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For Immediate Release:
October 15, 2020

Contact:
MDOT Public Affairs
Erin Henson, 410-865-1025
Jim Joyner, 410-865-1030

MDOT MEETS WITH MONTGOMERY 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

ROCKVILLE, MD – Maryland Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater met with Montgomery 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.

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.

Secretary Slater discussed how preserved 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. Secretary Slater 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.  

Secretary Slater also highlighted bikeway grants made possible through MDOT’s Kim Lamphier Bikeways Network Program. The program is named for the late Kim Lamphier, an longtime advocate for bicycle access and safety who grew up in Montgomery County. In September, MDOT announced $3.78 million in FY 2021 grants to support bicycle safety and access across the state, including two grants for Montgomery County.

A bikeways grant of  $17,500 is for the Cheltenham Drive to Pearl Street Bikeways Improvement Feasibility Study to advance design to complete the Bethesda Loop along Cheltenham Drive and Pearl Street. Another $29,075 grant is for the first phase of the program to purchase and install three automated bicycle counters to supplement annual bicycle and pedestrian counts in Bicycle & Pedestrian Priority Areas. The bikeway grants will be highlighted on MDOT’s new WalkCycleMD Twitter and Facebook pages, @WalkCycleMD and facebook.com/WalkCycleMD.

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 Montgomery County of how MDOT SHA was able to deliver some great projects and new roadway infrastructure for Maryland.

MDOT SHA made progress on a number of projects, including completion of the long-awaited $124 million I-270 interchange at Watkins Mill Road this past summer. Administrator Smith thanked county officials for the county’s $4.9 million contribution.

The innovative congestion management improvements on I-270 are also advancing to help reduce congestion in the short-term as MDOT SHA continues to work toward delivering the I-495 & I-270 P3 Program.

In another important effort, MDOT SHA continues to implement new and innovative treatments to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety throughout the county, including completing the Old Georgetown Road road diet project. As part of this project, one lane in each direction along MD 187 was converted into a buffered bicycle lane between Cedar Lane and I-495. Administrator Smith thanked elected officials and the public for their input on this important community safety enhancement project.

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 discussed the new Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial/Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton Bridge. In July, Lieutenant Governor Boyd K. Rutherford and MDTA Chairman/Secretary Slater visited the bridge to kick off major construction activities. MDTA will open the new, wider, four-lane crossing by early 2023. While this toll facility is now permanently cashless, like all MDTA facilities, the new bridge project will remove the toll booths and provide highway-speed, all-electronic tolling.

In addition, Executive Director Ports 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 using 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.

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 Administrator Kevin Quinn 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. Montgomery 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 $54 million to overhaul 63 MARC III passenger coaches, which is advancing with seven overhauled coaches currently in service.

Administrator Quinn discussed Montgomery County will receive $30 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to support operations and/or capital needs of Ride On 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. Following public comment and feedback from local jurisdictions and more data analysis, Administrator Quinn told county officials that Core Bus service adjustments proposed September 1 will not be implemented and all public hearings on that plan will be canceled.

Core Local Bus in the Baltimore Region 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 in the Baltimore Region. 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 second week of October shows the latest return trends: MARC was down 97% vs. 89% down now, Commuter Bus was down 95% vs. 86% down now, and Core Local Bus was down 61% vs. 46% 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 the ICC routes decreased 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. Administrator Quinn also discussed the 50-year Statewide Transit Plan. MDOT MTA will work with Montgomery County and stakeholders across the state to develop this long-term vision and framework for coordinated transit service in Maryland.

In conclusion, Administrator Quinn also provided an update on the Purple Line construction. On Tuesday, September 28, MDOT and MTA officially took over the day-to-day management of moving the Purple Line construction forward to deliver this important transit project as quickly as possible. MDOT and MTA have assumed the Purple Line’s key contracts and hundreds of subcontracts to continue the delivery of the Purple Line. These contracts and subcontracts include: the light rail car manufacturing contract; the operations and maintenance contract; 233 design and construction contracts and related subcontracts and purchase orders; and six commercial leases and licenses.

With contracts in hand, Purple Line Executive Director Matthew Pollack led the first virtual meeting with the assumed subcontractors on September 30 to outline the next steps as work progresses. Over the next 30 days, MTA and the subcontractors will be working together to continue:

  • mobilizing the maintenance of traffic and the erosion and sediment control services along the Purple Line corridor;
  • relocating overhead electric and underground utilities for water, gas, sewer, storm drain, and telecommunications in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties;
  • installing a permanent utility supply to the Glenridge Operations and Maintenance Facility;
  • manufacturing light rail vehicles off-site;
  • manufacturing other key components of the Purple Line project, including traffic signal poles, electrical components, and special trackwork; and
  • completing final construction designs for stormwater management and intelligent transportation systems across the alignment.

This continued work will be in addition to the ongoing MTA Purple Line projects, which include: the Polk Street Maintenance Facility, Ken-Gar wetlands restoration, Paint Branch stream restoration, and Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s 66” waterline relocation design.

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. 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.

Earlier this week, MDOT MVA announced the reopening of all Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program stations statewide beginning October 19. Additionally, the Glenmont branch office will be moving to the Kemp Mill Shopping Center in January 2021.

Administrator Nizer, who serves as Governor Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative, discussed the Hogan Administration’s recent announcement of more than $250,000 for Montgomery County agencies to address highway safety. The recipients include the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Seneca Valley High School, and police departments in Montgomery County, Rockville and Gaithersburg.

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 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. Davis Airport in Laytonsville will receive $117,000 in state aviation grant assistance for land acquisition to support extension of its runway.

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