Transportation Roundtable with Congressman Delaney (part 2)

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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 06 — Congressman John Delaney play clip

Moderator: Congressman Delaney, this is kind of your party so I’ll let you lead the discussion at this point and open it up for comments, questions.

Rep. Delaney: Thank you, and I do want to turn it over to people in the audience. Maybe we’ll tee up our two state senators first to make some comments. I’ll just frame some things that I think would be interesting to talk about while you two gather your thoughts. Which is, if we were to inventory some of the ideas just discussed in terms of things we should be doing for 270, they fall into a couple categories. One, Aruna talked about the quarter city transit project which I think – having looked at the Purple Line, the Red Line, and the CCT project- by any measure if you were making this decision – again this is just my opinion- if you were making this decision with a ruthless bottom line orientation you would say that is the best investment for the state to make. In terms of the impact it has on long-term economic development. I’m a big believer in that project. Again that’s my opinion, other people may have different opinions.

Second thing, and that would help obviously 270. The second thing is widening 270. I’ve rarely seen a highway system that goes from 6, 7 or almost 8 lanes down to 2 in a shorter period of time as 270 does. Definitionally, it is a huge bottleneck. I think delegate-elect Krimm is right. I’m a huge supporter and believer, that we should have these dedicated bus, commuting lanes. Every other city that I’ve been too – New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco – they all have this stuff.

Delaney B2The fact that we don’t have this. Delegate Schulz talked about her trip down to the Shady Grove Metro stop and I spent a lot of time at the Shady Grove Metro stop – and you see people doing that and having the kind of ride that she talked about. It would be really great if they could get on a dedicated, not a high speed- it will go as fast as buses normally do- but it would go faster than the average vehicle on 270 because it will be dedicated. There won’t be traffic. I think all three of those ideas should be done if we want to improve 270 but why don’t we turn it over to our State Senators to get some views. Roger you want to start us off there.

Clip 07 — State Senator Roger Manno play clip

Roger Manno: Thank you Congressman, well it’s good to be up here in Frederick. First of all, thank you for your leadership and commitment to infrastructure in congress. It’s greatly needed. You’re legislation and solutions are reasonable, they are practical, and the fact that they have bipartisan support in the House of Representatives speaks to just how feasible they are. So we appreciate that.Our two counties are facing the same challenges. And that is getting people, goods and services, back and forth, East West, North South. What you just mentioned Congressman about the bottleneck on I-270 – I face a mini version of that right around the corner from my house in Silver Spring. That’s Norbeck Road, which runs from 4 lanes to 2 lanes back to 4 lanes. It’s the one point on that road where traffic just stops. I live in a mini version of what we are facing in Northern Montgomery County and Southern Frederick on 270 and that’s a real challenge.

Obviously, just to give you a little perspective on where we are on the budget in terms of the state’s share of this and the county’s share of this, our budgets are tough right now. They are very constrained. How we move forward, as someone on the Senate Budget Committee, someone who lives in this world is going to be very challenging. It’s going to require innovative solutions in terms of funding and policy choices and priorities from both sides of the aisle.

So the four projects: the I-270, US15 multi-modal study, the I-270 interchange construction at Watkins Mill, CCT, the bus shoulder study, these are projects that are in the pipeline but they are expensive.

I chair a committee called the Spending Affordability Committee in the Senate and the House. We took some actions yesterday to reel in back reality. Some of our bonding projections, our capital debt projections, that we don’t bust our statutory debt limit. Also with regard to operational funding in the state of Maryland.

Going forward, we have a Governor-elect who has a commitment to transportation. We may have some differences with Delegate Schulz or our new Secretary of Labor. We have some differences as to whether those priorities are for mass transit or for roads, but I think we’ll be able to put together the coalition to get at least Northern Montgomery County and Southern Frederick back on track going forward.

Clip 08 — State Senator Ron Young play clip

Rep. Delaney: Senator Young

Ron Young: Again, thank you for calling this and I love the proposal you put forward, I hope we can find a way to adopt something similar to bring it into Maryland if we get it Federally. I guess I always get in trouble in these things, I think all we’re dealing with and we’re continue dealing with unless we change the way we do things is a patchwork of trying to solve past mistakes.

I pushed, matter of fact when I was deputy and acting Secretary of Planning,, Department of Transportation complained to the government about me. I feel that we need a long-term transportation plan, that we’ve never had one in this state. We should be looking to be a hundred years out into terms of our growth, where we want it to occur and own we spend our state and Federal funds in Maryland. We have not done that and we are still not doing that. We’re talking about the rainbow lines, all the color lines that are in the Washington Metro area. In the mid 1980s I led an effort to bring Montgomery County representatives up here with Frederick County and Frederick City, and we’ve planned how we could bring Metro to downtown Frederick. And we started trying to reserve the right of way so we could run it along 355. Montgomery County, and I don’t know if they still have, started securing and reserving some of that land. When they developed Urbana, they held right of ways through Urbana to get it to Frederick. I guess I call it our no line because we can’t even get Department of Transportation to put it into their plans. They have not even considered it.

