LEONARDTOWN, Md. – Maryland Deputy Transportation Secretary Sean Powell met with St. Mary’s County officials on Oct. 26, to discuss the Draft FY 2022 – FY 2027 Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP), which details the Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) six-year capital budget. The meeting was part of MDOT’s annual tour of 23 Maryland counties and Baltimore City to update local officials and the public on the Hogan Administration’s $16.4 billion investment over the next six years in transit, highways, motor vehicle services, the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Officials also discussed the Maryland Transportation Authority’s (MDTA) $2.8 billion in additional investments in Maryland’s toll roads and bridges. More information on the CTP process is available at http://ctp.maryland.gov.
“As promised, we crafted this budget to invest in preserving our aging infrastructure, delivering projects to support Maryland’s economic recovery and creating a shelf of projects for the next generation,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater. “This approach to infrastructure investment allows us to maintain a state of good repair and be ready to quickly move projects into construction with any new federal transportation funding.”
The Draft CTP outlines investments in each of MDOT’s transportation business units funded by the Transportation Trust Fund, including: Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA), Maryland Port Administration (MPA), Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), State Highway Administration (SHA) and The Secretary’s Office (TSO). The FY 2022 operating budget totals $2.24 billion.
This $16.4 billion Draft FY 2022 – FY 2027 capital budget focuses on system preservation, major projects, planning and engineering. More than half of the budget – $8.2 billion – will go toward preserving aging infrastructure.
MTA is facing $2 billion in state of good repair needs on its transit network. MDOT as a whole is facing a $7 billion state of good repair backlog, including needs on highways and bridges, and also at port, airport and motor vehicle facilities.
Along with a focus on system preservation, major projects, planning and engineering, Deputy Secretary Powell highlighted several other priorities, including:
delivering infrastructure projects statewide in a way that incorporates technology, flexibility and future growth;
providing safe and accessible mobility choices for all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists, that consider the interplay of land use and transportation decisions; and
establishing a sustainable, customer-focused transportation vision that incorporates roadway, transit, freight, air and port infrastructure.
SHA Deputy Administrator for District Operations Andre Futrell discussed the importance of maintaining the state’s highways and bridges. As SHA works on completing projects throughout the state, its focus remains on asset management, accessibility and mobility.
Deputy Administrator Futrell emphasized the need to provide safe access to all users, including people who travel by foot, bicycle and scooter. SHA’s Context Driven Guide is changing the way the administration delivers projects. Using these guidelines, SHA considers the context of an area – including surrounding land use and other factors – throughout the planning process to determine which options and design features will make the area safer and more accessible for all.
SHA has projects under way across the state, including work in St. Mary’s County. Construction is under way at MD 5 from the Point Lookout State Park entrance to south of Camp Brown Road. The $24 million project includes upgrading and widening MD 5 to better accommodate park-bound traffic, especially large RVs. Construction is anticipated to be complete in late 2022.
In July 2021, SHA completed its $2.5 million emergency replacement of the MD 6 Persimmon Creek Bridge, which was washed out in August 2020 by Tropical Storm Isaias.
Deputy Administrator Futrell also highlighted improvements to MD 5 at Abell/Moakley Street. Intersection improvements for this $1.3 million project are anticipated to be complete in summer 2022. Work will enhance the safety of vehicles, buggies, pedestrians and bicyclists, and add left-turn lanes at the intersection.
MDTA Capital Planning Director Melissa Williams discussed ongoing construction of the new Nice/Middleton Bridge over the Potomac River. The new bridge will double the vehicle capacity, improve safety, replace the toll plaza with highway speed all-electronic tolling, and continue to allow tall ships to pass beneath. It is expected to open in early 2023.
In February, the Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the ongoing Chesapeake Bay Crossing Study was made available for public review and comment at baycrossingstudy.com. The MDTA held in-person and virtual public hearings in April, and the comment period ended in May. The MDTA expects to identify a Selected Corridor Alternative and publish a combined Final Environmental Impact Statement/Record of Decision this winter.
Director Williams also discussed the statewide implementation of all-electronic tolling. Construction for highway speed all-electronic tolling on new gantries and removal or partial removal of existing toll plazas is underway at the Fort McHenry Tunnel, JFK Memorial Highway and the Nice/Middleton Bridge. A study is underway for the I-895/Baltimore Harbor Tunnel Toll Plaza and Interchange Improvements, which will allow MDTA to bring highway speed all-electronic tolling to the Harbor Tunnel.
