By Allison Bazzle
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz recently submitted a list of transportation priorities for consideration by the Maryland Department of Transportation.
Kamenetz said he wants a plan that will improve the Maryland Transit Administration network, continue funding for an interchange in Owings Mills and begin funding to infrastructure improvements on Sparrows Point Terminal.
“The Baltimore metropolitan region is now the fifth most congested in the country, and it is inhibiting the growth of our local economy,” Kamenetz said in his recent press release.
Kamenetz said that an improved MTA transit system is needed to “attract new riders.” He wants to see mobile applications created that will supply riders with arrival times, and he has proposed Wi-Fi onboard transit systems.
An additional priority for the MTA transit system is to create a link that starts in Woodlawn and extends to a Lexington Market transit hub where it would connect to preexisting metro systems. The idea is that this would increase transit accessibility to a large volume of commuters.
Woodlawn is an easy access point for Interstates 695 and 70, and it has a park and ride lot. In addition, Woodlawn is home to about 10,000 employees of the FBI, Social Security Administration, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Kamenetz said.
David Marks, the Baltimore County councilman for the Fifth District, said in an interview that he and Kamenetz have had numerous conversations about the need for traffic improvements in Towson.
“I believe the state needs to fund a pilot program for the Towson Circulator, a free shuttle that can improve mobility in downtown Towson,” Marks said.
Funding of the interchange on the Northeast Expressway, Interstate 795, at Dolfield Boulevard in Owings Mills is also a top priority under the executive’s proposal.
The interchange is expected to relieve traffic congestion that results from the Metro Center and new shopping center called “Foundry Row” that will soon include a Wegmens Supermarket.
According to Emery Hines, Baltimore County’s main transportation planner at the Department of Public Works, this is not the first year that the Northeast Expressway interchange has been included in the executive’s priority letter to the state.
Hines said that the county has been asking for this construction in priority letters since the 1990s.
“All counties submit priority letters, it doesn’t mean anything will happen anytime soon,” Hines said. “A priority letter is like asking Santa to give you stuff.”
The interchange proposal recently made it onto the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Transportation Program, with an anticipated completion date of 2018. The CTP is Maryland’s six-year capital budget for transportation programs.
Another top priority is the funding of infrastructure improvements to Sparrows Point Terminal. The funding is needed to construct an interchange to I-695 and Exit 44.
The interchange would allow trucks to avoid the toll plaza while also reducing traffic congestion the trucks cause for residential communities on Holabird and Dundalk avenues.
Kamenetz presented the priorities to the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Secretary Pete Rahn on Oct. 29h. Every year the MODT visits all Maryland counties to hear their priorities. This is part of their Consolidated Transportation Program Tour.
Erin Henson, director of public affairs at the Maryland Department of Transportation, said that the department works with counties to move their priorities forward.
“As we fund projects they come off the priority letters, and new ones come on,” Henson said.
As for a certain budget in mind for Kamenetz’s priorities, Hines says that there is none.
“There is no added budget or budget in mind by the county executive,” Hines said. “The priorities ask the state to consider adding the projects to the budget. They will read the priorities and do a study to see how much each priority would cost.”
The priorities Kamenetz presented will be considered in the Consolidated Transportation Program for 2016-2021. If included, the priorities in the CTP would be presented to the state legislature.