Transportation Roundtable with Congressman Delaney (part 3)

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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 12 — Delegate-elect David Vogt
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Rep. Delaney: David

David Vogt: Thank you, Congressman. And thank you for being here and the opportunity. We hit a lot of, there’s a couple of things that I kind of was thinking of going through is since we are mentioning Virginia, I was stationed at Quantico for a big portion of the time where they had been transforming that entire corridor coming up.

That 95 corridor, and they had arguably a bigger reason to go out and try to find it because let’s face it, Virginia is Virginia, they don’t have neighbors to their left and right on that corridor. They got to fix it or they are screwed – excuse my crassness there. Whereas we’ve got Pennsylvania, West Virginia, we’ve even got Virginia that are all involved and incremental in this whole 270 corridor. Even with the success Virginia has seen we still have part of Virginia that depend on whether or not we can find a solution to the route 270. I’ve got very close friends in Loudon County that come straight into the MARC station at Brunswick. Or come across and use 270 to come down, winding through all of the mountain back-roads to get to 266.

The question is how do we, one, use the private sector to bring them in- like Virginia did and was successful is a huge tool that we can use and that’s where the Chamber, and getting all the local Chambers involved will be very useful in the business side of things. But also, as this continues to grow, as these jobs come up if we did put 100 thousand jobs in Montgomery County, this is going to continue to become more than. Everyone said it’s a regional issue, it’s going to be a continually growing, exponentially regional issue that we should be sitting here with West Virginia delegation and local business leaders. We should be sitting here with Pennsylvania leadership in addition to all of this. And from your position at the Federal level, Congressman, you’ve got relationships that you …

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Rep. Delaney: Yeah, it’s a good point

Michael Hough: and you can help bring them to the table because at the end of the day if we don’t be as creative as we possibly can in every avenue, including bringing other states into this conversation then we are not going to be able to address it fast enough to get ahead of it. And we’re going to be 10 years down the road without solving it. And how do we do that – use your relationships in Congress-

Rep. Delaney: It’s a really good point, and I talk to all the members of Pennsylvania delegation all the time, including Bill Shuster who is Chairman of the Transportation Committee in the House. He commutes down 270 to work, to Congress. So it’s a really, really good point. Particularly for Pennsylvania, West Virginia as well, but it feels like there’s just an awful lot of Pennsylvania use along 270, so that’s a really good observation.

 



Clip 13 — Frederick County Chamber President Elizabeth Cromwell 
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Rep. Delaney: So maybe we’ll talk about how local businesses feel about this issue, and some insights they might have. Maybe Jim and Elizabeth can give us some perspective there.

Elizabeth Cromwell: Sure, Thank you. I’ll go ahead. Here at the Chamber, The Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, we have about a thousand members or so. I think this issue is significant to everyone but I hear it the most from our Major Employers Group. That’s about a dozen companies here in Frederick County, that represent somewhere between 22,000 and 23,000 employees in Frederick County. I believe this is a significant issue for them, it comes up at every meeting we have regardless of the agenda. We see things happen with some of those businesses, like for example, AstraZeneca coming in, adding 300 new jobs in Frederick County is fantastic. I also happen to know that they have a transportation issue and they;re having some issues getting employees in and out of the facility. That, I think, is a real vulnerability for business development and economic development in Frederick County. Because we of course want these businesses but if we don’t make it a fairly seamless operation for them to do business, I think we are at risk of losing some of the great hard work we’ve done getting them here. I don’t know if my counterparts in Gaithersburg-Germantown and Montgomery County Chambers have the same conversations, but that’s a top issue for us.

 



Clip 14 — DMS Incorporated CEO Jim Racheff 
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Jim Racheff: As a small business owner and resident, first of all I’d like to thank you, Congressman Delaney and everyone, for taking time out of your busy schedules to come here. To have so many folks from across the state and the region come and talk about this issue, it’s obviously a high priority from that standpoint. As a business and resident we are often on the receiving end of these policy decisions, so it’s great to see you all getting together and collaborating on this issue.

One thought, maybe this is more for closing remarks, Congressman, but not only coming here today, but having some sort of urgency in continuation of these conversations is important. You all have a tremendous amount on your plates and to be able to keep some focus on this is important. It’s definitely a quality of life issue and an economic development issue. For my employees and for the employees here both and in Montgomery County and in Frederick, and further out.

There’s also a third issue that I don’t think we’ve touched on that I would like to highlight as well. This is also a negative impact and an issue when it comes to public health, medical research, and national security.

