane. No doubt there have already been crashes caused by confusing signs on the Virginia part of the beltway that can make drivers think they have just entered an EZ-pass only road when they have not. A non-EZ pass user can face fines escalating to thousands of dollars in Virginia for accidently driving on these roads, so a driver finding themselves on a ramp to one has a major incentive to back up the ramp seeking to escape the trap.

If you have an EZ-Pass, police are known to have posession of EZ-pass readers that can be used to log passing cars elsewhere than on toll roads, and EX-pass records are kept on travel and are accessable by subpeona all the way down to divorce cases. The EZ-pass system combined with license plate cameras used for enforcement even at cash tollbooths has made all toll roads a privacy nightmare.

From what MD is now debating, they seemed to have learned the lesson that you can't build your way out of congestion, but not the lesson that lexus lanes never pay for themselves and become a state subsidy to the wealthy. It took from 2012 until 2018 for the Inter-County-Connector (a variable toll, no-cash toll road) to get enough users that a pedestrian standing on an overpass counting cars in rush hour would see anything more than an occasional car passing. MD spend over $3 billion on that road after 40 years of controversy and did not learn their lesson.

With the "traffic relief plan" for I-495 and I-270, MD is doubling down on the principles behind the failed Inter-County-Connector, and continuing to spend money on highways while Metro continues to rot from insufficient money to pay for basic maintainance. A traffic relief plan for the poor would limit any new lanes to busses only or maybe busses and carpools, excluding toll-paying single passenger cars and thus staying away from privacy-killing antifeatures like EZ-pass and license plate cameras for toll collection.

The following public hearings have been planned on this "traffic relief plan":

Thursday, April 11 6:30PM-8:30PM
Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex
8001 Sheriff Road
Landover, MD 20785:

Saturday, April 13 10AM-12:PM
Thomas Pyle Middle School
6311 Wilson Lane
Bethesda, MD 20817

Tuesday, April 23 6:30PM-8:30PM
Eleanor Roosevelt High School
7601 Hanover Parkway
Greenbelt, MD 20770

Wednesday, April 24 6:30PM-8:30PM
Eastern Middle School
300 University Blvd E
Silver Spring, MD 20901

Thursday, April 25 6:30PM-8:30PM
Thomas Wooten High School
2100 Wooten Parkway
Rockville, MD 20850

Saturday, April 27 10AM-12:PM
Suitland Community Center
5600 Regency Ln
Suitland-Sliver Hill, MD 20746

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