News You Can Use
For Immediate Release:
October 16, 2020
MDOT Public Affairs
Erin Henson, 410-865-1025
Jim Joyner, 410-865-1030
MDOT MEETS WITH CECIL COUNTY
OFFICIALS AS PART OF ANNUAL STATEWIDE TOUR
TO DISCUSS TRANSPORTATION PRIORITIES
Transportation Secretary Outlines Budget Impacted
by COVID-19 Revenue Declines and Provides Key Project Updates
ELKTON, MD – Maryland Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater met with Cecil County officials today to discuss the Draft FY 2021 – FY 2026 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 $13.4 billion investment over the next six years in transit, highways, the MDOT Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA), 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. The meeting was held virtually in consideration of Maryland's COVID-19 State of Emergency.
“This $13.4 billion budget is focused on preserving our critical infrastructure and essential connections, continuing all active construction, planning for future projects, and being a part of our economic recovery," said Secretary Slater.
The current budget is based on data-driven decisions to fund a transportation network providing access to essential services and supporting job creation in Maryland. Following record-setting investments in transportation, this draft CTP required $1.9 billion in cuts to the capital program due to revenue declines from the COVID-19 pandemic and cash flow changes as projects were completed. MDOT also is reducing its FY 2021 operating budget by $98 million to respond to the ongoing revenue decline.
The necessary capital and operating reductions are being made across each of MDOT's transportation business units funded by the Transportation Trust Fund including: Maryland Aviation Administration (MDOT MAA), Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA), Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA), MDOT MVA, State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) and The Secretary's Office (MDOT TSO). For details on MDOT's capital and operating budget cuts, review the September 1 CTP overview release. A list is available online for both the $1.9 billion in capital reductions and the $98 million in operating reductions.
This $13.4 billion Draft FY 2021 – FY 2026 capital budget and the $2.2 billion FY 2021 operating budget supports MDOT's vision:
- The service modes, MDOT MVA and MDOT TSO, are receiving: 1.4% of the capital budget and 14% of the FY 2021 operating budget.
- The economic engines, the Port of Baltimore, BWI Marshall Airport and statewide aviation, are receiving: 9.5% of the capital budget and 11% of the FY 2021 operating budget.
- Highways and bridges, MDOT SHA, will receive: 39.6% of the capital budget and 13% of the FY 2021 operating budget.
- Transit, MDOT MTA and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), is receiving: 39.2% of the capital budget and 61% of the FY 2021 operating budget, with MDOT MTA alone accounting for 41%.
- Local jurisdictions are receiving: 10.3% of the capital budget for Highway User Revenue capital grants.
Secretary Slater outlined key focus areas for MDOT moving forward including:
- delivering big infrastructure projects that solve congestion challenges statewide in a way that incorporates technology, flexibility and future growth;
- prioritizing state of good repair and system preservation efforts to build intelligence across our assets;
- providing safe and accessible mobility choices for all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists, that consider the interplay of land-use and transportation; and
- establishing a sustainable, customer-focused transportation vision that incorporates roadway, transit, freight, air and port infrastructure. This vision will set the foundation for the development and evaluation portion of the CTP for future generations.
MDOT SHA Administrator Tim Smith explained how fewer vehicles on the roadway earlier this year allowed crews to expand hours of lane closures and make more progress on construction projects without impacting the mobility of Maryland drivers. There are several examples in Cecil County of how MDOT SHA was able to deliver some great projects and new roadway infrastructure for Maryland.
In January, MDOT SHA completed improvements at US 40 and Maloney Road in Elkton. This $3.1 million project modified the median crossover to improve safety and added sidewalks along both sides of US 40.
Administrator Smith also discussed progress on the $26 million MD 272 bridge project over Amtrak in North East that is expected to open to traffic this month, weather permitting. He also said work is continuing on the MD 273 bridge over Big Elk Creek, with the goal of restoring two-way traffic by the end of the year.
In addition to these projects, Administrator Smith discussed the importance of the work zone safety and move over law efforts to ensure MDOT SHA team members and contractor partners return safely home at the end of every shift. He also emphasized the need to provide safe access to all users including people who travel by foot, bicycle and scooter. The context-driven guide will change the way MDOT SHA delivers projects and a Vision Zero philosophy will aid in making our roadways safer for all.
MDTA Executive Director Jim Ports on several key toll facility projects, including the I-95 at Belvidere Road improvements, the Hatem Bridge toll plaza and the I-95 resurfacing project:
- A virtual project update was held in May for the I-95 at Belvidere Road Transportation Improvements. The alternative for the I-95 interchange with Belvidere Road was selected for further design and construction. Procurement is now underway with a contract award anticipated for 2021.
- Full removal of Hatem Bridge toll plaza is expected to be completed in summer 2021. The Customer Service Center is temporarily closed to accommodate work and equipment.
- The northbound/southbound I-95 resurfacing north from Tydings Bridge to Delaware Line is expected to be completed this fall. This project includes the safety improvement of using recessed all-weather lane markings.
