County, MDOT talk bud­get, projects, pri­or­i­ties

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

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.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

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.

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