My monthly update for September is fairly long and I hope you find it useful. I share a lot of this information--and more--throughout the month via social media channels. You can "like" or "follow" me on:
FACEBOOK: Delegate Marc Korman
I should add that while the Facebook page above is used entirely for my state legislative life, I do not maintain separate legislative and personal Twitter and Threads profiles.
Last session, Senator Cheryl Kagan and I sponsored the Maryland State Agency Transparency Act of 2023 to require the State Ethics Commission to webstream their meetings.
That began with their most recent meeting which you can watch here.
And you can read the bill online from last session.
Thank you to former Delegate Al Carr for first raising the prospect of including this commission as part of this years long effort to expand streaming and transparency at different state government entities.
The Maryland State Highway Administration released the post-installation analysis for the Old Georgetown Road/MD-187 bike lanes. You can read it here.
The Assistant District Engineer working on the project has offered to make himself available for any neighborhood, homeowner, building or other group meeting to discuss. If I can help facilitate that, please let me know.
The Moore Administration released their draft Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) on September 1st, as required by law. You can read it here, but I read through it so you don't have to!
The CTP lays out capital spending for the current fiscal year and the next five fiscal years. The next fiscal year is known as the "budget year" because it is adopted by reference into the state budget when the final CTP is submitted with the Governor's budget request in January. Capital projects are important but actually the third priority for the state's multi-billion dollar transportation budget after debt service--incurred from issuing bonds to fund capital projects--and operations. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of the draft CTP--and you will note some overlap in these categories.
-Approximately $100 million in Complete Streets funding is now shown as its own project sheet. These are for State Highway projects to support Vision Zero (the idea that there eventually be zero car-related deaths) projects.
-Several federal programs have been added or included with their own project sheets including the Carbon Reduction Program (approximately $95 million in federally funded transportation emissions reduction programs); National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) (approximately $60 million in federal funding across multiple years); and the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program (approximately $107 million in federal funding for resiliency)
-The Maryland Transit Administration project sheet for I-495/I-270 corridor investments remains in slightly reworked form from the Hogan-era P3 plan.
-Separate funding was added for the next phase of work on the 270 corridor north of Gaithersburg, where the road thins out to two lanes in each direction. $10 million is budgeted for next year for environmental work.
-There is continued funding for MD 188 (Wilson Lane)/MD 187 (Old Georgetown Road) and Cordell safety improvements from the Transportation Alternatives Program.
-The Maryland Transit Administration is continuing the legislatively required transition to zero emission buses partly facilitated by federal infrastructure bill funding. BWI Airport is also replacing its parking shuttles with electric vehicles.
-Transit Oriented Development Planning has been added to the CTP in recognition of this Moore Administration priority, although the initial focus is in Baltimore.
-A Project sheet for MARC Improvements on the Camden, and Brunswick lines was added last year because of legislation. Those projects and some actual construction work continues.
-There is a project sheet for the Baltimore City Red Line program for the first time since the FY15-FY20 CTP (before Governor Larry Hogan turned down federal funding and canceled the project). There is approximately $100m included in the draft CTP although the project will ultimately cost much more as that is just some planning and engineering funding.
-An additional $10 million has been added for work on the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit system, beyond the amount mandated by the legislature.
-The draft CTP is not balanced. The document explains "Sufficient funding is available in FY 2024; however, beginning in FY 2025, an increase in revenues, a reduction of spending in the operating and/or capital programs, or a combination of these actions is required to match planned spending to forecasted revenues. In FY 2025, an additional $100 million is needed, and the structural gap increases to $500 million per year in FY 2026 and beyond, resulting in a $2.1 billion total gap in the six-year program" This is unusual, as the draft CTP is typically balanced across all of the included years. That sometimes means removing or delaying projects in the draft.
-Transit spending is up as a percentage of the total but only from 35.6% in the last CTP to 36.8% in the draft CTP. Surprise, surprise, I would like to see this number higher!
-We continue to operate in some type of weird budget fiction when it comes to the Kim Lamphier Bikeways Network Program. It receives $2.7m in the next budget year--down significantly from $12m in the current budget year but consistent with historical spending--but assume no funding in later future years, which will not be the case.
-There is a small increase for the Frederick Douglass Tunnel--a Baltimore-area tunnel replacement project critical for MARC and Amtrak service--but the full cost of Maryland's participation in the largely Amtrak-led project is not accounted for.
-Corridor Cities Transitway is zero funded as usual, although unlike in the early Hogan years they have not attempted to entirely remove the project.
-The project sheet for I-270/I-495 Phase 1 South has been reworked but $56.5m is being budgeted for the next year. It would be better to have a clearer understanding of what this is for under Governor Moore's vision.
