Governor Larry Hogan is pushing a plan to build a major public/private toll road 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 before the period closed on November 30. The declaration is the latest round in a flawed National Environmental Policy Act process that fails to evaluate reasonable alternatives, ignores important environmental and human health issues. impacts and limits the public’s ability to meaningfully comment on the proposed toll lane expansion project, including changing versions of the SDEIS summary section without notice less than 13 days before the comment deadline.
To cite just one example, the plan would negatively impact six national park sites 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 this is, especially the public opinion part.
The following comprises highlights from the comments on the SDEIS:
· The Maryland Department of Transportation failed to disclose hidden costs to taxpayers, cumulative impacts, and impacts to specific sites of cultural significance.
· Information presented in the SDEIS shows that the Governor’s expansion plans will create new and increased traffic and safety problems at key interchanges and junction areas, and will permanently damage Maryland’s irreplaceable natural, historic, and environmental resources.
· The SDEIS fails to take the required “hard scrutiny” of environmental justice issues and ignores the harm that environmental justice communities would suffer during the construction and operation of the proposed expansion.
· The SDEIS does not contain any discussion of human health and the environmental effects of increased greenhouse gas and other atmospheric emissions, in direct violation of NEPA.
Janet K. Schlosser, Odenton
The only way for the public to contact the Governor’s office on matters that require the assistance of his staff is to leave a message. It’s a voicemail-only system in which Governor Hogan’s recording states a promise that “one of my employees will get back to you as soon as possible.” I left two messages in March, no response from staff. I believe 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 SHA’s unresponsive and dysfunctional Customer Service Management System that has ignored dozens of debris and trash cleanup requests over a long period of time along SHA roads in our area. Photos of shoddy, dirty state roads in North Anne Arundel County would say a lot, if you could just take them and send them.
Attempts to get results since January have failed. We need the weight of the Governor’s office to try to get results. The governor’s lack of response, however, is that we don’t matter. The Baltimore Sun published a letter to the editor on this subject, but produced nothing. I think these issues are worthy of being reported. I am willing to share details.
Laura Graham, Linthicum
In just a few months we will mark the anniversary of the remodeling of Truxtun Park. I frequent Truxtun and it is obvious that there is solid use of this revamped facility.
Given the increased use of the courts, there is also an increased demand for toilet facilities. There is currently a portable potty that often needs cleaning/sanitizing and is downright disgusting. With the hot summer months fast approaching, the City of Annapolis must organize additional facilities that are cleaned 3-4 times per week to meet demand.
Joy Goldberg, Annapolis
It has been nearly a month since the freighter Ever Forward was stranded in the Chesapeake Bay. Since then, efforts have been underway to dredge the ship with a target retirement date estimated to be mid-April. Although the ship is not in the channel and therefore does not block other ships, she could cause various environmental problems.
I am a resident of southern Anne Arundel County, where many neighborhoods (such as Fairview, Deale, Selby-by-the-Bay, Cape St Claire, etc.) reside on the waters of the many Chesapeake rivers. If the ship’s oil is spilled or cargo is dropped, nearby bodies of water may be contaminated. This is a viable threat to the community of water men, where income depends on the ecosystem of the bay.
Now anyone would know that the pride of Maryland is its glorious blue crab, eaten alongside oysters and rockfish. This is why I implore you, Always Forward, to gently tread your way out of our waters. Dear readers, please take the Chesapeake very carefully. Buy local, leave aquatic spaces better than you found them, and follow environmental guidelines.
Kyrie cast, Tracys landing
The so-called “bridge study” is a scam of Maryland taxpayer money. The bottom line is to start ASAP on a multi-bay bridge solution up and down the Chesapeake Bay with politics be damned. Otherwise, in 2030 we will still be stuck in eastbound or westbound traffic over the bridge.
Harold Eugene Jarboe, Severna Park
Tax Day, the IRS filing deadline, is always greeted with dread by taxpayers. But it’s especially scary this year. We are no longer in times of prosperity; The Anne Arundel closures have hurt the financial well-being of employees and business owners, and record inflation is taking a toll on family budgets.
Unfortunately, our local leaders don’t seem to feel our pain. County Executive Steuart Pittman has in the past introduced a budget that increases spending and raises property taxes. According to an article in this newspaper, Pittman’s first budget “increased income tax from 2.5% to 2.81% and property tax rates from 90.2 cents per $100 of assessed value to 93 ,5 cents”. Pittman has also pushed the state legislature to pass a bill that would allow local governments to tax at rates higher than the current state cap of 3.2%.
As we taxpayers write checks to the IRS and the Comptroller of Maryland, it would ease our anxiety if elected leaders backed off tax increases and let us keep more of our hard-earned money.
Steve Slattery, The Shadow Side
As Americans file their taxes, it’s important to remember how important the expanded Child Tax Credit has been for children and families.
According to a new study from the Brookings Institution, the 2021 changes to the tax credit, including shipping as a monthly payment, had a profound impact. Child poverty was reduced by 40 percent. CTC recipients lived healthier lives, invested more in their children’s education, and were less likely to rely on payday loans. Families spent their CTC payments on rent, food, and clothing for their children; the same costs go up for all of us now.
But some lawmakers stopped 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 critical to helping families facing the rising costs of inflation. How much more evidence do lawmakers need before they do the right thing?
I call on our members of Congress to extend the CTC with permanent refundable total 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 now more important than ever that the world’s most vulnerable populations receive much-needed support. As the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates, global emergencies hit impoverished and low-income communities the hardest. Extreme poverty is a terrifyingly pervasive problem that prevents the global community from responding with resilience to this type of crisis.
Therefore, each of us should do our part to convince our representatives in the House and Senate that international aid must be a priority in this increasingly interconnected world. As a student at the University of Maryland, I have been calling, emailing and writing Representative Steny Hoyer and Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen Jr. asking for their support on key pieces of legislation.
One example is the MINDS Act, a bill in Congress that would provide crucial investments in mental health programs around the world, especially focused on the well-being of children.
I urge others in our community to do the same; Contacting your representatives is quick, easy, and can have a massive positive impact on the lives of many people. Many of the people who make up the diverse communities of the state of Maryland are immigrants or have ties to the very nations that so desperately need our support right now. Through our collective voices, we can influence change.
Shawn EdelsteinCollege Park
I am writing to honor public officials for the invaluable, often unrecognized, services they provide to the public every day.
Public servants are the heartbeat of every community and their work is felt at the local, state and federal levels in a variety of ways. They are scientists who develop vaccines and medicines that save lives, Homeland Security officers who protect our borders, postal workers who ensure the timely delivery of critical goods to homes and businesses, and first responders who fight crime and put out fires.
Military officers protect our freedom and democracy. Sadly, many have sacrificed their lives protecting ours. These are some of the many professions within the civil service that many Americans dedicate careers to.
Americans should express our appreciation for these hardworking public servants, who demonstrate America’s resilience, especially in the face of a global threat like the COVID-19 pandemic. They make the extraordinary everyday possible.
Marsha Padilla-Goad, Alexandria, VA