County puts priorities on transportation projects
CENTREVILLE — In preparation for the Maryland Department of Transportation tour with Secretary Pete Rahn, the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners unanimously identified the county’s priority funding projects for the state’s Consolidated Transportation Program during the July 12 meeting.
With the idea of safety and mobility in mind, the commission put taking the needed steps to fund and implement the required National Environmental Policy Act study for the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge at the top of the list, followed by enhancing the safety and capacity of Maryland 18, and the construction project at U.S. Route 50 and Maryland 213 interchange near Chesapeake College.
The Consolidated Transportation Program is a six-year capital budget updated by the state every year that allows counties to prioritize small and large transportation projects. Projects eligible for funds in the program can come from the Maryland Aviation Administration, the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Transit Administration, the Maryland Port Authority and the Maryland Transportation Authority, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation’s website. Funds received from the state can be used toward planning, design, environmental studies, right-of-way acquisitions, construction, and equipment purchase, the website states.
Regarding the NEPA study required by the state if another bridge were to span the Chesapeake Bay, Todd Mohn, director of the county’s department of public works, said though the Life Cycle Cost Analysis Study has been completed for the bridge, “we believe now is the time to start planning for improvements and or replacements for that bridge,” he said. “We want to start the NEPA process sooner rather than later because that is the big bottleneck here for our citizens, in particular on Kent Island, on heavy travel weekends.”
In a letter to the commissioners, Mohn stated that as the only single crossing of the Bay with limited capacity, traffic and safety hazards will continue to grow and affect county citizens. Because of the bridge’s importance to not just Queen Anne’s County but the state in general, the commission found it appropriate to put it as its first priority for potential funding.
“I just think that ... bridge is what chokes this county off in the summer time,” County Commissioner Jim Moran said. “We get to the winter, late fall, early spring, we don’t have the traffic issues, so I think that needs to be our No. 1 priority.”
Commission President Mark Anderson said Moran mirrored his thoughts exactly, and he, too, wanted to see the Bay Bridge as the county’s main priority.
Identified as the main improvement priority in the Kent Island Transportation Plan, enhancements and safety improvements along Maryland 18 were voted by the commission as the second overall county priority. If funding were to be received for work along the route, work would include comprehensive roadway and pedestrian improvements from Castle Marina Road to the Kent Narrows, the letter to Rahn stated.
The third priority is need for the construction of an interchange at U.S. 50 and Maryland 213 by Chesapeake College. The letter states land acquisition and some design work has been completed throughout the past 20 years. Funding is needed for the project’s final engineering and construction. The completion of the interchange, the letter states, is the main component of the U.S. 50 Ocean Gateway project.
Mohn said the larger project is multi-phased and includes the construction five different overpasses and the dualization of U.S. 50 from four to six lanes.
The commissioners also voted 4-1 to sign a letter to Rahn stating they would not be putting the construction of the Chestertown bypass on the county’s priority list. Anderson voted against signing the letter saying he felt no letter was needed. The Kent County Commissioners had asked for Queen Anne’s support of the project as a priority.
Though they didn’t endorse the project in its list, the commissioners said they weren’t opposed to the project, just that there are more pressing transportation issues in the county.
The bypass project would include creating a second crossing of the Chester River about a mile east of the existing structure that would begin near Maryland 544. The aim of the project is to alleviate traffic in downtown Chestertown, County Administrator Gregg Todd said.
To view the state’s Consolidated Transportation Program, visit the Maryland Department of Transportation website at www. mdot.maryland.gov. To view the county’s Kent Island Transportation plan in its entirety, visit www. qac.org/DocumentCenter/ View/4460.
Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.
The Queen Anne’s County Board of Commissioners (facing forward) listen to, from left, county attorney Patrick Thompson, Public Works Director Todd Mohn, public facilities planner Steve Cohoon and chief sanitary engineer Alan Quimby talk about the county’s priorities for the state’s Consolidated Transportation Plan at the Tuesday, July 12, meeting.