-The so-called Chapter 30 scoring--a compromise result of the General Assembly's effort to bring transparency to the prioritization process for transportation funding--remains in its totally pointless form with no correlation to what is funded. However, the Department has removed many of the projects it had initiated and scored favorably for itself.
-The Secretary's opening letter says "This draft CTP is largely reflective of the previous administration’s priorities and does not include all the projects necessary to truly build a better transportation system for all Marylanders" Why? We are nine months into the Moore Administration. If projects are not Moore Administration priorities then the Department should specifically explain why each is included or remove it. And if the Administration sees unmet needs and submitted an unbalanced CTP anyway, they should include those needs.
Recently, the Moore Administration announced some of their next steps on the proposed changes to the American Legion Bridge, portions of I-495, and I-270 and announced that the state had once again applied for a federal grant to support the project. The proposal--which in broad form dates back a few years to the prior Administration--has generated significant feedback in the community. To put it plainly, some of you will write to me that this is the most important thing ever and will immediately end traffic problems and save our economy. Some of you will write to me that this is the worst proposal imaginable and will destroy our environment. Most of you will say nothing and probably have a more nuanced view in between. I am supposed to have a simple tweet or press quote for stuff like this but I find it is too large and complex for that and want to share some of what I have been thinking over.
Although the Administration's press release lacks crucial details, the press release along with the submitted grant application do make a few things clear.
First, Governor Moore largely agrees with the prior Administration's plans to add two new lanes in each direction—at least as it relates to the American Legion Bridge and 495 from the American Legion Bridge to 270. Around the 270 spur, the project now appears slightly reduced from what was approved in the Final Environmental Impact Statement based on the maps provided.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement also called for one new lane and one repurposed HOV lane north on 270 up to 370. The press statement says this will be addressed in a later phase because this will allow for a "rational and fiscally prudent phased development." Of course, one of the challenges is that 270 is already six lanes in each direction south of 370 whereas 495 leading up to 270 is four lanes—six if this plan goes forward—meaning that subsequent 270 expansion could undo any bottleneck relief the 495 expansion could potentially bring…and then we can start talking about widening 495 even further to match the newly expanded 270.
On 270 north of 370, the Administration's press release says they will launch the long-awaited environmental study for that section, something I view as critical because 270's reduction to two lanes in each direction north of 370—in my opinion—could use some right-sizing along with an equal investment in transit options (MARC rail’s Brunswick Line runs along a similar corridor and would be a good candidate for this). Indeed, further expansion of 270 North from the Beltway to 370 from its current six lanes will exacerbate the existing bad afternoon bottleneck so frustrating to my county neighbors to the north and those in Frederick.
Second, Governor Moore wants to have an honest conversation about funding, as well as whether a public "delivery method" or a Public Private Partnership (P3) makes sense. The prior Administration spent years pretending this project could be done with no public (i.e., taxpayer) expense besides tolls. That was never true. The conservative Reason Foundation--a fan of P3s--have found that most roadway P3s require public subsidy, as was the case for the Virginia beltway toll lanes. The prior Governor essentially acknowledged this when he eventually sought a federal grant--which Maryland did not win--prior to leaving office. I am happy to see Governor Moore not fall into the same rhetorical trap of the past. Moreover, I am glad he will be considering whether a more traditional procurement makes sense compared to a P3. I am not personally opposed to P3s in all cases—I have no quibble with our state port operator or the I-95 travel plaza P3 partner—but the record is extremely poor in Maryland for using a P3 for complex projects and whatever financing benefit they might offer, it does not seem worth the oversight headache and mortgage of public property to the private sector to me for this project.
Third, Governor Moore is interested in transit and multi-modal alternatives. Whereas the prior Administration had to be dragged kicking and screaming to make transit a component of the project, including a shared use path on the new American Legion Bridge, and using concessionaire payments for transit investment, Governor Moore seems to be putting this front and center with its placement in his press release. Unfortunately, there are almost no details or plans actually provided. The press release and grant application reference Metro and Fairfax plans to offer express bus service but no detail is provided on precisely where (beyond two Metro stations referenced in the Fairfax plans), what hours, what headways, what fares, and what Maryland's contribution would be. Many critics of Governor Moore's announcement have circulated a list of "Comprehensive Smart Growth and Transit Alternatives to I-495/I-270 Toll Lanes" and one of them is Express Bus "I-495 from Montgomery Mall to Tysons (single dedicated bus/HOV-3 lane in each direction)." Great idea, but repurposing an existing lane in each direction across the bridge is impractical. But what if we built the bus lanes? Better yet, what if we built them paid for by tolls of willing drivers (more on that below)? There are lots of perfectly nice statements in the grant application and press release about transit including improving the MARC Brunswick Line. I think this Governor means it, but Maryland transportation officials have not always followed through on their vague policies and a lot more detail and assurances are required.
