Baltimore County News
Transportation request focuses on economic growth and quality of life
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz presented his State transportation priorities to Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn this afternoon during the Secretary’s visit to Baltimore County as part of MDOT’s annual Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) tour.
The County Executive’s request letter is below:
Honorable Pete K. Rahn, Secretary
Maryland Department of Transportation
7201 Corporate Center Drive
P.O. Box 548
Hanover, Maryland 21076
Dear Secretary Rahn:
On behalf of the citizens of Baltimore County, I thank the staff of the Maryland Department of Transportation for your continued consideration of our transportation priorities. The Baltimore metropolitan region is now the fifth most congested in the country, and it is inhibiting the growth of our local economy. Researchers indicate that traffic congestion will only get worse in the next twenty years. We need a comprehensive regional transit system that will support our local economy and accommodate future growth in a safe and reliable manner.
It is estimated that each State dollar invested in the Baltimore region will reach more than 25% of the State’s population. In last year’s annual priority letter, I advocated that a cost analysis be undertaken to include the average daily trips (ADT) to be accommodated for each State dollar of investment for transportation improvements. Since then, the Maryland General Assembly adopted legislation that requires MDOT to rank large transportation projects according to environmental, capacity and economic development factors. This reasoned, non-binding analysis should help guide the Department in making wise investment choices of limited capital dollars.
For these reasons, I am requesting the following transportation priorities be considered as part of the FY 2017 - FY 2022 Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP), to ensure that Baltimore County and the entire Baltimore region have the transit solutions necessary to promote economic growth and enhance the quality of life for our communities.
Commuter Mass Transit Alternatives - Baltimore Region
The State has begun a much-needed review to upgrade the region’s bus system, and we look forward to learning more details about how this effort might improve on-time performance, reliability and passenger comfort. As suggested last year, the MTA should acquire mobile applications that allow all system riders (bus and rail) a real-time view of the arrival times, as well as on-board wi-fi access.
While potential improvements to the bus system will benefit existing riders, we also believe that a comprehensive mass transit strategy must attract new riders – those choice riders who must be persuaded to give up their use of automobiles - if we truly want to relieve gridlock in our region.
The idea of attracting choice riders to mass transit is not a new concept. The State accepted responsibility for providing our region with rail mass transit 45 years ago, and Baltimore County has benefitted from construction of terminus stations for both the Metro and Light Rail systems. This shared vision also offered hope that reliable and efficient transit to connect east-west commuters through the region would become a reality, which the Red Line offered as the consensus solution by local, state and federal partners.
Notwithstanding the Governor’s decision to abandon the Red Line, it is imperative that an east/west plan be developed that will address the transit needs of these choice riders. Such discussion should include consideration of a rail or rapid bus transit link starting from Woodlawn, which is home to more than 10,000 employees of the Social Security Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the FBI. Woodlawn provides easy access to I-695 and I-70, along with an existing park and ride lot, with right-of-way access already leading into the City. This line should extend to an expanded Lexington Market transit hub, where it could join the existing Metro and Light Rail systems as transfer points. This concept represents a major opportunity to increase transit accessibility to a high volume of commuters in search of alternative transportation options. It could also mitigate the downtown tunnel cost that appeared to impact the State’s decision on the Red Line.
Economic Development Related Traffic Improvements
- Funding of the long-planned interchange on Northwest Expressway (I-795) at Dolfield Boulevard remains a top County priority, as it will alleviate traffic congestion due to increased economic development in the area associated with the Metro Center transit-oriented development (TOD) and Foundry Row (Wegmans) retail and office center. Baltimore County previously has demonstrated its support by providing $1.5M in planning and acquisition money to the State for the interchange, as well as completion of the $6M Dolfield Boulevard improvements. This priority has the support of the Owings Mills Corporate Roundtable, comprised of the region’s major employers, including CareFirst and T. Rowe Price, as well as the developers of major job producing projects situated on Red Run Boulevard.
- Recently approved State road improvements at Reisterstown Road (MD 140) and Painters Mill Road has the support of County government and we urge continuation of funding to completion.
Baltimore County is excited that its vision for the future of Sparrows Point is being embraced by Trade Point Atlantic. The plan incorporates the highest and best use of this unique asset: 3,100 acres of industrial zoned land, with access to deep water port channel, two interstate highways and two rail lines. We once again urge the State to invest in certain infrastructure improvements to facilitate implementation of the plan. State infrastructure investment to support the Port of Baltimore and Trade Point Atlantic will result in a generation of new jobs for the region.
- The construction of a full interchange at I-695 and Exit 44 (Broening Highway) would maximize the potential redevelopment activities at Trade Point Atlantic, would allow for truck avoidance of the toll plaza, and would reduce truck traffic that impacts residential communities on Dundalk and Holabird Avenues.
- Several bridges are in danger of closure due to lack of maintenance, and without rehabilitation present an impediment to the success of the Trade Point Atlantic project:
- MD 151 over Wharf Road and Industrial Railroad (Bridge No. 0309900)
- MD 157 over Ramps to I-695 (Bridge No. 0330900)
- Wharf Road Ramp over Wharf Road
- Wharf Road over Baltimore Industrial Railroad (Bridge No. 0335100)
White Marsh/Middle River
- Designation of the AV Williams property and the former federal depot site adjacent to the Middle River MARC Train Station as a transit-oriented development project would stimulate the economy creating retail, residential and transportation opportunities for that area.
