Gov. Larry Hogan is moving ahead with a plan to build a major public/private tollway project in Maryland — the expansion of the Capital Beltway (I-495) and I-270. The Maryland Department of Transportation has already solicited bids from developers and is on track to submit a contract to the Board of Public Works before a final environmental analysis is completed.
The supplemental draft environmental impact statement received 183 pages of technical and legal comments ahead of the November 30 deadline. The statement is the latest round in a flawed procedure by the National Environmental Policy Act that fails to evaluate reasonable alternatives, ignores significant environmental and health impacts, and limits the public’s ability to view the proposed tollway expansion project, including changing versions of the summary section of the SDEIS to comment meaningfully without prior notice less than 13 days before the comment period expires.
To cite just one example, the plan would adversely affect six national parks and dozens of local parks, 1,500 acres of forest canopy, 30 miles of streams and 50 acres of wetlands.
Before retiring, I worked in Oregon for the US Forest Service and it was my sole responsibility to write and edit a National Environmental Policy Act document. So I know how important that is – especially the public input part.
The following includes highlights from the comments on the SDEIS:
· The Maryland Department of Transportation has failed to disclose hidden taxpayer costs, cumulative impacts and impacts on certain sites of cultural importance.
· Information presented in the SDEIS shows that the Governor’s expansion plans will create new and major traffic and safety issues at key intersections and confluence areas and will permanently damage Maryland’s irreplaceable natural, historical and environmental resources.
· The SDEIS fails to provide the necessary ‘hard look’ to environmental justice issues and ignores the harm that green communities would suffer during the construction and operation of the proposed expansion.
· The SDEIS does not include a discussion of the human health and environmental impacts of increased greenhouse gas and other air emissions, in direct violation of NEPA.
Janet K. Schlosser, Odenton
The only way for the public to contact the governor’s office on matters requiring the assistance of its staff is to leave a message. It’s just a voicemail system, where Governor Hogan’s recording includes a promise that “one of my staff will get in touch with you as soon as possible.” I left two messages in March with no response from staff. I think this lack of courtesy/attention to the voting/taxpaying public is worthy of scrutiny and reporting by the Capital Gazette.
The issue our community needs the governor’s (staff) assistance with is the unresponsive and dysfunctional SHA customer care management system, which over a long period of time has received dozens of requests to clear debris and debris along SHA roads in our area ignored. Photos of decrepit, filthy state roads in northern Anne Arundel County would speak volumes if I could take them and send them.
Attempts to get results since January have failed. We need the weight of the governor’s office to try and get results. But the governor’s non-response is that we don’t matter. The Baltimore Sun printed a letter to the editor on the subject, but it didn’t do anything. I think these issues are worth reporting. I’m willing to share details.
Laura Graham, Linthicum
In just a few months we will be celebrating the anniversary of the relaunch of Truxtun Park. I am a frequent visitor to Truxtun and it is evident that this refurbished facility is seeing heavy use.
Due to the increased use of the places, the demand for sanitary facilities is also increasing. There is currently a port-a-potty that needs frequent cleaning/sanitizing and frankly is gross. With the hot summer months fast approaching, the City of Annapolis should provide additional facilities that are cleaned 3 to 4 times a week to meet demand.
Joy Goldberg, Annapolis
It has been almost a month since the cargo ship Ever Forward got stuck in the Chesapeake Bay. Since then there have been efforts to dredge the ship, with an estimated removal date of mid-April. Although the ship is not in the channel and therefore not blocking other ships, it could cause several environmental problems.
I live in southern Anne Arundel County, where many neighborhoods (such as Fairview, Deale, Selby-by-the-Bay, Cape St. Claire, etc.) border the waters of the Chesapeake’s many rivers. If the ship spills oil or the cargo falls, it could potentially pollute nearby waters. This is a viable threat to the Aquarian community, whose income depends on the bay’s ecosystem.
Now everyone knows that Maryland’s pride is her magnificent blue crab, which is eaten along with oysters and rockfish. For that reason, I implore you, Ever Forward, to exercise caution in your removal from our waters. To the dear readers, I ask that you treat the Chesapeake with great care. Buy local, leave water spaces better than you found them and follow environmental guidelines.
