Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Montgomery County Legislative Candidates Call For Reversible Lanes on I-270

Two candidates for the state legislature in Montgomery County district 15 are calling for the state to add reversible lanes to I-270 to alleviate traffic concerns.

The father son team of Robin Ficker and Flynn Ficker, running for state senate and state delegate respectively, say the plan is a cost effective approach to addressing traffic congestion.  Robin Ficker said traffic congestion is one of the biggest concerns that District 15 residents have expressed to him.  "Gridlock on I-270 and to a lesser extent, gridlock on 355 and 27 are their biggest transportation concerns." he wrote, and joked that "The voters are thinking the county may soon try to raise money by giving them parking tickets while they are driving on I-270."

There have been proposals for widening I-270 with additional lanes for some time, but most of the push has been to add High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes only.  Robin Ficker felt that creating reversible lanes was a better approach that would save both money and land.  "We need two reversible lanes for cars in the middle of I-270 which could be built for 1/20 the cost per mile of the Purple Line.  There would NOT be tolls for the reversible lanes.  We think it could be done within the existing right of way."

The Montgomery County Council, and some incumbent Montgomery County state lawmakers, have put most of their hopes regarding mitigating traffic problems into mass transit projects.  The County Council has been pushing for a fleet of "rapid transit" buses which would take existing lanes away from cars and make them bus only lanes.  Robin Ficker thought that transit could be part of the solution but could not solve congestion "Putting in bus lanes where we would have one bus every 4 minutes is a waste of money.  Run some buses if you like, but allow cars in the lanes too."

District 15 includes much of 'Upcounty' Montgomery, including Poolsville, Darnstown, Barnesville, and North Potomac.

Robin Ficker is running against Incumbent democrats Brian Feldman, who was appointed to the position by Governor O'Malley after Rob Garagiola left the post for an unsuccessful bid to win a seat in congress.  Incumbents Democrats Kathleen Dumaise, David Fraser-Hidalgo, and Aruna Miller will be facing republican challengers Flynn Ficker, Christine Thron, and Ed Edmonston for three house seats.

Aruna Miller's website touted her support Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013, which sought to replenish the state's transportation trust fund with a gas tax hike that will increase the cost of fuel up to 20 cents a gallon gradually phased in over several years (an 86% increase over the previous state gas tax), and then index further gas taxes increase with inflation.  Miller's website also stated "Aruna is a strong proponent of Corder City Transit Way which is important to District 15.."  The Corridor City Transit Way would be a new "Bus Rapid Transit" system with an estimated price tag of about $525 million.

Candidate Christine Thron's website noted transportation issues as well.  "We have options when it comes to our crowded roads. Of course it would have been better if the Transportation Trust Fund had not been raided of nearly $1 billion dollars and put into the general fund between 2003 and 2011. But we go on. The roads are important to all of us. I-270 is a parking lot twice a day and we are expecting significant increases in population to our area over the next 20 years."

Robin Ficker stated that he thought that the gas tax increase was too much and should not have been indexed to inflation, and also that ICC tolls should be lowered.