Transportation Roundtable with Congressman Delaney (part 1)

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On December 18, 2014 Congressman Delaney, state and local elected-officials, and representatives from the business communities of Frederick and Montgomery Counties held a roundtable discussion about the impact of congestion along the I-270 corridor. Several participants spoke about the effect of traffic on local business, the economic development and job growth opportunities, infrastructure plans and restraints, and possible solutions for short and long-term alleviation.

The complete Transportation Roundtable audio files are available on YouTube.

Clip 01 — Introduction play clip

Moderator: Good morning, today is Thursday, December 18 and we are assembled at the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce Offices. Congressman Delaney and elected officials from Montgomery and Frederick Counties are meeting to discuss ways to improve traffic congestion on the I-270 corridor. This is an opportunity to bring stakeholders from the Federal, State, and County governments together to leverage resources to address the transportation issues faced by both counties.Our agenda today includes remarks from Congressman Delaney, County Executive Jan Gardner, Delegate Aruna Miller, Delegate Kelly Shultz, and then an open discussion. I would like to begin this morning by having each of our officials introduce themselves, giving their name and position, and I would ask that our generous hostess today begin.

Elizabeth Cromwell: Certainly. I’m Elizabeth Cromwell I’m the President and CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.

Kelly Schulz: I’m Delegate Kelly Schulz and I represent, currently, Frederick and Carroll Counties.

Aruna Miller: I’m Aruna Miller, and I’m a delegate representing Montgomery County, Potomac, Germantown, Clarksburg area. – all the way up to the Frederick County line.

Rep. Delaney: Congressman John Delaney, representing Maryland’s sixth congressional district in the US House of Representatives.

Jan Gardner: I’m Jan Gardner, Frederick County Executive, and I represent all of Frederick County and local government.

Ilaya Hopkins: Good morning, my name is Ilaya Hopkins, I’m the Vice-President of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.

Sen. Ron Young: I’m Ron Young, state senator from District 3 in Frederick.

Jim Racheff: Jim Racheff, I’m the CEO of DMS Incorporated. We’re involved in the Biotech industry, we’re one of two business that run the Frederick National Laboratory here at the National Cancer Institute.

David Vogt: David Vogt, delegate representing Frederick and Carroll Counties.

Marilyn Balcombe: Marilyn Balcombe, President and CEO of the Germantown Gaithersburg Chamber of Commerce.

Shawn Molland: Shawn Molland: Legislative aide to the delegate Shane Robbinson, delegation chair, Montgomery County, who also represents District 39.

Josh Bokee: Hi, good morning, Josh Bokee, representing Comcast – involved with the Montgomery and Frederick Chambers and also one of the Aldermen here in the City of Frederick.

Karen Lewis Young: Good morning, Karen Lewis Young, Delegate-elect from district 3A, which is largely the City of Frederick.

Roger Manno: State Senator Roger Manno from Montgomery County the 19th District and I sit on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Carol Krimm: I am Carol Krimm, a Delegate-elect from District 3A, representing that district with delegate-elect Lewis Young.

Moderator: Thank you all.

Clip 02 — Congressman John Delaney play clip

Moderator: Congressman Delaney, I’ll ask you to begin with the Federal perspective.

Rep. Delaney: Great, well thank you, and thank you for doing such a beautiful job moderating us here today. And I also want to thank the Frederick Chamber, Elizabeth for hosting us. It’s really kind and generous of you to do this. I’ve had a very efficient morning already, you run a very tight ship here at the Chamber of Commerce, so I’m happy to be here with you, and I want to thank everyone for joining us as -well including my three colleagues who will be making comments with me here today.

I also want to congratulate our delegate [Kelly Schulz] on her new position, we are all very happy for you and we are all very happy for the state, delegate Schulz. Thank you for taking the time to be with us here today knowing you have this new announcement.

Before I talk about the Federal perspective on transportation, I wanted to just talk about 270 generally. Because, and now I’m a little biased on this, because I represent the whole of the 270 corridor in the Congress of the United States, but I think making investments and making sure the 270 corridor is functioning to a high standard is one of the most important things we can do not only for the citizens of Montgomery, Frederick, and even Washington County but also for the economic development of this region and for the whole state.