When we look at the activities that go on in Montgomery County, the National Institutes of Health, FDA, Department of Energy, all the activities at Fort Detrick with USAMRD, NAID, the National Cancer Institute, and we look at the ability to bring people together to collaborate and to move forward on these important scientific issues… this issue with not being able to move scientists, researchers, and people up and down 270 in an effective and efficient way definitely has a negative impact on our ability to get together and work on an issue say such as Ebola, here recently. So it is not only a regional issue, there’s also a national component there.

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Clip 15 — Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber President Marilyn Balcombe
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Marilyn Balcombe: Hi, Marilyn Balcombe, Gaithersburg Germantown Chamber. I represent Gaithersburg Germantown area, so I-270 just runs right through our community. And so it is an economic development issue in terms of getting employees to their jobs and when we try to attract businesses.

It’s an issue for mobility. But it’s also an issue if something goes bad on I-270, which is a very common occurrence

[agreement]

It floods into the community. The entire community becomes a standstill because all the secondary roads become clogged. So that’s an issue that needs to happen. I agree with the component issue. When we look at fixing I-270, it’s such a huge project with such a huge price tag that the discussion just stops there. We need to look at what are the incremental changes that can be made, whether it’s busses on shoulder, or whether it’s looking at individual intersections and how those individual intersections can be helped.

We’re getting ready to hopefully open the interchange at Watkins Mill. That’s going to have a huge impact on our local economy and our local community. I think we need to bite off more of those incremental projects and do them. Without just getting stuck by the huge price tag.

Rep. Delaney: It’s a very good point. You can see it on your navigation system, when there’s one little thing … suddenly red goes everywhere.

[laughter & agreement]

Because you start saying how do I get around this, and there’s no way

 



Clip 16 — Montgomery County Chamber Vice-President Ilaya Hopkins 
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Rep. Delaney: Other comments… we’ve got the Montgomery County Chamber.

Ilaya Hopkins: Sure, Ilaya Hopkins with the Montgomery County Chamber and we are very fortunate to work closely with chambers in Montgomery County and are delighted to be able to reach across a geo-political boundary of a county line because of course business knows no boundaries. That’s why the regional transportation network and the multi modal all of the above approach as been something that our Chamber has advocated for, for many, many years with people like Ron Kirby and other visionaries.

We really applaud you Congressman Delaney, for the work that you’ve done at the Federal level with the vision of finding creative solutions to this seemingly intractable problem. One thing we haven’t really talked about in any detail today is the fact that Maryland now has legislation to pursue private-public partnerships, and so many of these studies have been done, and so many of these projects have been talked about. But whether they are incremental or the big visions of new ways to do things we need to be bold and go forward with that kind of approach. It is encouraging that the one transportation project we haven’t talked about, and we don’t need to spend too much time on it, but The Purple Line had 4 concessionaires compete for that public-private partnership. So there must be some marketplace advantage to be engaged in these kinds of projects. I think Maryland deserves to be at the front of the line to get more of that.

Rep. Delaney: Yeah. That’s great. There was a lot of excitement around that opportunity for those contractors for the Purple Line. So there was some competitiveness going on. You have to be careful with public-private partnerships because we’ve seen examples where local governments have cut some really bad deals for their taxpayers. Because private contractors can be very clever in the way they structure these things. And they do it day-in and day-out all around the world – a lot of these places – and often times this is the first time a local government has done one of these deals.

So you’re negotiating with a European company that’s done 500 public-private partnerships all around the world and so we have to make sure we’re prepared on these things. And  that we look back and say it’s a really good deal. But if done right, they can be incredibly beneficial and I think the situation in Virginia with what they’ve done with 495 is a great example. And you’re right, they accessed Federal money as part of that. Because bringing all these pots of money together is really the right answer. They used state money, they used a lot of private capital, but then they used this program in the Federal government which is a really successful program in which the Federal government makes low interest rate loans available to these projects if they have a fair amount of private capital in them. So it’s a way for the Federal government to prime the pump a little bit on even more public-private partnerships. And it’s worked out, that’s been a very very successful program.

 



Clip 17 — Comcast Representative and Frederick Alderman Josh Bokee
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Rep. Delaney: Josh, you have anything you want to add?

Josh Bokee: First, Congressman, I appreciate being here and thank you for organizing this. I think a lot as already been said. I would say that our local economies are really already a regional economy up and down the corridor. Our employees don’t think by jurisdictions they think I’m in Rockville tomorrow, I’m in Gaithersburg on Monday, and back in Frederick on Tuesday. But even beyond that our technologies are linked. Whether that’s fiber lines that are linking the counties already or companies like AstraZeneca that have their manufacturing in one location and research development in another. I think the opportunity has been said is being able to bring the businesses and elected officials together as a corridor and to begin looking at these even more so as a technology corridor challenges and opportunities. It’s exciting to see the opportunities of not just today but having this conversation go forward. I think that’s the power of all this.

