MDOT’s Minnitte describes approach to increased demand on transportation

Maryland’s transportation system has become bigger, older, and more expensive to maintain while the need for more highways, transit, port and airport resources has increased, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) planning director Samuel Minnette, Jr. told GBC members on September 19.

In the last 15 years, vehicle miles of travel have increased 31 percent, while Maryland’s highway capacity has increased only 3 percent, Minnette said, speaking to the GBC’s Built Environment and Regional Transportation Committee. Passengers using BWI-Marshall airport have doubled from 10 million per year to 21 million per year.

Minnette confirmed that the state has at least $40 billion in unmet transportation needs that will require a significant increase in revenue to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF).

The GBC strongly supports increasing transportation revenue by at least $600 million per year. GBC President & CEO Donald C. Fry calls transportation funding “the biggest economic development challenge facing the state in the coming decade.”

Growth has necessitated the need to expand system capacity in every mode of transportation in the state, including water, air and land based, Minnette said. The revenues, which fund the state TTF, will continue to grow at a lesser pace than transportation operating and capital expenses, coupled with growth throughout Maryland.

Since the last gas tax increase in 1992, the percentage of State Highway Administration bridges that are 50 years old or older has increased from 18 percent to 31 percent, said Minnitte. Also, the Washington D.C.’s Metro system had 74 stations along an 89-mile system and now have 86 stations along a 106-mile system.

To reconstruct Maryland’s 42-miles of the Capital Beltway, including pavement and bridges, will cost an estimated $2 billion over the next 20 years, he said. The budget for the Maryland Transit Administration’s growing mobility service is $30 million, roughly equal to what it costs to operate the Baltimore subway system.

Most revenue sources to the TTF do not keep pace with inflation. Additionally, the cost of steel has gone up 60 percent and asphalt has increased by 25 to 30 percent over the past few years, Minnitte said.

Meetings between MDOT, local, and Baltimore City officials have demonstrated local and state agreement in several important policy areas, said Minnitte. They include transportation improvement initiatives related to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, continued promotion of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) through partnerships, and focusing our resources in existing communities.

“BRAC wouldn’t be so difficult if we had just one installation, but it’s five installations, including Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Meade, Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, Andrews Air Force Base, and Fort Detrick,” said Minnitte.

“A balance is needed to move people quickly and efficiently,” said Minnitte. To provide a balance of capital programming options and the timed use of capital investment over the span of the Consolidated Transportation Plan (CTP), a “HIGH/LOW” strategy approach is taken – segmenting projects that a high level of capital investment and time versus those that require a low level of capital investment and time.

To attack the low-side, for example, MDOT is working with the State Highway Administration (SHA) to conduct traffic area studies on 30 selected intersections in Harford County, using models tied to land use and regional forecasting methods, he said. Those 30 intersections will cost $10.8 million to fix, but it doesn’t take such a high level of planning as compared to other projects. An example of a “high-level” project would be the D.C. area’s proposed Purple Line, which is about a $3 billion project.

Meanwhile, MDOT updates the Maryland Transportation Plan (MTP) every five years to address current and future transportation challenges and conditions, he said. It’s also used to develop performance measures that assess how effectively the Department is performing its mission. It guides the development of the Consolidated Transportation Program budget, which identifies specific road, bridge, transit, aviation, port, pedestrian and bikeway projects that will be funded over the next six years.

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