Tri-County Coun­cil dis­cusses ini­tia­tives with of­fi­cials

Trans­porta­tion is­sues re­main top pri­or­ity in re­gion

Maryland Independent - - News - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

The South­ern Mary- land Tri-County Coun­cil is an or­ga­ni­za­tion that was cre­ated to unite South­ern Mary­land of­fi­cials from St. Mary’s, Charles and Calvert coun­ties.

On Tues­day dur­ing the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers meet­ing, John Hart­line, the or­ga­niza- tion’s di­rec­tor, made an ap- pear­ance be­fore the board to up­date them on what is go­ing on with the coun­cil and how its fu­ture looks.

Hart­line briefed the com- mis­sion­ers on costs, dif­fer­ent ini­tia­tives and causes the Tri-County Coun­cil is sup­port­ing. Things such as land preser­va­tion, trans­por- tation needs and in­fras­truc- ture all made the list.

Out of all of those ini­tia- tives, trans­porta­tion was high on the pri­or­ity list for the coun­cil, Hart­line said. It has also been at the fore- front of the dis­cus­sion in Charles County with ini­tia- tives such as West­ern Park- way and the SMRT Rapid Tran­sit stud­ies oc­cur­ring at the state level.

“As you all know, South­ern Mary­land is a bed­room com­mu­nity,” Hart­line said. “The most re­cent num­ber from eco­nomic de­velop- ment is 62 per­cent of our res­i­dents go out of county. A lot of those go to Wash- in­g­ton, D.C.”

Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres- ident Peter Mur­phy (D) said the county is try­ing to change that and re­tain more cit­i­zens. But in the mean­time, Hart­line said, the county must main­tain its share of bus and trans- por­ta­tion money.

There was a new park and ride es­tab­lished in Wal­dorf this year, he said, which is a good sign for a commu- nity with a large com­muter base. And South­ern Mary- land is cur­rently re­ceiv­ing 50.2 per­cent that the Mary- land Depart­ment of Trans- por­ta­tion al­lo­cates for bus trans­porta­tion, he said.

That is a good amount, Hart­line said, that matches with the state’s op­er­at­ing funds. How­ever, he said, the year be­fore that, the amount was 70.2 per­cent be­cause of the state es­tab- lish­ing an­other park and ride area. The Tri-County Coun­cil would like to see more op­por­tu­ni­ties like that in the fu­ture, he said, and not just for Charles County.

“We would like to see more park and rides in South­ern Mary­land. I think there’s a lot of pent up de­mand for peo­ple who would like to take the bus but un­for­tu­nately have to drive through dif­fi­cult traf- fic up in Prince Ge­orge’s County,” Hart­line said.

Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent De­bra Davis (D) said the park and rides are “so im­por­tant” to com­mu­ni­ties in South- ern Mary­land. The Mary- land Trans­porta­tion Au- thor­ity work­ing with the Tri-County Coun­cil has helped get more into the re­gion, but there is still more work to do, she said.

Even with that re­quest, Hart­line said, there are still good things go­ing on in South­ern Mary­land as far as trans­porta­tion goes. The coun­cil wanted to see fund- ing for a new Gov. Harry W. Nice Memo­rial Bridge, he said, and the project will soon be un­der­way.

But there is still some work to be done, he said. The coun­cil will start work to draft a let­ter to the state for dif­fer­ent trans­porta­tion causes in early Jan­uary. The let­ter will have dif­fer­ent ini­tia­tives it will pro­mote, he said, but they will con­tinue to pro­mote South­ern Mary­land’s causes.

Davis was the chair of the coun­cil over the last year. She will hand over the gavel in Jan­uary, but said she was en­cour­aged by her ten­ure as chair­woman and learned “so much.”

“We have been able to so­licit so many fed­eral and state grants for the re­gion and to speak for the re­gion,” she said. “I’m glad to be part of it.”

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