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I experience 270 personally, often, because I spend a lot of time leaving my home in Montgomery County and traveling to Frederick and Washington County early in the mornings. And I always remark to people that no matter what time I leave in the morning, I have not yet found a time where I’ve left early enough – and that includes having to leave Montgomery County and being in Cumberland at 9 in the morning, so you know I’m leaving fairly early. I have not found a time where I left early enough where I haven’t seen a long line of back-to-back white lights driving in to Washington D.C.

And I always think about what a missed opportunity it is for all of those people who are spending all of that time in their cars. That they aren’t with their families, that they aren’t with their friends, they’re not reading to their children, they’re not taking them to school. They are not doing all the things that create great communities. And it’s always a great reminder to me that when we fail to invest in our infrastructure and our transportation at a sufficient level, it’s not just an economic development issue, but it’s also an issue for our communities. Because we’re really draining people from their community and forcing them to spend a lot of time commuting. It’s a real waste. So there are multiple bottom lines to this calculus.

And then there’s obviously the economic development opportunities. It seems to me, the business activity that is currently occurring along the 270 corridor, and could continue to occur along the 270 corridor if we were to have a better portfolio of transportation assets around that corridor, is a singular opportunity for the state of Maryland. If you look at all the industries that are really growing around that corridor, whether it is life sciences, whether it be information technology, whether it be cyber, these are the growth industries not only in the country but the state of Maryland. Again this is a multiple bottom line equation here, if we can improve the situation. It’s a situation in my opinion that is intolerable. And again it’s a huge issue for citizens and residents and businesses in Montgomery County. It’s a huge issue for citizens and residents and businesses in Frederick, but it even goes out to Washington County, which is an area I obviously care a lot about.

Federal perspective is similar to the story we find in many places, not around the state but also around the country. Resources are constrained. The big issue that we’ll be dealing with this year in the Federal government, that is really a forcing function that will drive a lot of conversations around transportation and infrastructure funding is the situation with the Highway Trust Fund, which as most people know, is the way we fund 90 percent of the surface transportation projects in the United States of America.

The way that works is a gas tax is charged on users, that money goes into the Highway Trust Fund, and it is then dispersed to fund these transportation projects. Since we have not raised the gas tax in the United States since the early ’90s, and because driving patterns have changed, we have faced a situation for some time where the amount of funding that goes into the Highway Trust Fund roughly equals 50 percent of the dispersements that go out of the Highway Trust Fund.

So we are faced with, really, two options. The first option, which is a terrible option, which is to reduce our investment in surface transportation in this county. Which is a terrible thing to do because most experts believe we have to increase it.

The second option is to figure out alternatives to fund the Highway Trust Fund. And the variety of things that have been discussed include raising the gas tax, coming up with a way of charging vehicles based on the miles they drive, because increasingly vehicles are not dependent upon gasoline, or as dependent upon gasoline, and that’s a good thing to fund how they get around or to come up with alternatives to do that.

So that’s one big issue that the Federal government will be dealing with around transportation. The second big issue is trying to find other ways of investing in infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers every two years does an analysis of the United States infrastructure, and they give us a grade. The most recent grade we received from the Civil Engineers was a D+. And to bring our infrastructure up to an A-/B+ standard (which is what I think we as Americans, proud Americans, who care about our country, care about competitiveness, care about the quality of life of our citizens would want to see) the amount of money that has to be invested is somewhere between 3 and 4 trillion dollars. It’s a huge amount of money.

So we have to come up with alternative ways of funding this. I’ve been working on a variety of proposals to create new revenues, or new sources of funds if you will, to fund not only the Highway Trust Fund but to fund additional investments in infrastructure and transportation without additional spending. What I’ve been working on is a variety of proposals. I introduced a new version right before the session ended and I’ve been working on another proposal that is very similar for the last couple of years that effectively makes changes to the way we deal with international tax in this county. And as part of those changes we will create the opportunity for significant investments in new infrastructure in this country.

What I’m really talking about the situation with our largest corporations that do business internationally and have a very bad international tax code that is keeping almost 2 trillion dollars for U.S. corporate cash sitting overseas. I think it makes sense to bring some of that money back. I think it will prevent a lot of the things we’re reading about in the papers – corporate inversions etc. And I think there’s a natural deal on working on a new, more competitive international tax system, which will in fact increase revenues to the Federal government and allocating those additional revenues entirely towards infrastructure. Whether it be transportation, or other forms.

