FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 17, 2020
MDOT Public Affairs
Erin Henson, 410-865-1025
Jim Joyner, 410-865-1030
MDOT MEETS WITH ST. MARY'S 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
LEONARDTOWN, MD – Maryland Deputy Transportation Secretary Sean Powell met with St. Mary's 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 MDOT 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; and MDOT MVA's Customer Connect phase two to provide more efficient vehicle services to all customers, including businesses and government fleets.
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 St. Mary's County of how MDOT SHA was able to deliver some great projects and new roadway infrastructure for Maryland.
He said MDOT SHA has advanced a number of MD 5 projects including the $14 million project at Abell and Moakley streets in Leonardtown. Safety improvements for this project include the addition of left-turn lanes and a sidewalk. The project is anticipated to be complete next summer.
Another project progressing is the $24 million project on MD 5 north of Point Lookout State Park that includes the addition of shoulders and wider lanes. Ongoing work includes tree removal, clearing and grubbing. This project is expected to be complete in fall 2022.
Administrator Smith also provided an update on the MD 6 Persimmon Creek bridge that was damaged during Tropical Storm Isaias in August. The bridge cannot be repaired. MDOT SHA has been working to expedite design for the replacement bridge. Surveys and data collection were recently completed, and engineers are working on design and permit approvals to begin construction next year.
In addition to these projects, MDOT SHA 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 help make roadways safer for all.
For toll facilities, MDTA Planning and Program Development Director Melissa Williams discussed the new Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial/Senator Thomas “Mac" Middleton Bridge. In July, Lieutenant Governor Boyd K. Rutherford and MDTA Chairman/Secretary Gregory Slater visited the Nice/Middleton 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 of MDTA's facilities, the new bridge project will remove the toll booths and provide highway-speed, all-electronic tolling.
In addition, Director Williams also provided updates on the Bay Bridge. 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 this fall, 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.
She also discussed ongoing and future Bay Bridge improvements: westbound deck rehabilitation (center/left lanes) and Bay Bridge crossover automated lane closure system. She 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 $4.1 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds that St. Mary's County is receiving to support transit operations and/or capital needs 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. Commuter Bus and MARC service began operating at reduced levels on November 2. MARC is operating on an enhanced “R" service schedule service. All Commuter Bus routes are operating on a “S" schedule service with the following two exceptions: Route 201 – service from Gaithersburg to BWI Marshall Airport is operating only the odd numbered trips on both the Weekday and Weekend/Holiday schedules; and Route 320 – service from Columbia to Baltimore is operating regular service.
Director Johnston 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 first week of November shows the latest return trends with Commuter Bus that was down 95% vs. 91% 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.
Director Johnston also discussed the 50-year Statewide Transit Plan. MDOT MTA will work with St. Mary's 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.
She also highlighted MDOT MVA's success 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 of $31,000 to address highway safety for St. Mary's County agencies, including St. Mary's County Health Department and St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office. 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, 71% of Marylanders are REAL ID compliant.
MDOT MAA Regional Aviation Assistance Director Ashish Solanki 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.
By 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 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. St. Mary's County Regional Airport has received 100% FY 2021 federal grant assistance of $5.4 million for runway extension construction.