- The northbound/southbound I-95 Bridge Deck Rehabilitation and Replacement project over Blythdale Road, Blue Ball Road, Elkton Road and Little Northeast Creek is expected to be complete this fall.
Executive Director Ports also outlined Bay Bridge projects underway. For the Bay Crossing Tier I NEPA Study, MDTA expects to publish a Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement and identify MDTA's Recommended Preferred Corridor Alternative in fall 2020, and hold public hearings in early 2021. The Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement / Record of Decision (ROD) is scheduled for 2021. Visit baycrossingstudy.com for more information.
He also discussed ongoing and future Bay Bridge improvements: westbound deck rehabilitation (center/left lanes) and Bay Bridge crossover automated lane closure system.
The new Bay Bridge crossover automated lane closure system will allow maintenance crews to implement and discontinue two-way traffic operations at the bridge more safely and quickly. Project work, such as conduit boring and installation, has begun on the Eastern Shore automated lane closure system.
The automated lane closure system includes in-pavement lighting, automated gates, dynamic message signs and overhead lane-use signals. In fall 2022, when two-way or lane closures on either bridge are in place, travelers will begin the transition to the new lane closure system with gates and dynamic messaging signs as they get on or off the Bay Bridge on the Eastern Shore.
The existing cone and barrel system will remain in place on the Western Shore. In 2023, travelers will begin the transition to the new lane closure system on the Western Shore and the cone and barrel system will no longer be used on either side of the Bay Bridge. The Western Shore automated lane closure system will be constructed under a separate contract with notice to proceed expected in summer 2021.
Executive Director Ports encouraged all Marylanders to get an E-ZPass and take advantage of MDTA's conversion to all-electronic (cashless) tolling statewide. E-ZPass transponders are free. For information on new payment options, check out the release with new payment options, and check out www.ezpassmd.com.
MDOT MTA Local Transit Support Director Travis Johnston discussed real-time tracking for MARC Train service via the Transit app that launched in August. The MARC website has been redeveloped to provide the same real-time arrival predictions. Cecil County residents utilizing MARC rail stations will be able to experience this technology enhancement.
He also outlined investments in fleet modernization across all modes to support safe and reliable operations and enhance passenger comfort and convenience. This includes the ongoing $54 million project to overhaul 63 MARC III passenger coaches, with seven of the overhauled coaches in service.
Director Travis Johnston discussed $2.9 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds that Cecil County is receiving to support transit operations and/or capital needs for Cecil Transit in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the sharp decline in transportation revenues, state matching funds for local transit projects are not available in this year's CTP. MDOT MTA will coordinate closely with local transit operators to discuss the availability of local matching funds and to apply these CARES funds and available federal funding to support critical local transit needs.
Due to FY 2021 operating budget cuts necessitated by the pandemic, MDOT MTA has been exploring all options to best match service delivery with all riders' needs. MARC service will begin operating at reduced levels on November 2. MARC will operate on an enhanced “R" service schedule service.
Director Johnston detailed how the ridership numbers have not bounced back nearly as much for choice riders on MARC. The second week of April, during the peak of the stay-at-home order, all transit was down at an all-time low, while second week of October shows the latest return trends: MARC was down 97% vs. 89% down now.
By making temporary service reductions while ridership is low, MDOT MTA is able to preserve MARC train slots with CSX and Amtrak. This plan allows MDOT to respond nimbly as Maryland's economy recovers and more choice riders cease teleworking or return to transit. Director Johnston also discussed the 50-year Statewide Transit Plan. MDOT MTA will work with Cecil County and stakeholders across the state to develop this long-term vision and framework for coordinated transit service in Maryland.
MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer outlined how the department continues to provide support to Commercial Driver's License (CDL) holders by proactively scheduling appointments for those with expiring products to ensure they get the updates they need to keep Maryland's supply chain moving.
Administrator Nizer promoted a new tool on MDOT MVA's website called First Stop to help customers navigate the many services MDOT MVA offers through the eStore. With this recently rolled out service, a customer enters their information, such as a driver's license number or title number, and First Stop provides the customer with their own unique menu of transactions that can be completed online.
MDOT MVA succeeded in deploying phase one of Customer Connect on July 6. Customer Connect expands MDOT MVA services available online, a significant step in enhancing efficiency. Customer Connect phase one included vehicle services, business licensing and motor carrier services. Phase one allows businesses and individuals to complete more transactions online and streamline services provided so that:
- customers and insurance companies can update information online, provide documentation on insurance cases, view correspondence and make payments;
- customers can request and be approved for disability products; and
- customers can begin a title and registration pre-application that ensures they have all the proper documentation and provides an estimate of fees.
Customer Connect also helps reduce wait times at MDOT MVA branches or eliminates the need for customers to come in altogether. Earlier this week, MDOT MVA announced the reopening of all Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program stations statewide beginning October 19. MDOT MVA is still on schedule to deploy phase two of Customer Connect in December 2021, which includes driver services. At full deployment, Customer Connect will consolidate existing IT systems at MDOT MVA into a single portal and ensure the highest level of security to reduce the potential for fraud.
