The historic effort to reduce traffic congestion for millions of people in the Washington, DC area just hit a key milestone. The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) State Highway Administration (SHA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently published the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Final Section 4(f) Evaluation for the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study.
— @OpLanesMD (@oplanesmd) June 17, 2022
Publication of the FEIS is a major milestone in a four-year National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, led and facilitated by RK&K, that included more than 5,000 public and agency comments as well as hosting hundreds of events, both in-person and virtual, to present information and receive feedback. The FEIS details the comprehensive mitigation plan for natural, cultural, and socio-economic impacts to the area.
The DC region is one of the most congested areas in the United States. According to MDOT, drivers experience seven to 10 hours of traffic congestion on I-495 and I-270 every day. Projections show delays could get worse and increase as much as 70% by 2040.
RK&K’s Transportation Planning, Natural Resources, and Traffic teams led the development of the Preferred Alternative which would replace the aging 60-year-old American Legion Bridge over the Potomac River connecting Maryland and Virginia. The plan works to reduce traffic congestion along I-495 and I-270 to allow people to reach their destinations faster and remove overflow traffic from nearby roads.
- On I-495, the plan includes two new High Occupancy Toll (HOT) managed lanes in each direction from south of the George Washington Parkway in Fairfax County, VA to west of MD 187 (Old Georgetown Road) in Montgomery County, MD.
- On I-270, the plan converts the existing High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction to a HOT managed lane and add one new HOT managed lane in each direction on I-270 from I-495 to north of I-370, and on the I-270 East and West spurs.
The plan creates new opportunities for regional transit bus service and increased carpool/vanpool/ridesharing that reduces dependency on single-occupancy vehicles around the DC area into suburban Maryland. Also included, a new shared-use path on the American Legion Bridge, along with other new or upgraded pedestrian and bicycle improvements to connect Maryland and Virginia.
RK&K’s Environmental team led the extensive approach to minimize the natural, cultural, and socio-economic impact of the project to wetlands and waterways, threatened/endangered species, and historic buildings and sites in the area. The innovative approach included an interactive online GIS mapping tool, developed and maintained by RK&K’s GIS Group, allowing the public to review the project and view potential impacts to the community. RK&K supported the coordination with federal, state, and local regulatory agencies, as well as elected leaders and an Environmental Justice working group.
Following the public availability period for the FEIS, the FHWA is expected to issue a Record of Decision (ROD) identifying the alternative. That would conclude the NEPA process and document the commitments to be carried out during the final design and construction phase.