Maryland governor secures support for $11bn toll road project

The project, which includes a link between Maryland and Virginia, is set to be one of the US's largest PPPs.

One of the largest public-private partnerships in the US looks set to get the green light following a compromise between Maryland’s governor and the state comptroller.

The Traffic Relief Plan, also known as the I-495 and I-270 P3 programme, would add new lanes on Interstate 495, between the American Legion Bridge and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, and on I-270 between I-495 and I-70. In a statement, Governor Larry Hogan said the project would be built without the imposition of any additional taxes, while existing lanes that are to be rebuilt would remain toll-free.

The project, which it is estimated will cost $11 billion, was originally put out to tender in 2017 and elicited 27 expressions of interest. It has been delayed as public authorities have sought the best way to structure it.

In a statement last Friday, Hogan said that moving forward with the project would solve traffic congestion in Maryland, which he described as “the number one problem” in the state.

Although the project had received the approval of the Maryland Board of Public Works in June to be delivered as a P3, this was cast into doubt in December when the state comptroller Peter Franchot criticised the plan.

“There’s too much at stake to accept an unvetted proposal that is only half-baked,” he said in a statement last month. “If we blow this, the region’s congestion will get worse over time, not better. Our communities will grow less liveable, and the taxpayers will be left holding the bag while a group of private investors we’ll never meet continue to get their checks.”

However, in his statement last Friday, Hogan said: “Comptroller Franchot and I have reached a major bipartisan agreement to affirmatively vote to advance the Traffic Relief Plan at the Board of Public Works on Wednesday.”

According to the agenda for Wednesday’s board meeting, published on the Maryland Board of Public Works website, the project will be delivered in phases, with work on I-270 comprising Phase 1.

A Request for Qualifications for Phase 1 is expected to be issued in February, according to the same document, with a preferred bidder to be announced in March 2021.

Franchot has described the latest iteration of the plan as a “better deal for the taxpayers and a win for our region”.