The State of Maryland has reached a deal with the National Park Service to evaluate the transfer of a portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (I-295) to the state, as part of a broad traffic relief plan.

The agreement announced Monday is a key step in eventually allowing the state to control the highway. Maryland transportation officials see the widening of I-295 as integral to an ambitious effort to relieve traffic congestion. The state is also exploring adding Express toll lanes on I-270 and the Capital Beltway. The $9 billion plan would consist of a large public-private partnership, with companies footing the bill for construction and management of toll lanes in exchange for toll revenues.

“We look forward to working with Secretary Zinke and the Department of the Interior to conduct the necessary studies and surveys that we hope will ultimately allow for Maryland to take ownership of a portion of I-295 in order to move forward with our plan to relieve traffic congestion for our region,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a press release.

The actual transfer of I-295 to Maryland would likely require legislative action. The agreement announced Monday is being described as a “general agreement.” Hogan first met with officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior in September of last year.

Plan Called a Boondoggle

Separately on Tuesday, the Maryland Public Interest Research Group placed the Traffic Relief Plan on its list of the nation’s largest highway “boondoggles,” arguing that funds would be better spent on public transit and improving existing infrastructure.

“We keep building new highways we don’t need, and that hurts our ability to move toward a smart 21st-century transportation system that works for all of us,” said Gideon Weissman, an analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report.

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