North East-area transit hub becomes top priority
— 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.”
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.
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.