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LAPLATA, MD – Maryland Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater met with Charles County officials today to discuss the Draft FY 2021 – FY 2026 Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP), which details the Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) six-year capital budget. The meeting was part of MDOT’s annual tour of 23 Maryland counties and Baltimore City to update local officials and the public on the Hogan administration’s $13.4 billion investment over the next six years in transit, highways, the MDOT Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA), Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Officials also discussed the Maryland Transportation Authority’s (MDTA) $2.8 billion in additional investments in Maryland’s toll roads and bridges. The meeting was held virtually in consideration of Maryland’s COVID-19 State of Emergency.
“This $13.4 billion budget is focused on preserving our critical infrastructure and essential connections, continuing all active construction, planning for future projects, and being a part of our economic recovery,” said Secretary Slater.
The current budget is based on data-driven decisions to fund a transportation network providing access to essential services and supporting job creation in Maryland. Following record-setting investments in transportation, this draft CTP required $1.9 billion in cuts to the capital program due to revenue declines from the COVID-19 pandemic and cash flow changes as projects were completed. MDOT also is reducing its FY 2021 operating budget by $98 million to respond to the ongoing revenue decline.
The necessary capital and operating reductions are being made across each of MDOT’s transportation business units funded by the Transportation Trust Fund including Maryland Aviation Administration (MDOT MAA), Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA), Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA), MDOT MVA, State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) and The Secretary’s Office (MDOT TSO). For details on MDOT’s capital and operating budget cuts, review the September 1 CTP overview release. A list is available online for both the $1.9 billion in capital reductions and the $98 million in operating reductions.
This $13.4 billion Draft FY 2021 – FY 2026 capital budget and the $2.2 billion FY 2021 operating budget supports MDOT’s vision:
- The service modes, MDOT MVA and MDOT TSO, are receiving: 1.4% of the capital budget and 14% of the FY 2021 operating budget.
- The economic engines, the Port of Baltimore, BWI Marshall Airport and statewide aviation, are receiving: 9.5% of the capital budget and $11% of the FY 2021 operating budget.
- Highways and bridges, MDOT SHA, is receiving: 39.6% of the capital budget and 13% of the FY 2021 operating budget.
- Transit, MDOT MTA and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), is receiving: 39.2% of the capital budget and 61% of the FY 2021 operating budget, with MDOT MTA alone accounting for 41%.
- Local jurisdictions are receiving: 10.3% of the capital budget for Highway User Revenue capital grants.
Secretary Slater outlined key focus areas for MDOT moving forward including:
· delivering big infrastructure projects that solve congestion challenges statewide in a way that incorporates technology, flexibility, and future growth;
· prioritizing state of good repair and system preservation efforts to build intelligence across our assets;
· providing safe and accessible mobility choices for all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists, that consider the interplay of land-use and transportation; and
· establishing a sustainable, customer-focused, transportation vision that incorporates roadway, transit, freight, air, and port infrastructure. This vision will set the foundation for the development and evaluation portion of the CTP for future generations.
In the Draft FY 2021 – FY 2026 CTP, MDOT is preserving key projects to deliver on this vision, including: active highway construction projects across the state; Light Rail vehicle overhaul and new Metro cars at MDOT MTA; MDOT MVA’s Customer Connect phase two to provide more efficient vehicle services to all customers, including businesses and government fleets; and the Howard Street Tunnel and Cox Creek Dredge Placement to support jobs at the Port of Baltimore.
Secretary Slater discussed how preserved projects such as the Howard Street Tunnel and Cox Creek Dredge Placement are important to support Maryland’s economic recovery. In 2009, in the wake of the national economic recession, MDOT forged a P3 agreement with Ports America Chesapeake that allowed the Port to build a 50-foot berth and bring in four mega Panamax cranes at a time when the CTP was being cut. This partnership built the growing container business at the Port we have today and ultimately spurred another public-private partnership with CSX for the Howard Street Tunnel project, which will allow double-stacked rail cars to move cargo quicker and more efficiently from the Port, as well as take more trucks off Maryland highways.
During COVID-19, the strength of the Port of Baltimore has been clear as the Port continues receiving cargo that helped Maryland’s supply chain stay open, delivering critical medical and food supplies across the state. Secretary Slater emphasized how the 2009 investment in the Port of Baltimore is just one example of the critical role that every part of Maryland’s transportation network will play in the state’s economic recovery with trucks on our highways and bridges, cargo coming through the port and the airport, MDOT MVA certifying new commercial drivers, and transit providing access to job centers.
MDOT SHA Administrator Tim Smith explained how fewer vehicles on the roadway earlier this year allowed crews to expand hours of lane closures and make more progress on construction projects without impacting the mobility of Maryland drivers. There are a several examples in Charles County of how MDOT SHA was able to deliver some great projects and new roadway infrastructure for Maryland.
In April, MDOT SHA opened the new $17 million MD 254 bridge to Cobb Island, replacing the existing structurally deficient bridge and adding a bike lane, a raised sidewalk, and pedestrian lighting.
Just north of the county line, the new $59 million MD 5 interchange at Brandywine Road was completed in July, providing an easier commute for many Charles County residents. This project provides a new interchange, park-and-ride lot, bridge and a network of service roads.
In addition to these projects, MDOT SHA Administrator Smith discussed the importance of the work zone safety and move over law efforts to ensure MDOT SHA team members and contractor partners return safely home at the end of every shift. He also emphasized the need to provide safe access to all users including people who travel by foot, bicycle and scooter. The context-driven guide will change the way MDOT SHA delivers projects and a Vision Zero philosophy will aid in making our roadways safer for all.
