2017 Transportation and Mobility Committee news:
The Innovation and Technology, Economic Development and Transportation and Mobility committees met jointly May 30, 2017 and heard from Bill Cole, President and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation, and Jim Smith, Chief of Strategic Alliances for the City of Baltimore, during a panel discussion on Baltimore’s economic future. Cole and Smith gave presentations and answered questions highlighting some of the challenges, assets and opportunities within the city’s economic development landscape.
While it can be challenging to connect workers to employment centers, the city is actively pursuing measures to build neighborhood commercial centers, implement shuttles to complement MTA service and realize a complete streets and multimodal vision for transportation in the long-term. The Baltimore market is growing with some of its largest development projects being completed in downtown Baltimore and in neighborhoods throughout the city. However, many opportunities exist to continue developing the city lead by a host of incentives, a BDC loan fund, efforts to attract new business, expanding fiber optic broadband access to the entire city and on-boarding top leaders to lead the City’s technology and transportation needs.
On March 22, 2017, Liz Cornish, Executive Director of Bikemore, introduced the Transportation and Mobility Committee to the organization and complete streets. Bikemore is a leading advocate for cycling and bike infrastructure and has been on the forefront of ensuring the best possible implementation of the Bike Master Plan and bike education in communities throughout the city. The organization is also actively involved in the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network. Complete Streets are a street design solution that ensures safety and that the needs of all users are met no matter your mode choice.
Bikemore believes that complete streets can bring a positive impact to Baltimore. For example, studies have shown that protected bike lanes have the ability to increase sales at nearby businesses. Bikemore has partnered with Councilman Ryan Dorsey to introduce legislation on complete streets to supplement the current law. The legislation will empower the Department of Transportation to coordinate initiatives involving streets more effectively, engage a range of communities, provide an equity lens to for the city to view transportation, installs performance measures for the department, and gives space for an innovative culture to take hold.
The presentation by Bikemore was followed by an update from Committee Chairman Bruce Gartner on various federal and state legislative initiatives.
Glen Smith, Project Manager for Maryland Transportation Authority, and Jacob Smith, Highway Engineer for STV, presented at the Transportation and Mobility Committee’s January 11, 2017 meeting on the I-95 Access Improvements Study. The study area encompasses exits 50 through 55. The project is being pursued due to increased traffic demand, inadequate roadway capacity and geometry, to support economic development and land use changes and expand multi-modal connections. There are multiple options for each exit, which will determine the final cost of the project. The project is contingent upon FASTLANE grant funding and is still in the National Environmental Policy Act process.
Sagamore Development, represented by Vice President Caroline Paff and Transportation Planner Kimiya Darrell, added to the discussion on the I-95 Access Improvements. Sagamore is the development company leading on the redevelopment of Port Covington and will be contributing $5 million to the cost of the project. The organization has a preferred configuration of options to improve circulation and support economic development. The estimated cost is $183 million, in addition to the developer’s contribution $33 million will come from MDTA, $66.7 million from tax increment financing and the City of Baltimore, $78.8 million from a FASTLANE grant.
David Fleming, CFO of the Maryland Department of Transportation, walked the committee through the subject of the Transportation Trust Fund Revenues and their resulting effect on the Consolidated Transportation Plan (CTP) from 2017 to 2022. With a $.76 decrease in the average price of gas and each $.1 generating approximately $33 million in revenue, the CTP is facing loss revenue of $751 million. The projects within the CTP are being adjusted as necessary to accommodate for the new revenue projections.
2016 Transportation and Mobility Committee news:
Juan Torrico, Business and Community Development Manager for the Maryland Transit Administration, presented an update regarding the BaltimoreLink plan at the Transportation and Mobility Committee’s September 14, 2016 meeting. The MTA recently concluded public outreach for the second draft of its plan and is in the process of accepting more public comment in advance of its final draft, which is expected to be implemented next summer. The new plan expands access to many new riders including seniors, the disabled, youth and low income persons. View Torrico’s presentation.