Fourth, and perhaps most controversial (in a very controversial project), Governor Moore's plan uses toll lanes. It's not popular to be for tolls but I will say two things. First, if—and it's a big if—the plan is to expand a highway, tolling is absolutely, although painfully, necessary to limit the problem of induced demand (when the road just fills right back up because of the available space). We know this from many studies and our own experience on 270, where the road was expanded in the late 80s/early 90s and the traffic engineers were surprised at how fast those new lanes just filled back up. Second, tolls can help pay for major projects. We know that from many projects around the country but also the ICC, Bay Bridge, Harry Nice Bridge, and many other bridges and tunnels in Maryland. Tolls are one of the tools—along with federal aid, gas taxes, and more, that we use to fund infrastructure in the state. The level of tolls is important—and for some reason the current Administration seems to be accepting the toll plans of the prior Administration in the grant application—and we should structure tolls so they are fair and not oppressive, something that should be easier with a non-P3 project. We also need to be honest about what it means to have toll lanes alongside free general purpose lanes: the toll lanes will move faster than the general purpose lanes.
Going through what are apparently Governor Moore's views help to expose some of the issues of concern and possibility here. There's more. For example, the environmental impact of any type of project is real. I was surprised that the grant application essentially adopts the prior Administration's rhetoric about this project. Policy involves trade-offs. Many environmentalists—not all, I know I will hear from some of you! —supported the Purple Line despite the environmental impacts such as tree canopy loss. I do not think we have an accurate accounting of the trade-offs here and the Administration should talk a lot more about the environmental impacts and mitigation it proposes.
The American Legion Bridge and 495 run through my district alongside neighborhoods, a school, a historic African American cemetery and more. There is a lot of skepticism of the Maryland Department of Transportation from the last few years of strained community engagement. The Administration has announced open houses for the next steps and the Governor is a big proponent and practitioner of engagement and partnership. That's all well and good, but I would like our transportation officials to walk with my interested constituents and me with a map along the corridor to show exactly what land they need to permanently take, what land they need to temporarily take, where they plan to improve the highway noise barriers, where they expect to damage creeks and streams, how massive new interchanges will impact River Road and other affected areas, and how they will avoid damaging the historic African American Cemetery. Both sides need to listen in such a discussion and be open to the possibilities.
Every year after the fiscal year concludes, the Comptroller of Maryland releases a close-out report. The report for fiscal year 23 close-out was released earlier this week.
It shows a fund balance for fiscal year 23 of around $555m that will roll over for future year needs. The report shows that revenue estimates were fairly accurate overall (revenue was .2% lower than estimated).
Within that, corporate income taxes were higher than expected and non-withholding income (such as capital gains) was lower than expected (they were expected to drop but not at this rate). The state began using a volatility adjustment for capital gains revenue a few years ago that softens the impact of that revenue decrease because not all of the projected revenue was budgeted.
Because of a provision in the state budget, Maryland Transit Administration submits bimonthly Purple Line status reports. The full report is available here.
We are discussing with the agency the addition of a metric to track progress on trail reconstruction. Our partners on the Montgomery County Council's relevant committee had a Purple Line briefing recently and the presentation for that briefing is available online.
COMMUNITY NEWSOne of the items in the Downtown Bethesda Sector Plan was a study of converting the one-way street sections (Woodmont, Montgomery, EW Hwy, Old Georgetown Road) to two-way traffic. Montgomery County Planning recently discussed the Montgomery County Department of Transportation study of the issue.
Below are the primary sources but the short answer is the study doesn’t recommend conversion. Instead, it recommends maintaining the one-way streets combined with road diets for separated bike lanes.
Planning Board Hearing Video: tinyurl.com/2p998s7u
Downtown Bethesda Two-Way Study: tinyurl.com/nysuph4b
Study Memo: tinyurl.com/2p8kshc
Beginning the week of September 26th, Clark Construction will perform night work activities on Old Georgetown Road between 9pm and 5am until late October.
Each year the Montgomery County Delegation to Annapolis holds a series of pre-session meetings. More information about each will be available at www.montgomerycountydelegation.com.
On October 26 at 7pm, the Delegation will hear from the Maryland Department of Transportation about the Consolidated Transportation Program (described further above). The meeting will be at the Montgomery County Council building.
On November 14 at 7pm, the Delegation will host its annual Joint House & Senate Priorities Hearing where anybody can share their views on what should be working on. Sign-up is through the delegation website referenced above.
On November 27 at 7pm (virtual) and December 4 at 7pm (at the County Council building), bill hearings will be heard on local legislation introduced for the 2024 legislative session. The bills, what night they will be heard, and testimony sign-up will be at the delegation website.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.