I think it’s great – again they have this big area in Montgomery County creating more jobs, but while that’s good on one hand it’s going to worsen the situation here because we are going to have more people going down the corridor to work there. You can already see what’s happened between here and Hagerstown with people coming in from there to backfill the jobs in Frederick– where Frederick people are going to Montgomery County. We need to, and this was a task I had under the Governor year ago, we need to plan our roads differently. We need to plan it where we can keep more people at home working and not on the road. And we aren’t doing that well either.

When I was Mayor, I stopped going to the Department of Economic Development when I had a lead on a business because they would take it to Montgomery and Baltimore City, so I stopped calling. Because I wanted to bring jobs here. I heard, I think, this governor say, and I hope he’s going to do it, we’re going to make more effort on supporting and growing and promoting new businesses in Maryland rather than going to Japan and Germany and trying to bring the big companies in. We need to grow the businesses here in our locals like Frederick and Cumberland so those people aren’t going down the road.

Widening 270 is creates induced traffic, it’s going to fill right back up as soon as we widen it but we’ve reached the point we have to do it. [agreement from audience member]. I think if we could get another lane each way and a designated for busses and cars with at least 3 people in it would be great. But in the meantime another area our department has failed the Department of Transportation, we need to come up with separate funding streams and stop the battle. We need to have a stream of funding for roads and a stream of funding for rail systems, and we shouldn’t be competing for those funds for the same dollars.

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I think there are things we need to do. We need the long-range plan. We need separate funding streams, and we need to address trying to get the funding. I think the first immediate step is try to widen 270 and to reserve other right of ways. I just think unless we put pressure on somehow we’re just going to keep responding to growth instead of leading growth. I think it’s been a terrible mistake.

I’ll stop with that – I’ve got a whole list of things. [laughter]

Rep. Delaney: Well thank you, Senator Young for that, and maybe just tying into that, if Delegate-elect Krimm you want to expand a little bit on, because you had such a leadership role as delegate Schulz indicated on proposing dedicated bus commuter lanes, just tease out for us what your thoughts are there and what you think has to happen to make that a reality.

Clip 09 — Delegate-elect Carol Krimm play clip

Carol Krimm: Thanks for being here Congressman, though not your first time here. As outgoing President of the Frederick Area Committee for transportation you generously gave your time to come up here and discuss with us issues related to transportation issues in the County as well as on I-270. Thank you for continuing that conversation.

I want to pick up on something that Senator Young said, and also something that Senator Manno said, we can’t have the modal wars as we talk about highways and mass transit… everything has to work together. We have to fund everything. Because if we just choose to fund highways we’ll never have enough to fund highways and to take care of all the capacity that we need. WE need to have mass transit in combination with highways. I don’t know if any of us here remember Ron Kirby, who was the former director of the Transportation Planning Board at the Washington Council governments.

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He was a wonderful person, a visionary, and he often said that. He said we cannot have the modal wars, we must fund everything and find a way to do it. Getting back to what you’ve asked me about, the commuter bus.

Although a dedicated lane would be wonderful, in the short term, what we have advocated here is the bus on shoulders concept where when you reach a traffic choke point, the commuter bus would jump over onto the shoulder to bi-pass that choke point which gives the commuter reliability and predictability. It’s been very successful in other states, some state have seen a 400 percent ridership increase on the commuter bus. The more people we get out of their cars into the commuter bus the better off our easing of the congestion is. We’ve had discussions with the Maryland Department of Public Transportation on this concept. Initially they weren’t too excited about it but they’ve come almost like 180 degrees, since we’ve had the initial.

Audience: What is the cost?

Carol Krimm: The cost is going to depend on, initially we could do like a pilot, which the cost would be low. If it is determined that it is a positive program then we would have to put some money into increasing the depth on the shoulders and maybe even widen the shoulders. There would have to be some training money for the drivers, and of course some signage. Communicating that to the traveling public. All of this has been done in other states, it’s not something we have to start from scratch. We can model it.

Rep. Delaney: Relative to some of these other transportation solutions, it’s pretty darn modest.

Carol Krimm: It’s very modest

Rep. Delaney: Does anyone, I’m just interested and then I’m actually going to pivot to some of the new members coming into public service at the state level – Senator-elect and our two delegate-elects. Does anyone think this is a bad idea? I haven’t heard anyone – when you think about ‘bang for your buck’ I don’t know what you project the ridership to be in a program like this once it’s implemented.

Carol Krimm: Our current commuter bus is very popular.

