County, MDOT talk budget, projects, priorities
CENTREVILLE — It was standing room only at the commissioners meeting room in the Liberty Building on Monday afternoon, Sept. 25, as local and state officials gathered to discuss regional transportation issues during the annual Consolidated Transportation Program tour by the Maryland Department of Transportation.
The draft Fiscal Year 2018 to Fiscal Year 2023 transportation budget by MDOT is a list of priority projects throughout the state that get added a list for future funding. MDOT Deputy Secretary Jim Ports spoke about the draft six-year capital budget and reviewed how the plan is created.
During the fall months, officials from MDOT go around to each county to have a sit-down with elected representatives to discuss the county’s priority projects, which eventually can be added to the list for funding.
Queen Anne’s County was the first of 23 counties plus Baltimore City on the annual tour.
For Queen Anne’s County, the projects have been the same the past few years. During the commission’s Aug. 22 meeting, the board voted 4-1 approving its project priorities that seek “safety and mobility” for its citizens. The projects include additional Bay Bridge capacity work, Kent Island transportation improvements due to bridge congestion, final funding for engineering and construction of the U.S. Route 50 and 213 interchange, as well as local transit aid.
Ports said the draft sixyear CTP is worth about $14.7 billion in investments. The list is created after each county sends MDOT its priority letter stating what in their area needs funding.
Funding for the Tier One National Environmental Policy Act study, needed to determine how a third Chesapeake Bay crossing would affect the state’s transit system and environmental factors with creating such a structure, has been atop the county’s list for a number of years. The study, which began in January, will take 48 months to complete, Ports said.
Commissioner Jim Moran, who said he understood getting funding to complete the NEPA study and actually construct a third crossing is a “big ticket item,” offered Ports and staff low cost options to lessen the bumper-tobumper traffic throughout the summer weekends. The first was metering when there is a backup to Castle Marina Road, and the second was to not allow tractor trailers using EZ-Passes heading east to the contra-flow side as he felt it was unsafe. Ports agreed with Moran.
Commissioner Jack Wilson said the state’s Reach the Beach campaign added vehicles on Kent Island. Wilson asked if the state could do a new campaign showing alternative ways to get to the beach from different locations.
Moran did inform the state, though, that the county had hired a traffic counting firm to get accurate numbers the next three years. Concerned with the Delaware Bypass and its affect on Kent Island traffic, the county felt it important to begin collecting accurate traffic numbers to determine an increase or not in the future.
Maryland Sen. Steve Hershey asked if there was anything to expedite the four-year NEPA study length and also shared concerns with the construction of the Delaware Bypass and more traffic congestion. Hershey questioned if expected traffic increases from the out-ofstate project, which Ports said Maryland has no control over, was factored into the Bay Bridge Life Cycle Analysis previously completed.
Queen Anne’s County resident Jay Falstad shared Hershey’s concern about the Delaware Bypass and future traffic growth in the county. He said he was concerned the state wasn’t taking the issue serious enough and planned properly. He said 20 years ago it was quiet at night. Now, he said, tractor trailers can be heard driving at night.
Hershey also wasn’t satisfied with the department’s response to handling Kent Island congestion, stating he felt it hadn’t gotten enough of a response with solutions to help now. Just because people have applications on their phones doesn’t mean solutions to keep people off backroads can’t be found, Hershey said.
Touching on the thoughts of the commissioners, Hershey said when vehicles use backroads it causes emergency services delays and impairs their movement ability. Hershey asked for MDOT’s help in solving these issues.
Wilson also shared his concern with the at-grade intersections in the northern part of the county along U.S. 301, and said traffic has already began to pick up. With tractor trailers and vehicles expected to travel south on U.S. 301 after the Delaware Bypass is completed, Wilson has expressed concern with intersection safety. Wilson said it took him 22 minutes to get across a mid-grade intersection along northern U.S. 301.
Moran said farmers said they can’t get equipment around some of the j-turns because they aren’t long enough.
Commissioner Mark Anderson, who questioned if MDOT had planned for infrastructure improvements on Kent Island to mitigate further traffic from a third Bay crossing, was told by Ports plans could not be made because the location had yet to be decided and said infrastructure priorities couldn’t be made without knowing all of the information and alternatives.
Moran also questioned the method in which a dead body can be removed from a roadway. He said the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner must send someone out to the scene to review it, but getting to the accident can take hours that cause extra backups. Moran said EMS personnel cannot move the body out of the roadway until the chief medical examiner makes a determination.
Members of the 36th Delegation that represent Queen Anne’s County said they would look into legislation to change that process. Ports agreed that clearing an accident can cause major backups but said the majority of the delay is due to accident reconstructions completed by law enforcement. To help speed up the reconstruction, Ports said drones with high capabilities are being used.
Ports announced Queen Anne’s County will receive $4 million in Highway User Revenues including a grant worth $394,000. Of a $12 million pie for highway safety grants through the Motor Vehicle Administration, the county sheriff’s office will receive $10,000.
As well as providing the operation of bus routes from the county elsewhere, the state has provided a $624,000 grant to be used for the County Ride transit program in addition to two cutaway buses with continual preventative maintenance. The grant amount is about $20,000 more than was received last year.
Ports said Queen Anne’s County companies Stertil Koni, S.E.W. Friel and Paul Reed Smith Guitars contributed to the 10 percent increase in the port container business from the Port of Baltimore.
Ports informed the county the MD 404 widening project is set to be completed by Thanksgiving this year, unavailing a four-lane divided highway from U.S. 50 to the Denton Bypass. The project cost about $158 million.
As for the $44 million U.S. 301 and MD 304 interchange project, which had the overpass opened for service on Aug. 15, will be completely finished in Fall of 2018, Ports said. Hershey thanked MDOT for funding, calling it a “big project for our community.”
Based on a commitment from Gov. Larry Hogan to fix the 69 structurally deficient state-owned bridges in Maryland. Since June of 2015, 41 bridges have been rehabilitated or replaced and the remaining 28 are in the design or construction phase, Ports said.
To help lower the 522 roadway deaths in Maryland during 2016, Ports encouraged county officials to create a Strategic Highway Safety Plan or to adopt the state’s version. Ports said the most common causes of roadway deaths are impaired driving, speeding, not wearing a seat belt, distracted driving and not using a crosswalk.
To view the draft CTP in its entirety, visit: mdot.maryland.gov/ newMDOT/Planning/CTP.
Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.
Elected county and state officials met with Maryland Department of Transportation officials on Monday, Sept. 25, in Centreville to review the department’s draft FY18-FY23 Consolidated Transportation Program.