North East-area tran­sit hub be­comes top pri­or­ity

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By CH­ERYL MATTIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— County lead­ers de­cided this week to put Ce­cil County’s tran­sit needs as their top trans­porta­tion pri­or­ity on Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion’s fund­ing wish list for fis­cal year 2017 — sig­nal­ing a big change from the past.

For many years, the county’s an­nual trans­porta­tion list is topped with costly, ma­jor in­ter­sec­tion im­prove­ments along Route 40, which haven’t been funded year af­ter year.

“In the past, high-ticket items haven’t been ad­dressed,” Di­rec­tor of Com­mu­nity Ser­vices David Tro­lio said. “This is an at­tempt to be more re­al­is­tic and maybe ac­tu­ally get one of our pri­or­i­ties funded.”

ELKTON

The in­ter­sec­tion im­prove­ments re­main on the list, but aren’t the top pri­or­ity this year. In other years, top items have also in­cluded a re­duc­tion of tolls on In­ter­state 95, but since Gov. Larry Ho­gan just re­duced tolls across the state, that is­sue has switched to a re­quest to con­sider al­low­ing Hatem Bridge passes to be used on I-95 dur­ing rush hour.

Mean­while, a study be­gan two months ago to de­ter­mine the fea­si­bil­ity, and po- ten­tial lo­ca­tion and size, of a mid-county, multi-modal trans­porta­tion hub in the greater North East area. That study is ex­pected to be done by Oc­to­ber.

“The study is look­ing at de­mo­graph­ics, maps, oper­a­tions, staffing, main­te­nance, fleet size and more,” said Tro­lio, not­ing that a North East-area lo­ca­tion would more ef­fi­ciently serve the western end of Ce­cil County, but some of the fleet would re­main in Elkton to serve the east­ern end of the county and into Delaware.

Tro­lio in­di­cated that the study, as well as the con­struc­tion costs of a tran­sit hub could be paid with 80 per­cent fed­eral funds, 10 per­cent state and 10 per­cent county.

“I think we have to have a mass tran­sit com­po­nent to get any fund­ing this year,” Coun­cil­man Dan Sch­neck­en­burger said.

The County Coun­cil voted Tues­day to tweak the pri­or­ity let­ter cre­ated by county staff be­fore it is sent to Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Pete Rahn.

The let­ter has its top four trans­porta­tion fund­ing pri­or­i­ties for fis­cal year 2017 as:

1. Es­tab­lish a mid-county trans­porta­tion hub near North East, based on the re­sults of the study to be done by Oc­to­ber.

2. Ex­tend MARC Penn Line com­muter rail ser­vice from Per­ryville to con­nect to SEPTA R-2 re­gional — an ex­ten­sion of ex­ist­ing ser­vice on ex­ist­ing right-of-way.

3. Im­prove all of the ma­jor Route 40 in­ter­sec­tions at Route 213, Route 272 and Route 222, with ad­e­quate pedes­trian and bi­cy­cle ac­com­mo­da­tions.

4. En­hance I-95 and Route 40 toll dis­counts for Ce­cil County res­i­dents and busi­nesses. Give con­sid­er­a­tion to al­low­ing the Hatem passes to be used on I-95 dur­ing rush hours to al­le­vi­ate traf­fic back­ups along Route 222 from I-95 to Route 40; re­quir­ing a study to de­ter­mine if any rev­enue would be lost.

The let­ter, which is man­dated by state law, in­cludes more de­tails of pri­or­i­ties listed in pub­lic trans­porta­tion, Route 40 im­prove­ments, I-95 ac­cess and Route 301 toll di­ver­sion ac­tions. All ju­ris­dic­tions must send a pri­or­ity list to the state, as a guide to pre­pare al­lo­ca­tions of state trans­porta­tion funds for each bud­get cy­cle.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Buses in Ce­cil County Tran­sit’s fleet may be housed at a fu­ture mid-county trans­porta­tion hub near North East, un­der a pro­posal cur­rently be­ing stud­ied.

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