So that’s kind of what’s going on with the Federal prospective. Again, it’s very similar to what you’re finding in states and local government, which is there’s a shortage of funding. That’s the common story everywhere around this country. We do have to be more fiscally responsible as a country at both the Federal and many local governments. But we also have to be more creative. What we have to do is find ways to engage more private capital against needs that have been traditionally funded by the Federal government. Because on a macro basis governments are strained and private companies are piling up cash.

So coming up with innovative ways of channeling private capital towards needs that have been traditionally dealt with by the public sector is really good, smart public policy across all government surfaces but of course transportation and infrastructure in particular. So I’ll pause there and conclude my remarks and turn it back over to our moderator.

Moderator: Thank you Congressman Delaney, I appreciate that very much.

Clip 03 — Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner   play clip

Moderator: Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, I believe you are next on the agenda. Your thoughts please.

Jan Gardner: Good morning everyone and thank you to Congressman Delaney for putting this roundtable together today. I think this is a good start and I really appreciate that it is the beginning of a partnership with our friends in Montgomery County as well, and our chamber of commerces.

Transportation is an area where we find common ground among everyone. Certainly all of our residents that we represent are concerned about the time they spend sitting in traffic congestion and our business community is equally concerned about making sure they can move goods and services and their employees so they can get the job done.

When we talk about I-270 in particular, we are asked about it all the time from our constituents who find themselves as one of those headlights you see on 270 when you’re coming North and they are heading South in the morning. We also hear about it from our business community. One of my goals and my visions as County Executive is to create a job hub in Frederick – particularly in and around the City of Frederick. We need to take advantage of our opportunities to make that happen.

And one of our greatest opportunities is within the life sciences, and the biotech industry, and of course we have the advantage of having the National Cancer Institute here and some of our other partners at Fort Detrick. We also have an interest in having our life science and biotech industries having a smooth path down 270 to our Federal agencies such as the National Institute of Health, even the FDA and NIST because they are partners that those industries need to support what they want to do.

Transportation becomes a big key to not just people but to creating jobs in our economic development here in Frederick County. The price tag for I-270 has been daunting and so we have approached it by looking at breakout projects. For instance one of our key priorities has been the interchange with I-270 and 85. And while that’s important to our business corridor there on 85, particularly south of that interchange, we really need to – and people want to see- that breakout project happen in the context of a larger project and a timeline for the whole thing to be done.

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We really have not had a committed timeframe to that. We really need to have that partnership with the Federal government. We rely on the Federal government to help bring the dollars to make this project happen along with our state partners and local government. We’re happy to be part of that solution, and I certainly support the idea of creating an infrastructure bank. I know there are multiple ways to do that. We appreciate the bipartisan support to get that done and to fund our Federal highway transportation budget over many years. I think it is an area where we can partner effectively with Montgomery County to get these improvements prioritized and move forward.

I’m sure that will be a priority for our state Secretary of Transportation whoever that may be in the next administration. I really think this is a great start. I look forward to working with you at the Federal level, our other delegation members, and our partners in Montgomery County to move this project forward.

Moderator: Thank you Frederick County Executive Gardner, we appreciate that.

Clip 04 — Delegate Aruna Miller play clip

Moderator: From Montgomery County, Delegate Aruna Miller, your remarks are next.

Aruna Miller: Thank you Whitney, and thank you everyone for being here; and Congressman Delaney, thank you for hosting this important discussion about transportation.

Now many people believe that transportation is just about road infrastructure improvement – it isn’t. It’s about investing in our people, it’s about investing in our economy, and the future economy of Maryland, and about our environment. As residents in the state of Maryland, people want to have choices. So it’s not just about building highways, we need to have transit, highways, pedestrian and bicycle facilities. We need to have a comprehensive look at how we move people in the state of Maryland.

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Of course the I-270 corridor is a huge economic hub for the state of Maryland, and particularly in Montgomery County-we have the life science center that is happening. That is expected to generate 100 thousand high paying jobs. It is expected to generate, I believe, over 13 billion dollars annually in goods and services and generate over 322 million dollars in state tax revenues, once the science center is built. How that’s going to be built is going to be a lot has to do with the I-270 technology corridor. You have the highway component to it, as well as the transit component. Of course the transit component being a quarter city transit ways. That’s going to be a huge role in how this whole economic hub is going to be fostered.