Administrator Nizer, who serves as Governor Hogan's Highway Safety Representative, discussed the Hogan Administration's recent announcement of more than $31,000 for Cecil County agencies to address highway safety. The Cecil County Sheriff's Office and the Elkton Police Department were this year's recipients.
In addition, MDOT MVA's Highway Safety Office is launching a safety campaign called Be the Driver that emphasizes driver responsibility and focuses on elements of the state's Strategic Highway Safety Plan. The Highway Safety Office is currently drafting the state's next Strategic Highway Safety Plan for 2021-2025.
Administrator Nizer also provided an update on REAL ID to ensure every Marylander is prepared for the new October 1, 2021, deadline. The one-year extension allows nearly 300,000 Marylanders to become REAL ID compliant through their standard driver's license renewal process. Currently, 70% of Marylanders are REAL ID compliant.
MDOT MPA Harbor Development Director Kristen Fidler outlined how the numbers at the Port of Baltimore are turning around since the peak of the pandemic. The Port set a new record in August with 5,536 container moves conducted by longshore workers handling the ship, Maersk Edinburg. This record marks the largest number of container moves for a single ship in the Port's 314-year history.
Cargo numbers at the Port of Baltimore's public marine terminals saw big increases in August compared to low points during the COVID-19 emergency: 126.5% increase for autos/light trucks (units) since the low point in May; 15% increase for general cargo (tons) since the low point in June; 10.2% increase for roll on/roll off (tons) since the low point in June; and 8.5% increase for containers (boxes) since the low point in June.
The Port of Baltimore is seeing increased containers in recent months from many existing clients: ALDI, Tractor Supply, Restoration Hardware and MTC Logistics, a company that ships refrigerated and frozen foods. The Port also is handling cargo for businesses new or returning to the Port, including Rite Aid, Big Lots and Levin Furniture.
In another positive indicator, imported autos/light trucks unloaded from ships at the Port are heading straight to dealerships, instead of waiting days at the Port for pickup. In July, Volkswagen started discharging vehicles at Tradepoint Atlantic with an estimate of up to 120,000 annually.
In an effort to maintain the economic vitality of the Port of Baltimore, MDOT MPA is continuing a successful program with Poplar and Hart-Miller islands fully rebuilt using dredged sediment. In addition to the Cox Creek Expansion and the Howard Street Tunnel to support growth at the Port of Baltimore, MDOT MPA and Port's America Chesapeake are moving forward with the P3's Seagirt second 50-foot Berth & Mega Panamax Cranes.
Director Fidler also pointed out that MDOT MPA continues to work closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on maintaining the shipping channels serving the Port of Baltimore with material going to containment facilities such as Pearce Creek in Cecil County.
During COVID-19, the MDOT MPA Environmental Program received ISO 14001 Certification, the top international standard for environmental management. The Port's diesel equipment upgrade program continues to replace older diesel-powered engines with new engines. Since 2008, 217 dray trucks,
100 pieces of cargo-handling equipment, and 16 locomotives have been replaced; more than 4,500 tons in emissions have been removed. Recently announced, MDOT MPA will receive $10 million in federal funds toward its $36.7 million Resiliency and Flood Mitigation Improvements project to better protect the Dundalk Marine Terminal from severe rain events and future sea level rise.
MDOT MAA Administrator Ricky Smith gave an update on BWI Marshall Airport recovery from the low point during COVID-19. In April, passenger traffic was down 96% compared to the previous year.
For July, BWI Marshall Airport passenger traffic continued to rebound and accounted for 51% of the entire Washington-area market. For the second-straight month, the total at BWI Marshall Airport was more than Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport combined.
For the Labor Day weekend, the Transportation Security Administration performed 15,125 screenings in just one day at BWI Marshall Airport security checkpoints. This record was the highest count in nearly six months. While the aviation industry expects at least two to three years to regain pre-COVID levels, BWI Marshall Airport remains well positioned for when the industry begins its true recovery.
A number of key MDOT MAA projects are preserved as part of the CTP. Several airfield projects at BWI Marshall Airport will move forward, including a major reconstruction of Taxiway T, a primary aircraft circulation route around the terminal. This project will be fully funded by the federal government, with more than $11 million in CARES Act funds.
In addition, a five-gate extension of Concourse A is nearing completion with three new food and retail concessions continuing to build-out their operations. The design process for a major terminal restroom renovation program is being finalized with construction expected to begin in early 2021. MDOT MAA also is working with the Federal Aviation Administration on the extensive Environmental Assessment process for the next phase of improvements at BWI Marshall and Martin State airports.
In addition to the work at BWI Marshall Airport and Martin State Airport, MDOT MAA will continue to support and foster aviation across Maryland by working with 35 public-use airports. For FY 2021, MDOT MAA intends to provide $2.35 million to regional airports across Maryland.