Tax losses de­lay MARC fa­cil­ity

Pro­posed Per­ryville fa­cil­ity pushed back to 2023

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CH­ERYL MATTIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

ELK­TON

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CH­ERYL MATTIX

Mary­land Sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion Pete K. Rahn, cen­ter, talks to county of­fi­cials about fu­ture trans­porta­tion projects.

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