I know in the state of Maryland, it has been the Red Line as well as the Purple Line that’s been a higher priority. But honestly speaking I think the CCT is the number one priority for the state of Maryland, because it is going to generate the greatest amount of economic opportunities, as I just described. Now there has been a lot of talk about doing a Southern section of it – which will take it from the Shady Grove Red Line all the way up to Metropolitan grove. That is the first 9 miles of the CCT, and as I understand it has been funded so far for the planning, the environmental documentation completion, and the design, and right of way acquisition.

From there we need to be able to build it. And that again, is what is really going to generate a lot of economic opportunity for the state of Maryland. It’s not just for Montgomery County. Now the I-270 highway component part of it. This study started in 1994. Back then, Maryland had … less than … one million people have increase in population from 1994 to today. And where are we on that study? We haven’t made much progress what so ever. It’s paralysis by analysis. We need to do some action out there. We need to be able to provide the general-purpose lanes. Whether it’s ETL whether its HOV lanes, we need to have a highway component to I-270.

As Congressman Delaney stated earlier, you get on that roadway and it’s difficult to move at any time of the day. As population continues to grow in the state of Maryland, this is going to be an area that we need to be able to focus on. I look forward to working with the people from Frederick County, as well as Montgomery County, to be able to move people in the most efficient cost effective way. In the future. Again I thank you for being here, and allowing me to be a part of this. Thank you.

Moderator: Happy to have you participate today, Delegate Miller.

Clip 05 — Delegate Kelly Schulz play clip

Moderator: We’ll turn to hometown again, Frederick County delegate Kelly Schulz – your thoughts?

Kelly Schulz: Thank you. I want to thank everyone for being here today. Yes transportation is a huge issue, especially when it comes to economic development and the well being of the families in both of our areas. Frederick, Montgomery County, Washington County, the entire region. I was one of those commuters on I-270 when I worked in Washington D.C.. I planned 2 hours in the morning to get to work and 2 hours in the morning to come home from work. I took every different type of an option. I took the commuter bus, I drove if I could into the city. Most times I drove into Shady Grove and then did the rest of the route on the Red Line.

None of the options are great. I want to give credit to delegate-elect Carol Krimm for her proposal (which I’m assuming she’ll talk more about). This has been a passion of hers in regard to bus lanes along 270. I want to give credit to the Congressman – thank you very much for your very insightful policy initiative to bring transportation infrastructure funds back to the United States in general and how that will be able to impact us here – in both of our counties but also the entire region and I’m sure nationwide.

Yes, we do need to bring private capital into this, but obviously this is very much a government lead issue. This is something we have been talking about for a very long period of time. The traffic doesn’t start in Montgomery County. The traffic flows south – flows from where we are in Frederick County. County Executive Jan Gardner is absolutely correct. When we bring the businesses into our individual hometown areas then we will be able to decrease the level of the number of commuters on the roads. But something that I have also spoken a great deal about over the last 4 years sitting in the House of Delegates is the amount of money that goes to mass transit over the actual road construction and improvements across the state. And yes, we do have gas-tax dollars that go into the Transportation Trust Fund and here in Frederick County, I am an example of those several hundreds or thousands of people that travel on that road everyday. Where you don’t have a lot of mass transit options if you are not living in the hub of where you are. It does still take me, from my home in Frederick County 45 minutes to get to the nearest Metro station, which is Shady Grove. That’s 45, then plus another 45 minutes.

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The commuter buses- if you jump on the AMTRAK in Brunswick or Point of Rocks – the issue there, and we’ve talked about this for the last four years, is how are we going to increase the number of trains that come in and out of Frederick County. Right now there is an extreme limitation from the rail company from CSX as to the schedule that they’ll allow us to have of additional trains come in an doubt of the area. Brunswick is very well served and their passengers, but the problem with that is the return trips home. People are very not willing to ride those AMTRAK trains because if they need to get home in an emergency at any given time of day, they will not be offered the flexibility they would on the Metro or some other service areas around the more Metropolitan region.

That is something we have to take into consideration. Because if we want to get people off the road then we have to start concentrating on the people that are outside of those urban areas and how are we going to be able to effect their commutes to decrease that. If we can do that, if we can bring more ridership opportunities to the more rural parts of the state, I can guarantee you that traffic will decrease. But how are we going to do that and offer those services? I think this is what a very dynamic group of individuals sitting in this room will be able to afford in the future.

Thank you very much, and I look forward to discussion.


Transportation Roundtable with Congressman Delaney (part 2)

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