Kyrie Gips, Tracy’s Landing
The so-called “bridge study” is a rip-off using Maryland taxpayers’ money. The bottom line, to start politics asap with a multiple bay bridge solution up and down the Chesapeake Bay, be damned. Otherwise we will still be stuck in traffic crossing the bridge to the east or west in 2030.
Harold Eugene Jarboe, Severna Park
Tax day, the filing deadline with the IRS, is always greeted with apprehension by taxpayers. But this year is particularly frightening. We are no longer in prosperous times; Anne Arundel’s lockdowns have hurt the economic wellbeing of employees and business owners, and record high inflation is taking a toll on family budgets.
Unfortunately, our local guides don’t seem to feel our pain. County Executive Steuart Pittman has a history of introducing a budget that increases spending and raises property taxes. According to an article in that paper, Pittman’s first household “raised income tax from 2.5% to 2.81% and property tax rates from 90.2 cents per $100 appraisal to 93.5 cents.” Pittman has also lobbied for the state legislature to pass legislation that would allow local governments to collect taxes at rates higher than the current state limit of 3.2%.
Since we taxpayers write checks to the IRS and the Maryland Comptroller, it would ease our anxiety if elected leaders reversed tax increases and let us keep more of our hard-earned money.
Steve Slattery, Underbelly
When Americans file their taxes, it’s important to remember how important the Expanded Child Tax Credit was to children and families.
The 2021 tax credit changes, including the monthly payment, have had a profound impact, according to a new study from the Brookings Institution. Child poverty fell by 40 percent. CTC recipients lived healthier lives, invested more in their children’s education, and were less likely to need payday loans. Families spent their CTC payments on rent, food and clothing for their children – the same expenses we all face now.
However, some lawmakers have halted an extension of CTC payments. As a result, 3.7 million children fell below the poverty line in January. And 1.4 million CTC households have left their jobs because they can no longer afford childcare.
Economists say extending the CTC is crucial to help families facing rising costs from inflation. How much more evidence does the legislature need before doing the right thing?
I urge our congressmen to extend the CTC with permanent full refunds and resume monthly payments immediately.
Kathy Bartolomeo, Greenbelt
As our world faces the greatest threats of modern times in the form of war and disease, it is more important than ever that the world’s most vulnerable populations receive much-needed support. As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, global emergencies hit low-income and impoverished communities hardest. Extreme poverty is an alarmingly widespread problem that prevents the global community from responding resiliently to such crises.
Therefore, each of us should do our part to convince our representatives in the House and Senate that international aid should be a priority in this increasingly interconnected world. As a student at the University of Maryland, I called, emailed, and wrote to Rep. Steny Hoyer and Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen Jr. to ask for their support on important legislation.
One example is the MINDS Act, a bill passed by Congress that would provide for critical investment in mental health programs around the world, with a particular focus on the well-being of children.
I challenge others in our community to do the same; Getting in touch with your representatives is quick and easy and can have a massive positive impact on the lives of so many. So many of the people who make up the diverse communities of the state of Maryland are immigrants from, or have ties to, the very nations that so desperately need our support at this moment. Through our collective voices, we can influence change.
Shawn Gem, College Park
I write to honor public officials for the invaluable, often unnoticed, service they render to the public every day.
Public servants are the heartbeat of every community and their work is perceived in many ways at the local, state and federal levels. They are scientists developing life-saving vaccines and medicines, Homeland Security officers protecting our borders, postal workers ensuring timely delivery of essential supplies to homes and businesses, and first responders fighting crime and putting out fires.
Officers protect our freedom and democracy. Unfortunately, many gave their lives to protect ours. These are just a few of the many public service jobs that many Americans devote careers to.
Americans should express our gratitude for these hardworking officials who are demonstrating America’s resilience, especially in the face of a global threat like the COVID-19 pandemic. They make the everyday extraordinary possible.
Marsha Padilla-Goad, Alexandria, VA