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Clip 18 — Closing Comments
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Rep. Delaney: I’m going to ask Jan, and Aruna, and Kelly if they have some other concluding comments before we wrap up. I want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to have something to say. Kevin, I don’t know if you have anything?

Kevin: No

Rep. Delaney: You’re ok down there. [laughter] I just want to make sure. David?

David Vogt: I’d like to interject one more thing, Congressman. This is something I thought of, and I’ll put in a little personal twist to it. I left my time in the Marine Corp to come to Maryland. This is to the best of my knowledge 6 generations my family brought to Maryland with my kids, and that’s why I came here. I looked across the entire area to find a place I wanted to be and I decided to invest $360,000 in a home in Brunswick, Maryland. Because there’s a MARC line right there that was going to take me straight in and out.

I could have gone anywhere in the state of Maryland and been able to get to my job at the Pentagon that point. But that brings all levels of Maryland’s investment with everything from the City of Brunswick, all the way up to the tax revenues going to the state and in between.

Bringing, like I mentioned before, all levels of anybody involved in this- bringing them to the table. Brunswick the City is just as invested in my decision to go there as everybody else and there’s a reason for that. To put it on a grander scale of things, Josh was mentioning the technology element, is entrepreneurship is what built this country. Our public policy folks aren’t always, but many times we have entrepreneurs amongst us that have brilliant ideas that help them become successful. Just like we see in the business world. Yourself [Congressman] is a great example in the banking industry.

Finding ways to pull every level of ingenuity, for example businesses are using technology to reduce the international marketplace, so they are saving millions, if not billions, of dollars annually just because technology has made the world so small. Finding ways to incentivize, maybe increasing the telecommuting may be a smaller way to also take certain days of the week, certain traffic, bringing all of that ingenuity could really give us. Right now it’s one piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Before you know it you’ve got an entire idea and infrastructure that we can help put behind you Congressman and really make an impact.

Jim Racheff: A way to incentivize that, going back to the public private partnerships you go to that and you go to a tolling method you can incentivize off peak hour commuting. Because you simply, the great thing about them is you can control the traffic flow by increasing or decreasing the price. That’s a good way to. I know a lot of areas incentivize off-peak hours by giving you a lower rate if you commute on off-peak hours.

Karen Lewis Young: I want to just thank you for the bill you brought forward with your innovative financing tool, I can’t say enough about how important that is. I think we all know with a 4 trillion dollar challenge, we just can’t finance projects the way we did in the past. It’s impossible, and we need that kind of innovation, and your example – because I’m familiar with your financial experience in the private sector – bringing that knowledge and innovation forward and coupling it with good public policy is so important for how we move forward in this country. Europe’s doing it, our time has come, and thank you for your leadership in that.

Rep. Delaney: Thank you Karen, in the comments today, are reflective of this notion that there’s not a single tool in the toolkit that solves these problems, and in many ways these are really good problems to have. Right? David talked about how he made the decision to be back in Maryland for family reasons but also because he had a job in the area. There’s a lot of people around the table, people like Jim who are creating jobs and employing people. If you look long-term at a lot of the challenges the country has, and even the states have, having a growing population makes managing those challenges much easier. So the fact that there is pressure on our transportation and infrastructure because of population growth, we should actually view that as a blessing. Because the alternative is much worse. Much much worse.

Having a lot of empty – you go to parts, and I hate to use a great American city as an example, but you go to parts of Detroit and you go on the highway at 5 at night and there’s no one on the road. And there’s a problem with that too. So this in many ways is a blessing that we are dealing with here in Maryland. And we have our issues and we’ll work through them. Because things are going to change in our local economy here. The Federal government’s going to become a much smaller component over time of our economy. We’re going to have to diversify it to think more about some of these solutions.

We’re hearing, even from this roundtable, that we’ve got to meld all these things together. We need private capital, we need government capital, and we need different modes of transportation. We need to stop having battles between public transportation and surface transportation. It’s pretty obvious for a lot of people which one they should do. Right? It’s not like they are competing that much, if you think about it. That’s the way I think about it. If you live near the Metro in Bethesda and you work downtown, you really not thinking about that decision. You’re taking the Metro. But if you live 40 minutes from the Metro, you’re driving full stop.

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But before I wrap up, Jan, Aruna or Kelly, do you have any comment you want to make or any reflections?

Kelly Schulz: Thank you very much, it’s been lovely, and it’s really nice to hear a lot of the input from colleagues across many segments, public, private, and the whole thing. I may of may not be spending any time in the legislature this year but that will be determined. I’m hoping that over the course of the next 4 years with some new leadership of those folks sitting around the table here today, there will be a couple of policy issues that will be looked at and determined.

