Feds Delay Decision on Toll Lanes
August 5, 2022
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has informed the State that it will delay a decision on whether or not to approve the I-495/I-270 toll lanes. It appears that the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) will be required to continue to accept comments to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) from the public. Importantly, it also appears that the FHWA is requiring MDOT to consider the public comments and respond to them.
The federal agency is appropriately taking action to ensure that MDOT follows the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires that the public be informed of the impacts of the project and be given an opportunity to comment on them. The policy is aimed at ensuring transparency and ensuring the best decisions are made when considering a large infrastructure project.
During the environmental review of the toll lanes project, MDOT has repeatedly delayed or hidden critical information from the public. MDOT waited to disclose climate and environmental justice analyses until the Final Environmental Impact Statement was issued in June, despite having closed the official comment process last November. MDOT also failed to explain changes it made to its traffic analysis in the FEIS.
By requiring MDOT to continue to take public comments on the FEIS and to consider and respond to them, FHWA is insisting that MDOT comply with NEPA, rather than taking shortcuts that cheat the public out of an opportunity to shape the final decisions about the project.