October 27, 2020
MDOT Public Affairs
Erin Henson, 410-865-1025
Jim Joyner, 410-865-1030
MDOT MEETS WITH HARFORD COUNTY
OFFICIALS AS PART OF ANNUAL STATEWIDE TOUR
TO DISCUSS TRANSPORTATION PRIORITIES
Deputy Transportation Secretary Outlines Budget Impacted
by COVID-19 Revenue Declines and Provides Key Project Updates
BEL AIR, MD – Maryland Deputy Transportation Secretary Sean Powell met with Harford 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 Gregory 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.
Deputy Secretary Powell 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.
In the Draft FY 2021 – FY 2026 CTP, MDOT is preserving key projects to deliver on this vision, including: active highway construction projects across the state; Light Rail vehicle overhaul and new Metro cars at MDOT MTA; MDOT MVA's Customer Connect phase two to provide more efficient vehicle services to all customers, including businesses and government fleets; and the Howard Street Tunnel and Cox Creek Dredge Placement to support jobs at the Port of Baltimore.
Deputy Secretary Powell discussed how projects such as the Howard Street Tunnel and Cox Creek Dredge Placement are important to support Maryland's economic recovery. In 2009, in the wake of the national economic recession, MDOT forged a P3 agreement with Ports America Chesapeake that allowed the Port to build a 50-foot berth and bring in four mega Panamax cranes at a time when the CTP was being cut. This partnership built the growing container business at the Port we have today and ultimately spurred another public-private partnership with CSX for the Howard Street Tunnel project, which will allow double-stacked rail cars to move cargo quicker and more efficiently from the Port, as well as take more trucks off Maryland highways.
During COVID-19, the strength of the Port of Baltimore has been clear as the Port continues receiving cargo that helped Maryland's supply chain stay open, delivering critical medical and food supplies across the state. Deputy Secretary Powell emphasized how the 2009 investment in the Port of Baltimore is just one example of the critical role that every part of Maryland's transportation network will play in the state's economic recovery with trucks on our highways and bridges, cargo coming through the port and the airport, MDOT MVA certifying new commercial drivers, and transit providing access to job centers.
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 Harford County of how MDOT SHA was able to deliver some great projects and new roadway infrastructure for Maryland.
MDOT SHA recently completed the last of six BRAC-related projects totaling $109 million that will reduce congestion and improve access to Aberdeen Proving Ground. MDOT SHA is in the final phase of $9.4 million in improvements to MD 22 between Prospect Mill Road and MD 136.
In addition, MDOT SHA is advancing more than $23 million in resurfacing projects throughout the county. Resurfacing along MD 132 in Aberdeen and US 1 Business in Bel Air will be complete this fall, and MD 924 south of Bel Air will be complete by early spring.
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.
For the toll facilities, MDTA Executive Director Jim Ports detailed the current status of the I-95 Express Toll Lane (ETL) Northbound Extension Program to extend the northbound I-95 ETL more than 10 miles from north of MD 43 in Baltimore County to north of MD 24 in Harford County. There are 28 projects within the overall program, including interchange reconstruction at MD 152 and MD 24 and construction of new sound barriers.
MDTA held a virtual public meeting in June on the MD 152 Park & Ride. Based on the public feedback and additional analysis, the Old Mountain Road site is the selected alternative. MDTA will close the existing MD 152 Park & Ride in winter 2021/2022, with a temporary site at Trinity Church.
Executive Director Ports also provided an update on the I-895 Bridge Project. The new northbound bridge and Holabird Avenue exit ramp opened in March 2020. Currently, one lane of I-895 remains open in each direction north of Harbor Tunnel. The new southbound bridge and tunnel rehabilitation remains under construction. The entire project is expected to be complete by 2021.
In addition, he discussed 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.
Executive Director Ports also discussed ongoing and future Bay Bridge improvements: westbound deck rehabilitation (center/left lanes) and Bay Bridge crossover automated lane closure system.
He 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. Harford County residents using the 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, including:
- $400 million replacement of Metro railcars and signal system, which is underway;
- $160 million, 53-rail light rail vehicle fleet overhaul, which will be complete in 2022;
- $54 million to overhaul 63 MARC III passenger coaches, which is advancing with seven overhauled coaches currently in service; and
- $207 million to rehabilitating and renewing Metro tunnel, track, systems and stations.
Director Johnston discussed $10.1 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds that Harford County is getting to support operations and/or capital needs of Harford Transit Link in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 on Core Local Bus, Express Bus, Commuter Bus and MARC. Director Johnston told county officials that following public comment and feedback from local jurisdictions and more data analysis, the Core Bus service adjustments proposed September 1 will not be implemented and all public hearings on that plan were canceled.
Core Local Bus and MobilityLink service will continue to operate on current schedules, while Commuter Bus and MARC service will begin operating at reduced levels on November 2. MARC will operate on an enhanced “R" service schedule service. All Commuter Bus routes will operate on a “S" schedule service with the following two exceptions: Route 201 service from Gaithersburg to BWI Marshall Airport will operate only the odd numbered trips on both the Weekday and Weekend/Holiday schedules; and Route 320 service from Columbia to Baltimore will operate regular service.
He detailed how the ridership numbers have not bounced back nearly as much for choice riders on MARC and Commuter Bus compared to Core Local Bus. The second week of April, during the peak of the stay-at-home order, all transit was down at an all-time low while the third week of October shows the latest return trends: MARC was down 97% vs. 91% down now, Commuter Bus was down 95% vs. 86% down now, and Core Local Bus was down 61% vs. 50% down now.
Comparing 2019 to 2020:
- average daily Commuter Bus boardings decreased from 14,188 to 1,650 in August and from 14,475 to 1,927 in September. (For 2020, total reflects September 1-24.)
- average weekday MARC boardings decreased from 35,410 to 3,076 in August.
- Commuter Bus average riders per trip: for Baltimore-area routes decreased from 14 to 6;
- Washington-area routes decreased from 24 to 2; and Intercounty Connector routes fell from 16 to 2.
By making temporary service reductions while ridership is low, MDOT MTA is able to preserve MARC train slots with CSX and Amtrak and contracts with Commuter Bus providers. This plan allows MDOT to respond nimbly as Maryland's economy recovers and more choice riders cease teleworking or return to transit.
In a two-year collaborative effort with an 11-member commission and extensive public involvement, the Central Maryland Regional Transit Plan was finalized in September. MDOT MTA will begin implementation of the Year 1 action plan with: two new corridor feasibility studies, ADA accessibility and transfer hub work, and new platforms for regional dialogue and collaboration.
Director Johnston also discussed the 50-year Statewide Transit Plan. MDOT MTA will work with Harford 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. She also announced that all Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program stations reopened statewide on October 19.
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. 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 more than $113,000 for Harford County agencies to address highway safety. The recipients are: the Harford County Sheriff's Office, the Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace police departments and Maryland Natural Resources Police. 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.
She 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 Deputy Executive Director Dave Thomas 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.
MDOT MPA is continuing a successful program with Poplar and Hart-Miller islands to use 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 Ports America Chesapeake are moving forward with the P3's Seagirt second 50-foot Berth and Mega Panamax Cranes.
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, resulting in more than 4,500 tons in lowered emissions. 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. 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.