Members of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland heard about state and local transportation initiatives from Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn at the Council’s annual meeting and dinner in Annapolis on January 25, 2018. Governor Larry Hogan also dropped by for the Council’s pre-meeting social reception.
Rahn opened his remarks by discussing his agricultural experiences on his wife’s family cattle ranch in New Mexico. He then focused on statewide transportation issues.
“Statewide, we are attempting to address congestion that we know within the state is impacting people’s quality of life,” Rahn stated, “We have a problem getting around.” Rahn noted that congestion limited the attractiveness to business and offered some of the projects the Department of Transportation was working on to address the problem, including:
- Entering into public-private partnerships to create express toll lanes;
- Enhancing the 695 and 495 beltways and adjacent feeder roads; and
- Creating a “smart” linked traffic signal system to better manage traffic through heavily traveled corridors.
Rahn noted that each “smart” intersection would cost around $1 million, far less than traditional traffic flow improvements like overpasses. Rahn stated Indian Head Highway will be one of the first areas to be upgraded with the new technology.
Rahn also stressed the importance of making safety improvements statewide. He explained the 4 “e’s” of highway safety: (1) engineering; (2) education; (3) enforcement; and (4) emergency medical services.
Rahn also discussed the MDOT’s legislative package, which includes: (1) increased penalties for drunk drivers; (2) altering identification standards for driver license applications and renewals; (3) issuance of permanent rather than annual disability placards; and (4) aligning Maryland law with federal law regarding auto transporters.
Finally, Rahn discussed to key Southern Maryland transportation initiatives: the Harry Nice Bridge (which connects Maryland and Virginia) and the Thomas Johnson Bridge (which connects Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties). Rahn stated that the State was on track to enter the design/build phase for a new Nice Bridge in late 2018. Rahn noted the significant cooperation from Virginia, including Virginia’s agreement to provide right of ways and pay for connections on the Virginia side of the bridge. Rahn believed a draft design would be selected in early 2019, with construction beginning in 2020 and the new bridge being open to traffic in 2023. Regarding the Thomas Johnson Bridge, Rahn stated that a $1 million economic value study will begin later this year to determine how to best address the issue.