Rep. Delaney: Yeah

Carol Krimm: We can’t keep enough commuter buses going, because every time we put a new one on it fills up. I think if we can make it even better service it would just increase the ridership.

Clip 10 — Delegate-elect Karen Lewis Young play clip

Rep. Delaney: We’ll go to our Senator and Delegate elects, I think Karen you had your hand up so we’ll start with you and then maybe Michael and David.

Karen Lewis Young: One general comment and then one specific comment. First of all thank you for convening this regional approach to transportation because transportation is a regional issue. I know a number of us, in particular most recently, delegate-elect Krimm and I served with the Washington Council of governments, which has transportation as a priority issue.

There is a plan to expand I-270 by the year 2030 and funding has always been the problem in terms of making it sooner rather than later. I appreciate as everybody as advocated by a multi modal approach and depending upon what the timeline is that could adjust which modal is most appropriate. But while we’re taking a regional approach, I also want to advocate for a holistic approach. We’ve touched on the alignment between economic development and transportation. We’ve also touched upon the importance of aligning land use policy with transportation. I also want to advocate for the alignment of the environmental with our transportation strategy.

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Our region does not have an acceptable air quality performance and it’s worse sometimes than others. As we move forward and try to attain EPA standards be very aligned with transportation strategy and how it translates not only into what’s most appropriate and affordable but how does it impact our quality of life, which includes air quality.

With respect to the bus on shoulders project, I was very involved with WashCob at the time this conversation reached paramount discussion. The only two concerns I ever heard was one are the shoulders built sound enough to accommodate that, and how would that use accommodate emergency vehicles. Would that get in the way of emergency vehicles. Since I had a more general perspective of the issue.

Rep. Delaney: Those are good points and those feel like under the category of things you can work though as opposed to gating issues. If the shoulders start deteriorating then we’ve got to fix the shoulders but you don’t really know until you try it in some ways – you can analyze it like crazy.

Clip 11 — State Senator-elect Michael Hough play clip

Rep. Delaney: Maybe go to Michael and David and then I’d like to come back and get some business perspective. Maybe Jim and then Elizabeth’s two cents. Go to Michael and David your perspective, thanks for joining us, both of you.

Michael Hough: Thanks for having us here, appreciate it. It is a regional issue. Actually I’m a product of the region, I grew up in Montgomery Village and went to high school there. I saw the light and moved to Frederick County

[laughter]

I do actually now commute 3 days a week down to downtown DC, which I know Congressman I saw you there one day outside of Shady Grove and we talked briefly. So I’ve done everything- I’ve used the MARC, I’ve gone down 270, and I’ve taken the Metro, all of them. For the last four years I represented Southern Frederick County and so obviously now I have parts of the South, parts of the North. 270 is obviously the big issue. The commuter bus is great, I’ve used that too, but that’s more of a band aide.

Rep. Delaney: Right

Michael Hough: When I look at what a great model that’s going on every time I drive down to Virginia now I look at 495 from 66, and Virginia using HOV lanes and private investment to solve all theses issues, they were in the same boat that we’re in. They looked at 495, they didn’t have anywhere near the money needed to expand it, so they got a great deal where they had a private investor come in and pay for most of that infrastructure. I think that could be a great model here.

Rep. Delaney: And no free lanes were lost

Michael Hough: Yeah.

Rep. Delaney: Which is an important point.

Michael Hough: We were talking, what the private companies built, now there was some state money invested, there was some Federal money, but the bulk of that money came from private investors. Now obviously they have to lease it – there’s a long concession period to lease it back for – but when I look at 270, something like that strikes me as an ideal solution. Because unless the Federal government and the state of Maryland came up with a lot of money for this – and the project for this, the more we put it off the more expensive it gets. I think that would be something to look at as a long-term solution. Doing the private investment and the HOV lanes, because let’s face it it’s a good deal when you can have a private company come in and pay for the bulk of it.

Rep. Delaney: Good, I agree. And the Virginia example, it’s funny when people are alluding to the region and they are traveling around they’ll say ‘what happened when I got into Maryland?’

[laughter]

Rep. Delaney: Well… you know. We haven’t fully embraced these. It’s true, they didn’t lose any lanes, they – I don’t know if they gained any lanes- but they definitely didn’t lose any lanes. They added lanes. The lanes they added were all toll, which is people’s individual decision if they want to do that. But everyone wins right? If people want to pay the toll they get their high speed, but even the people using the public, the no charge public transportation lanes they benefit because we are draining traffic off. We had a deal with several years of if you land at Dulles airport at night suddenly the beltway was closed because they were building it, and that was a nightmare. Good comments there, Michael

Transportation Roundtable with Congressman Delaney (part 1)

Transportation Roundtable with Congressman Delaney (part 3)

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