Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) agreed Tuesday to delay a key vote on his plan to add toll lanes to the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 after the state’s comptroller said he and the public needed more time to review “important revisions” to the proposal.
Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) had asked Hogan on Monday to delay Wednesday’s vote by the Board of Public Works. Franchot said he was concerned that changes proposed by the Maryland Department of Transportation “would substantially broaden and accelerate” the plan that he had agreed to in June.
Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said the governor agreed to delay the vote until Dec. 18 “as a courtesy to the comptroller.” He declined to elaborate.
Under state law, the three-member panel, composed of the governor, comptroller and state treasurer, must approve any changes to the plan because MDOT is pursuing it as a public-private partnership. With an estimated value of more than $9 billion, it would be the biggest such arrangement in the country
Among the changes, MDOT is seeking permission to begin buying private property along the highways as it comes up for sale, rather than waiting until a federally required environmental impact study is completed and a contract approved. MDOT also plans to solicit private-sector proposals for the Beltway and I-270 simultaneously, rather than pursuing I-270 first, as the board approved in June. State officials said doing so would allow work to begin at the American Legion Bridge, on which the governors of Maryland and Virginia recently agreed to share the cost of rebuilding and expanding.
Highway expansion opponents have focused their lobbying efforts on Franchot because he is considered the board’s swing vote. Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), who represents the General Assembly on the panel, has previously opposed the project, saying she is concerned about its potential environmental impact.