MDOT shares FY23 Consolidated Transportation Program with Worcester Co. officials
SNOW HILL, Md. – Tuesday, members of the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) stopped in Worcester County to highlight priorities for Fiscal Year 2023.
“It’s really great to hear the feedback from our county leaders and our statewide elected officials about the transportation plan put forward. We can get feedback about priorities important to them,” said Chrissy Nizer, MVA Administrator.
As MDOT MVA officials teased upcoming projects, they also reflected on work recently completed. That includes improving Routes 113 and 404. “That was probably one of the top priorities for this region. We’ve also done a lot on Route 113, replacing the bridges and updating those areas,” said MDOT Secretary Jim Ports.
Ports says improving safety on those highly relied upon roadways was key to improving local infrastructure. He adds that the work on fixing damaged and old roads and bridges will only continue.
State Senator Mary Beth Carozza says now that those projects are complete, MDOT and local leaders are looking elsewhere.
“Now that that’s completed, here in Worcester County, we have to shift to our other priorities,” said Sen. Carozza. “We’ll be focusing on Route 90, the Route 90 bridge. That is clearly a safety issue, with evacuation issues, getting in an out, as well as connecting 589 as Ocean Pines and the surrounding area continues to grow.”
MDOT is now in the planning stages of rehabilitating Route 90 and its interchange with Route 589. “It’s kind of preliminary planning. But, just this last summer, Governor Hogan announced fully funded planning. So, that gets us beyond just preliminary planning to design,” said MDOT State Highway Administration (SHA) Administrator Tim Smith.
It’s a project that Worcester County Commissioners Joshua Nordstrom and Chip Bertino told MDOT they’ve been waiting on for years. While the pair expressed disappointment that the work isn’t moving faster, MDOT officials say they are working as quickly as possible.
Smith echoed local leaders’ concerns over safety on those roads. “It might be safety. There might be some capacity needs. I know there’s emergency response and emergency evacuation needs, as well. So, it’s kind of just gathering all those needs, putting them together, and coming up with a solution,” he said.
Some crucial issues also include reviving pavement, bridges, drainage systems, lighting, and traffic signals, says Smith. MDOT is also focusing on finding ways to make travel routes safe for both motorists and pedestrians.
“When we’re trying to get people that are pedestrians and bicyclists from point A to point B, we have to balance that with our motorists who are going from point A to point B, as well,” said Smith. “In some cases, that’s not necessarily always adding road width. It’s sometimes using the existing footprint, and using technology, and other AI and sensors that better use the existing footprint to move people efficiently.”
The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is also getting involved in local improvements. MTA Office of Local Transit Support Director Travis Johnston teased support for Shore Transit, which serves Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties.
“In Fiscal Year 2023, we’ll be providing a little over $4 million for Shore Transit operations,” said Johnston.
Johnston adds that the MTA is also providing $3 million in financial support for the Town of Ocean City’s transit operation. “It’s capital funding to replace busses. It’s also preventative maintenance funding to keep the busses in good working order, as well as operating funding, which pays for salaries, gas, things of that nature,” he said.
Part of the planned improvements will come from the Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA). They’re currently working on rehabilitating the runway at Ocean City Municipal Airport. The project will cost about $4 million, says Director of the MAA Office of Regional Aviation Assistance, Ashish Solanki.
“It’s a 30 plus year old pavement. At its age, it’s worn down, crumbling, and it’s basically time for a true lift, and a true new pavement,” said Solanki. “That’s what this effort is right now. We’re basically going to pick up the old pavement, and put down a brand new pavement. We hope to get another 30 plus years out of it.”
Solanki says the Federal Aviation Administration is providing about $3.2 million for the project, while MAA is giving $173,000 and the Town of Ocean City is covering the rest. He says the improvements are badly needed, as the airport becomes busier.
“At Ocean City Municipal, there’s a great demand flying into and out of the airport. So, we want to make sure that operation remains safe and available to all of our customers,” said Solanki.
MDOT officials are also encouraging Marylanders to keep the roads as litter-free as possible. One way to do that, says Ports, is handing out canvas bags designed to strap onto a car headrest and collect trash. The bags don two newly-created super heroes to get the kids in on the plan.
“We spend a lot of money – about $7 million a year – picking up litter. What we’ve done is create two superheroes, Recycle Ruby and Can It Clay. Quite frankly, the idea with that in marketing is we’re trying to get kids to shame their parents into not throwing trash out the window,” said Ports. “It’s literally a waste of money for us to pick up this trash. Plus, it’s also very dangerous for our SHA crews along the highways to pick up trash. So, please do what you can.”
Another effort Nizer says Marylanders can look forward to is the expansion of birth certificate printing services. MDOT recently announced it will expand which MVA locations can issue birth certificates to Maryland-born customers. The Salisbury MVA branch is now offering the service.
Nizer says the idea is to help them fulfill the proof of identity requirement in order to receive a REAL ID. The deadline to obtain on is in May of 2023.
“If you don’t have that identity document, we’re able to issue, by an MVA agent, your birth certificate, if you were born in Maryland, obviously. Then you’d move on and another agent will serve you. You’ll be able to get that ID card or Real ID with a star on it,” said Nizer.
The most recent version of MDOT’s Consolidated Transportation Program covers Fiscal Years 2023-2028. To read the full draft report, click here.