Tax losses delay MARC facility
Proposed Perryville facility pushed back to 2023
— Cecil County leaders learned Friday that a drop in projected gas tax revenues has pushed design and land purchase to build a maintenance facility for MARC commuter train service near Perryville back five years until fiscal year 2023.
Maryland Secretary of the Department of Transportation Pete K. Rahn delivered the news Friday as he discussed that and other projects that will impact Cecil County in the next six years.
Cecil County was the fifth stop in MDOT’s annual tour of 23 counties and Baltimore City to update local officials on Governor Larry Hogan’s $14.4 billion, six-year capital transportation program.
Rahn said the state transportation trust fund got $746 million less revenue than projected from gas tax this year, due to the fact the projections were based on gas prices of $3.60 a
gallon. Excise tax revenue has been strong though, he add, which has offset some of the losses in gas revenue.
“The shortfall did impact the MARC maintenance facility being planned,” said Rahn, although he noted that a land acquisition agreement still has not been reached with the land owner, who disputes a state appraisal that came back at $5.6 million.
State officials have determined this facility is critical to expansion of rail service north from Perryville to Elkton and Newark, Del.
Transportation officials and county leaders also discussed other projects at the Friday meeting, including the addition of an EZPass on the Tydings Bridge. Rahn, who had met with many county officials privately during the summer Maryland Association of
Counties conference to address some local concerns, responded to them directly Friday, but not necessarily with desired answers.
“MDTA has looked at costs and issues regarding your request to an EZPass on I-95 Tydings Bridge during commuter hours to help alleviate congestion at Routes 40 and 222 and they’ve concluded it would create an issue with our bondholders,” Rahn said.
Councilman George Patchell requested a copy of the study that shows this would be a risk to bondholders, which Rahn agreed to get for the council.
Sen. Stephen Hershey (R36) a strong proponent of toll relief for Cecil County, said if something as simple as an EZPass can’t be done, he will resurrect an old effort to relocate the toll facility from the Susquehanna River to the Delaware state line.
“I don’t know why we can’t have a joint venture with Delaware,” Hershey said.
Rahn agreed to work on it. In response to Cecil County’s request for better communication with state transportation officials, Rahn said they’ve agreed to meet quarterly for updates.
Regarding Chapter 36, the new state law that will require scoring and ranking of major construction projects before they are added to the consolidated transportation plan next year, Rahn said it will take effect next fall as passed, unless the general assembly votes to change it.
“The results aren’t desirable for Cecil County or to 20 other counties,” Rahn said, adding, “Gov. Hogan still wants to repeal it, if he can get the legislature to go along. Frankly, the decisions are beyond your delegation’s power.”
Rahn said the shortfall of gas tax revenue won’t necessarily kill projects, but it will delay them, including the MARC maintenance facility.
“We’ll build what is need- ed, not necessarily what is wanted,” he said. “We’re determined to manage our way out of this.”
Rahn highlighted several state highway projects that are currently underway, saying statewide, there are 1,073 projects totaling $7.9 billion right now.
Cecil County projects include the Route 272 bridge over Amtrak in North East that has been delayed due to contract disputes.
“It will be re- bid in December with the same scope,” Rahn said, noting the overall finish date will be delayed by nine months with completion expected in the fall of 2018.
A $ 4.5 million project replacing the state bridge on Route 222 over Rock Run in Port Deposit is also nearing completion. Meanwhile, the state is constructing a $ 880,000 sidewalk project in North East along Mauldin Avenue, north of Irishtown Road. Rahn said a portion of the sidewalk will have to be removed due to ADA compliant issues. The state also has a $ 1.3 million sidewalk project along Route 267 in Charlestown scheduled to be done by spring.
In addition, SHA is in the process of milling and repaving seven miles of Route 40 between North East and Perryville at a cost of $8.2 million.
Local officials told Rahn they are pleased that he listened to their concerns about bicycles on the Hatem Bridge and took action to enforce stricter rules.
“We’ve noticed that only about 10 bicycles per week are crossing the bridge,” Rahn said. “We’re going to continue to monitor it.”
County Executive Tari Moore is pleased with having what she says is “better communication” with state transportation officials under Hogan’s administration.
“We’ve made a lot of progress with our discussions, but we can’t give up on the issues that are so important to us, like replenishing highway user revenue to local governments, toll relief and moving ahead with the MARC maintenance facility,” Moore said.
Maryland Secretary of the Department of Transportation Pete K. Rahn, center, talks to county officials about future transportation projects.