The committee also heard from Brad Smith, Director of the Office of Freight and Multimodalism for the Maryland Department of Transportation, who made a presentation about progress made on the Howard Street Tunnel’s double stack clearance. Because of new technology, cost estimates to complete the project have decreased dramatically. The state and its partners are now ready to take substantial steps to proceed with the project. It is estimated that the project will take six years to complete – two years for design and four for construction – and cost approximately $455 million. The tunnel is more than 100 years old, has many years of useful life and is a critical piece of infrastructure to global trade. View Smith’s presentation.
On April 12, 2016, the Transportation and Mobility Committee held a joint meeting with the Economic Development Committee on the issue of Amtrak’s Baltimore Penn Station Master Plan. Three Amtrak officials made presentations, including: Rina Cutler, Senior Director, Major Stations Planning & Development and Brian Traylor, Infrastructure Planning Manager, Baltimore Penn Station.
Amtrak is in the midst of a three part solicitation for a private sector operator of the station and its surrounding property. The process includes a Request for Information (RFI) from businesses to act as a master developer who would be responsible for an implementable master plan; a Request for Quotation (RFQ), which is a standard business process whose purpose is to invite suppliers into a bidding process to bid on the specific elements of the master plan; and a request for proposal (RFP), which is the solicitation made through a bidding process by a company interested in procuring the right to participate in the Penn Station improvement plan to submit a business proposal.
Amtrak officials suggest referring to www.nec.amtrak.com which will soon have updates about the Baltimore Penn Station plan.
At the Transportation & Mobility Committee’s February 24, 2016 meeting, Maryland Transit Administration Administrator Paul Comfort presented his plan for MTA governance. He indicated that the following items constituted his vision for MTA:
- The agency will be a driver of economic development by connecting people to jobs in the Baltimore region and beyond across the entire state;
- The agency will provide a new rail fleet through strategic capital investments;
- The agency will make the system easier to use and more reliable and thereby increase ridership;
- The agency will instill a culture of accountability, empowerment and unity among its employees; and
- The agency will transform the Baltimore regional transit network by implementing BaltimoreLink, thereby improving connectivity with more frequent and reliable service.
In addition, Comfort and Kevin Quinn, the MTA’s Director of Planning and Capital Programming, also presented on the implementation of BaltimoreLink, a refurbished bus transit system in and around Baltimore. The new system is advertised as a unified system of new, high frequency routes that connect seamlessly to MTA’s other modes of transport – Light Rail, Metro, MARC, and commuter bus – into one unit. BaltimoreLink is expected to be fully operational by June 2017.
Comfort concluded by saying that he plans on reconstituting an MTA Advisory Board with ample business representation. Accordingly, he offered membership on it to interested Transportation and Mobility Committee members.
At its January 11, 2016 meeting, the Transportation and Mobility Committee heard from Maryland Delegate Brooke Lierman (D-46) and Maryland Transit Administration Director of Planning Kevin Quinn on issues relative to MTA. This was another in the committee’s series on ‘access to jobs.
Delegate Lierman focused on her efforts in the 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly to have a bill enacted, HB 546, which would have established the MTA Oversight and Planning Board for purposes of strategic transit planning. Among other things, the bill provided for the membership, term of office, powers, duties, compensation and staffing of the Board. The measure also would have required the board to adopt a strategic plan, updated every five years, as well as to submit an annual report to the Governor and the General Assembly. It received an unfavorable report by Environment and Transportation.
The effort to have this bill passed has been subsumed by a requirement in budget language for periodic reports to the budget committees by MTA on their operations and plans. At this point, there are no intentions of introducing a bill similar to HB 546 in the upcoming session of the legislature.
The second presenter, Kevin Quinn, delivered a PowerPoint presentation on MTA’s plans to implement a revised bus system for the Baltimore area entitled BaltimoreLink. Although the period for public comment on the BaltimoreLink changes concluded on Jan. 11, 2016, Quinn pointed out that MTA representatives have meetings scheduled with complaining businesses over the next several weeks to discuss their issues with BaltimoreLink, and to seek a resolution to them. He also encouraged GBC to communicate future complaints that may be forthcoming to MTA for resolution.