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by Ron Henry | 2007

If we were waiting for a transportation crisis, it’s here, and it is high time for all of us to fight this massive threat to the environment of central Maryland

From Harford County through Baltimore City, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Charles Counties, the “solutions” Marylanders are offered for traffic clog seem to be more lanes, more highways, more connectors. If we were waiting for a transportation crisis, it’s here, and it is high time for all of us to stop this mode of participation (or lack thereof)! If we don’t act, we risk losing everything that is most necessary and valuable to us, from the perspective of our quality of life. Simply, we risk incomprehensible environmental damage to our state.

It is time to open our eyes fully and to be sure we are truly awake, alert, and aware! By not paying close attention and thinking through what is being planned and stated by transportation officials—and more importantly, reading between the lines for what is not being stated—we are in severe danger of being taken for the “ride of our lives!” Unfortunately, that ride won’t be on mass transit, the only practical solution for the long term.

It is totally incongruous for our political establishment to state —on the one hand—that global warming and climate change is a threat so severe that, starting now, all that can be done must be done if there is to be any hope of arresting and possibly reversing it, and then, with full realization that the major contributor to CO2 emissions and greenhouse gases is motor vehicles, to fund major highway expansions so that more motor vehicles will be creating more CO2 emissions.

All of this takes place while cutting funds for mass transportation, such as commuter rail lines and expanded bus transportation!

Current plans call for various expansions of highways in several of our counties. In Montgomery, Howard and Prince George’s Counties, the ICC debacle continues! In the southern Maryland areas of Prince George’s and Charles counties, the CCC debacle continues! In the area of Howard County near Fort Meade, development pressure exacerbated by Base Reduction and Closing (BRAC) matters, the ICC and a proposed “Shopping Mall Mecca” and concomitant other developments are major drivers! In Harford and Baltimore counties, in response to BRAC considerations, a huge, costly I-95 expansion is proposed. It would involve an increase to eight lanes in each direction (with HOV and EZ Pass-only lanes, and tolls on the others), gigantic interchanges at each major state route (MD 24, MD 22, MD 152, etc.), and the attendant environmental wetland construction issues!

On the surface it appears that this is as it should be, for it is very easy for one to be lulled by the hype that all of these things are completely necessary and there are no other ways to accomplish it—no other recourse!

Just what do each of these expansions mean to the Marylanders already living in the respective counties? In Harford County, particularly for those who travel every day to work in Baltimore City or other counties, it will probably be a very welcome, but temporary, reprieve from many of the horrendous driving times currently experienced!

But, hear this: It is temporary! The I-95 expansion with those gigantic large land-eating areas (wetlands at that!) at each interchange and increased lanes will serve only to drop you off into the local road system a little further away from I-95. This will eventually create another traffic bottleneck, which, within a few years, citizens will demand to alleviate. Read that as an open invitation to expand the “development envelope” to accommodate developers’ demands . If we don’t limit the proposed I-95 expansion and the intended gigantic interchanges, then we will have created an inverse “Field of Dreams”—build the I-95 expansion and “they will come!” How easy it is to be drawn into a scenario that is exactly what we do not want to pass on to our future generations! I shudder to think that my future progeny may someday say, “My granddad did not do enough to prevent this!!”

Is this a current event? You bet! In Baltimore County, in the White Marsh area located at the I-95/I-695 Beltway complex, a colossal multi-cloverleaf interchange is already in progress! Are these plans “done deals”? Some like the one just described may well be!

BUT, that does not mean that the rest cannot be challenged! And those must be successfully challenged or the efforts we are expending and have expended with respect to reducing CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions with legislation will be for naught! ALL of these things are very much connected, and it is very much a system effect!

 I have focused on the I-95 Expansion /Interchanges and the negative effects it will have on Harford County’s land usage and subsequent quality of life. The same concerns are applicable to the ICC debacle for Montgomery, Howard and Prince George Counties, the BRAC- pressure-engendered Howard County proposed “Shopping Mall Mecca” concerns, and the CCC debacle for southern Maryland in Prince George and Charles Counties.

In each of these, there are severe concomitant environmental issues that argue against the proposed paving, whether it is the ICC, CCC, or I-95 expansion.

Am I missing something here? I don’t believe so. The missing element is the lack of intestinal fortitude and willpower to commit to what must be done!

 I challenge you to make that commitment with me! Let us pass on to the next seven generations what is rightfully theirs. It must be done! We can do it by becoming proactive through writing “Letters to the Editor,”  letters of comment and concern to the State Highway Administration, the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board, all elected officials for city, county, and state, as well as our Maryland Congressional Representatives and Senators. But most important, we must first change our attitudes and commitments so that we can be effective advocates for the changes that are needed.

Ron Henry chairs the Greater Baltimore Group and serves as Vice Chair of the Maryland Chapter.

> 2007 Table of Contents


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