- Funding for street improvements on Philadelphia Road (MD 7) including, widening and raising of the road from Mohrs Lane to Campbell Boulevard is needed. This roadway improvement will increase traffic capacity and roadway safety for the future Campbell Boulevard extension. This future connection would not only provide another important link between MD 43 corridor and White Marsh Town Center, but it would also enhance Pulaski Highway as a location for new employment-related development. Currently, there is no east to west access from Pulaski Highway between Middle River Road and MD 43.
Community Development – Streets, Streetscape and Sidewalk Improvements
There are a number of minor transportation projects that can inject new opportunities for older business communities.
- Kenwood Avenue Sidewalk from Lillian Holt Road to Hazelwood Avenue
The County portion of Kenwood Avenue has been completed for many years.The State’s portion of Kenwood Avenue near Overlea High School has not been completed. Completion of Kenwood Avenue sidewalk would enhance pedestrian safety for Overlea High School.
- Frederick Road MD 144 (Frederick Road from Prospect Avenue to Briarwood Road)
Local residents and property owners have been discussing ways to improve the Paradise Business Community. There have been significant improvements made to the greater Catonsville commercial corridor on Frederick Road outside of the Beltway, but more needs to be done for the vulnerable part of the corridor inside the Beltway. Specifically, improvements would include sidewalks, landscaping, tree trimming, street lighting, and furniture that would help give Paradise a more cohesive appearance. The most important improvement would be the removal of the elevated tree planters that impede pedestrian traffic and block signage. The main building behind the planters has been purchased and a new streetscape could leverage/encourage reinvestment into this building and others along this section of the corridor.
- Eastern Avenue MD 150 (Mace Avenue to MD 702)
The Eastern Avenue Streetscape project in downtown Essex is one of the oldest in the County and in need of significant upgrades. The wooden benches have rotted, trees have died leaving empty wells, sidewalks are in need of repair, etc. The public realm looks downtrodden and it is very difficult to encourage private reinvestment for improvements in buildings. A priority would be the downtown blocks and gateways into the older downtown "main street." Public investment could also jumpstart renewed business activism and involvement.
Thank you for this opportunity to present Baltimore County’s transportation priorities in the FY 2017- FY 2022 CTP.
Note: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz also presented letters with transportation related requests from Councilwoman Cathy Bevins and Councilman Wade Kach.
Sparrows Point could become the East Coast hub for renewable wind energy. Baltimore County has applied for a federal grant to support infrastructure upgrades at the former Sparrows Point shipyard to accommodate assembly, fabrication and shipping for the offshore wind industry.
“It’s critical that we support sources of clean, renewable energy – for our health, to protect our fragile environment and increase energy independence. From an economic standpoint, Baltimore County can lead the way as the center for a new clean energy industry that builds, assembles and distributes offshore wind products,” said Baltimore County Executive Kamenetz. “We’re talking new jobs, new investment and leadership in a new American industry.”
Construction and permanent jobs
If the $26 million federal grant is approved, the WIND START project could bring as many as 1,200 construction jobs and over 900 permanent jobs to the Sparrows Point peninsula.
The project could jumpstart Baltimore County as the Atlantic hub for assembling and shipping the blades, towers, generators and cables necessary for offshore windmills.
The grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation makes the case for the WIND START intermodal transportation project on 15-acres of the Sparrows Point peninsula. Sparrows Point Shipyard LLC and their partner US Wind would upgrade piers and bulkheads, staging areas and ship-to-road access to support offshore wind development.
Clean energy in the Sparrows Point Partnership vision
“We’re competing for new business and jobs wherever we can. Clean energy has been part of our vision for Sparrows Point since 2013, when the County’s Sparrows Point Partnership developed a blueprint for maximizing the potential for this unique peninsula. No single East Coast location has the same level of waterfront, large storage areas and transportation access as the Sparrows Point peninsula,” added Kamenetz.
The Baltimore County Department of Economic and Workforce Development submitted the application for the 2016 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz offered full support for the State’s grant application for improvements to the CSX freight rail line through the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore.
“This rail/port project is vital to our ability to maximize container shipping from the Port of Baltimore and the global logistics center at Tradepoint Atlantic on the Sparrows Point peninsula,” said County Executive Kamenetz.
Below is the letter of support from Baltimore County Executive Kamenetz:
On behalf of Baltimore County, I offer our full support for the Maryland Department of Transportation’s grant application for improvements to the CSX freight rail line through the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore.
The opportunity of double-stacked container rail service through the Port of Baltimore terminals is close at hand as the Panama Canal widening concludes later this year. With our deep water and on-dock rail advantages, our port is poised to bring in the massive “panamax” ships and greatly increase port business. The ability to fix our rail tunnel bottleneck will also give relief to road congestion along the I-95 corridor. It’s a rare chance to increase family-supporting jobs while reducing commuter traffic in a single project.
As an enormous player in the port economy, Baltimore County has significant interest in this rail/port project. At the 3,100 acre Sparrows Point peninsula, we are helping Tradepoint Atlantic rebuild the former Bethlehem Steel short-line railroad and upgrade the intermodal yard that connects to both CSX and Norfolk Southern. This will complement the site’s unique deep water port access and will provide room for future port expansion.
Double-stack rail will truly unlock the potential of the nation's newest and largest global logistics center in eastern Baltimore County.
Through the FASTLANE grant program, the $160 million in Federal support enables a cost effective option to reduce transportation costs, promote greater capacity, ensure a cleaner environment, and create jobs in our port and logistics economy. We stand with the State of Maryland and our Port partners to drive the CSX Howard Street Tunnel project forward.
Revised September 26, 2016