MDTA Executive Director Jim Ports provided an update on key projects underway. For the Bay Crossing Tier I NEPA Study, MDTA expects to publish a Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement and identify MDTA’s Recommended Preferred Corridor Alternative in fall 2020, and hold public hearings in early 2021. The Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement / Record of Decision (ROD) is scheduled for 2021. Visit baycrossingstudy.com for more information.
He also discussed ongoing and future Bay Bridge improvements: westbound deck rehabilitation (center/left lanes) and Bay Bridge crossover automated lane closure system. He encouraged all Marylanders to get an E-ZPass and take advantage of MDTA’s conversion to all-electronic (cashless) tolling statewide. E-ZPass transponders are free. For information on new payment options, check out the release with new payment options, and check out www.ezpassmd.com.
In July, Lieutenant Governor Boyd K. Rutherford and MDTA Chairman/Secretary Slater visited the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial/Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton Bridge project site to kick off major construction activities. MDTA will open the new, wider, four-lane crossing by early 2023. While this toll facility is now permanently cashless, like all of MDTA’s facilities, the new bridge project will remove the toll booths and provide highway-speed, all-electronic tolling.
MDOT MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn discussed $7.4 million in Federal CARES Act funds that Charles County is receiving to support operations and/or capital needs of VanGo in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to FY 2021 operating budget cuts necessitated by the pandemic, there are proposed changes to Commuter Bus, including reducing service frequency on routes 650, 705, and 715 while retaining the overall span of service on each route. Administrator Quinn encouraged residents to provide public feedback at upcoming public hearings. MDOT MTA has created a dedicated webpage for all service change and public hearing information at mta.maryland.gov/winter2021.
Administrator Quinn also discussed the 50-year Statewide Transit Plan. MDOT MTA will be working with Charles County and stakeholders across the state to develop this long-term vision and framework for coordinated transit service in Maryland.
MDOT MVA Administrator Christine Nizer outlined how the department continues to provide support to Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders by proactively scheduling appointments for those with expiring products to ensure they get the updates they need to keep Maryland’s supply chain moving. She also highlighted MDOT MVA’s success in deploying phase one of Customer Connect on July 6. Customer Connect expands MDOT MVA services available online, a significant step in enhancing efficiency.
Customer Connect phase one included vehicle services, business licensing and motor carrier services. Phase one allows businesses and individuals to complete more transactions online and streamline services provided so that:
- customers and insurance companies can update information online, provide documentation on insurance cases, view correspondence and make payments;
- customers can request and be approved for disability products; and
- customers can begin a title and registration pre-application that ensures they have all the proper documentation and provides an estimate of fees.
Customer Connect also helps reduce wait times at MDOT MVA branches or eliminates the need for customers to come in altogether. MDOT MVA is on schedule to deploy phase two of Customer Connect, which includes driver services, in December 2021. At full deployment, Customer Connect will consolidate existing IT systems at MDOT MVA into a single portal and ensure the highest level of security to reduce the potential for fraud.
Administrator Nizer, who serves as Governor Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative, discussed the Hogan Administration’s recent announcement of $78,000 for Charles County agencies to address highway safety. The Charles County Sheriff’s Office and the La Plata Police Department were this year’s recipients. In addition, MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office is launching a safety campaign called Be the Driver that emphasizes driver responsibility and focuses on elements of the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan.
She also provided an update on REAL ID to ensure every Marylander is prepared for the new October 1, 2021, deadline. The one-year extension allows nearly 300,000 Marylanders to become REAL ID compliant through their standard driver’s license renewal process. Currently, 70% of Marylanders are REAL ID compliant.
MDOT MAA Administrator Ricky Smith gave an update on BWI Marshall Airport recovery from the low point during COVID-19. In April, passenger traffic was down 96% compared to the previous year.
By July, BWI Marshall Airport passenger traffic was rebounding, and accounted for 51% of the entire Washington-area market. The total at BWI Marshall was more than Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport combined.
For the Labor Day weekend, the Transportation Security Administration performed 15,125 screenings in just one day at BWI Marshall Airport security checkpoints. This record was the highest count in nearly six months. While the aviation industry expects at least two to three years to regain pre-COVID levels, BWI Marshall Airport remains well positioned for when the industry begins its true recovery.
A number of key MDOT MAA projects are preserved as part of the CTP. Several airfield projects at BWI Marshall Airport will move forward, including a major reconstruction of Taxiway T, a primary aircraft circulation route around the terminal. This project will be fully funded by the federal government, with more than $11 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds.
In addition, a five-gate extension of Concourse A is nearing completion with three new food and retail concessions continuing to build-out their operations. The design process for a major terminal restroom renovation program is being finalized with construction expected to begin in early 2021. MDOT MAA also is working with the Federal Aviation Administration on the extensive Environmental Assessment process for the next phase of improvements at BWI Marshall and Martin State airports.
In addition to the work at BWI Marshall Airport and Martin State Airport, MDOT MAA will continue to support and foster aviation across Maryland by working with 35 public-use airports. For FY 2021, MDOT MAA intends to provide $2.35 million to regional airports across Maryland. Maryland Airport will receive $514,000 in state aviation grant assistance for airfield maintenance equipment and apron pavement construction.