In addition, Director Williams discussed the MDTA’s launch of DriveEzMD, the new home for all things tolling in Maryland. The April launch of DriveEzMD included a new website, web chat, customer call center with expanded hours, text notifications and more.
Finally, Director Williams noted that work continues on the $1.1 billion I-95 Express Toll Lanes Northbound Extension northeast of Baltimore to relieve congestion and improve travel along the I-95 Corridor. Construction began in May on the project to widen northbound I-95 between MD 43 (White Marsh Boulevard) and MD 152 (Mountain Road) to make way for extension of two northbound Express Toll Lanes. The extension is expected to open to traffic by 2024 to MD 152, with the full extension to north of MD 24 open by 2027.
MTA Local Transit Support Director Travis Johnston discussed the agency’s investments and priorities throughout the state, including keeping the transit system in a state of good repair. He also discussed MTA’s first 50-year Statewide Transit Plan, expected to be complete by the end of the year. Building upon existing regional and local transit plans across the state, the plan will outline a 50-year vision for transit in Maryland help define transit needs across the state for future generations.
MTA makes a significant investment in transit in St. Mary’s County, providing $1.2 in operating and capital grants to support the local transit operations of the county. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Mary’s County will receive $4.3 million in federal relief funds to support transit operations and/or capital needs of the county.
MVA Chief of Staff Katie McEvoy reminded those in attendance that MVA remains under an appointment only operation, allowing the administration to efficiently serve more customers. Most branches have returned to pre-pandemic levels or are exceeding monthly transactions from previous years.
Among other recent changes, customers can now renew a license up to 12 months in advance. In addition, MVA extended the new photo requirement from every eight years to every 16 years. For Commercial Driver’s License customers, expiration dates on all CDL products will be changing from five years to eight years, the same as the non-commercial license.
MVA offers more transactions online than ever before and customers are taking advantage of those services more than ever. Those services will only be enhanced with the final rollout of MVA’s IT modernization project, known as Customer Connect, in December. Phase 1 of Customer Connect was completed in July 2020. Phase 2 will include driver services, driver enforcement, investigations and financial services.
At full deployment, Customer Connect will consolidate existing IT systems at MVA into a single portal, giving the agency a complete view of the customer and real-time updates. For customers, this means greater access to their information online and a more secure product with the implementation of MD ID, a randomly generated number that protects a customer’s personal information.
Chief of Staff McEvoy provided an update on the federal REAL ID requirement. MVA is working hard to ensure every Marylander is prepared for the new deadline of May 3, 2023. Currently 83% of Marylanders are REAL ID compliant, one of the highest in the nation.
She also discussed the Hogan Administration’s recent announcement of more than $33,000 for organizations and law enforcement agencies in St. Mary’s County to address highway safety.
MAA Regional Aviation Assistance Director Ashish Solanki said MAA’s capital program remains focused on improving facilities and services for customers while creating opportunities for domestic and international air service. Driven by the mission to provide exceptional service in the safest, most reliable and efficient manner, system preservation projects include: an airport-wide restroom renovation program; aviation fuel storage replacement and expansion; electrical feeder replacements; airfield lighting vault upgrades; and passenger boarding bridge replacement.
After a short pause due to the pandemic, the MAA is moving forward with a major, multi-year terminal improvement to the center of operations for Southwest Airlines, the largest airline partner at BWI Marshall. The Concourse A/B Connector and Baggage Handling System Project will transform a major portion of the airport, creating an enhanced travel experience for passengers and supporting future growth of Southwest. Improvements will include direct concourse-to-concourse connectivity for passengers, new food and retail concessions, modern restrooms and expanded airline hold rooms, all atop a new baggage handling system.
MAA also is moving forward with site preparation and utility work that will support construction of a major aircraft maintenance facility for Southwest, the carrier’s first such maintenance hangar in the Northeast. MAA will continue to support aviation and airports across Maryland by working with its 35 public-use airports in the state.
For the Statewide Aviation Grants program that provides important state funding and support for airport improvement projects, MAA intends to administer $1.6 million in grants during Fiscal 2022 for regional airports across Maryland.