Obviously, I have been supported of delegate-elect’s bus on shoulders and I think that is going to be a valid initiative that is going to be looked at by the General Assembly this year. I would also hope that, not that there would be a battle of competing interests between the motoring public and the mass transit, but Senator Manno, I would really hope that there would be some look into how we were going to make an equitable revenue stream out of all sources of transportation. We all had the gas tax that was increased a couple of years ago. Mass transit had a minor increase into that. That is obviously a high expenditure, high operational cost for what happens with what moneys come out of that transportation trust fund. And I think that those are issues that we can very seriously look at this year to see, not how we can compete, but how we can make and equitable distribution so that we can look at all areas of the state and look at transportation as effected. I look forward to listening further over the course of the next several years as to how the conversation moves forward.

Rep. Delaney: Great. Great. Jan or Aruna, anything?

Jan Gardner: I have a couple of comments. First I do think it’s true that traffic can be a reflection of economic prosperity and that that is a part of the equation. But I do think with the I-270 corridor in particular it’s such a big project and we’ve looked at that big price tag and we see that there’s a plan out there to try to get the project done by 2030 but I’m not sure that everybody has a lot of faith in the plan because the funding side of it isn’t there. I do think as part of next steps that we do need to look at what kind of outcomes we can achieve over 10, 20, 30, 40, even 50 years and then look at how we break out those projects to move that forward. Because, like Montgomery County, we have had breakout projects to support our BRAC plan and to support our economic development corridors, and those have been good and they will continue to be good. But we are not making them in the context of the larger project necessarily. I think having that long-term strategic plan and then fitting all these funding solutions and ideas into how to get it done is really what we need to do next.

Rep. Delaney: Great, thank you Jan.

Aruna Miller: I also want to thank you, Congressman Delaney for hosting the event this morning, and with all the people in the room today there have been some wonderful suggestions across the board. Whether it’s the mobility choices we make, the funding choices, how to increase economic development in the state of Maryland and I think David you brought up a good point. Talking about perhaps the low-lying fruit that we need to take a look at like telework. I think that’s a huge component that could serve the area quite well. We have so much technology out here. With cellphones and smart phones and fax machines, and everything else we should be able to alleviate some of the traffic congestion.

By having such things as telework. So I think that was a really good point that you make. And to your point as well, Marilyn that there are things we can do incrementally. Intersection spot improvements can go a long way to addressing traffic congestion. Again these are smaller projects, low-lying fruit that we can grab to improve traffic congestion. But as the big picture goes, all the thoughts that everyone shared here today, I think it’s very important but talking about it is one thing bringing action to it is another thing. And I think in the general assembly as I represent my district and the state of Maryland those are things that I’m going to work on to bring about action. And I look forward to working with every one of you on those initiative as well.

Rep. Delaney: Great, thank you Aruna. I like to end meetings on time, and start them on time. We’ve got about one minute left of this meeting so I’ll wrap up in a minute.

What we’re going to try to do as a reflection of all the generosity you’ve shown to us with your time here today, and these really good ideas. Is we’re going to come up with a little summary of some of things we talked about. Because I think there are a few unassailable things that were clearly agreed to around this table- not agreed to- but everyone shared a common view of. Which is A) how important this is to the region and to Maryland etc. So we’ll come up with some framing language around that. And then embracing more innovation and more creativity in solving these problems, I think is really important. Getting a sense of urgency behind some of these solutions. So we stop studying some of these things and start doing some things. I think is a really good idea. Embracing, trying to meld more private capital into some of these solutions, I think that is also somewhat unassailable among the group. And we’ll come up with a common set of principles from this group, make sure everyone is ok with it and then we’ll say these are the kind of things we talked about. So we’ll do that.

And to me this was a really productive conversation and we do need some sense of urgency in solving these problems. Whether they are little things or big things, doing nothing. The cost of doing nothing is not nothing. Right? And I think that’s what we’ve dealt with on some of these problems. We should start notching some progress and finding some common ground where there is and making some progress. So we’ll do that – and I want to wish everyone a Happy Holidays, and may God bless you and your families this holiday season and we really appreciate the time.

Aruna Miller: One more thing, Congressman, do you think we could continue to meet in the General Assembly Session.

Rep. Delaney: Great idea.

Aruna Miller: We have a lot of delegates and senators here and I know that we can continue the conversation in Annapolis and have like and I-270 workgroup and meet regularly and bring in as many people as we can. And Congressman if you could send somebody from your office.

Rep. Delaney: Yeah, or I’m happy to come

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