PRINCESS ANNE — Maryland Deputy Transportation Secretary Sean Powell and other MDOT officials met Nov. 1 with Somerset County officials to discuss the state’s draft Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) through fiscal year 2028.
The draft CTP is nearly $2.2 billion more than the final CTP through FY27 presented last year and utilizes not only increased state corporate income taxes but $1.3 billion in additional federal formula funds from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed by Congress last fall.
This record $19.9 billion over six years calls for the replacement and repair of aging infrastructure as well as the preservation and expansion of the state’s transportation network.
Locally, Mr. Powell said he knew completing the rail-trail that runs parallel to Md. Rt. 413 “has been a priority” for Somerset County and it was now possible with $20.714 million earmarked to complete the second phase from Marion to Westover.
He said it will extend the existing safe alternative for cyclists and pedestrians and increase tourism and economic development opportunities in the county.
The $4.95 million trail between Marion and Crisfield was mostly complete by the spring of 2020 just as the coronavirus pandemic hit. It wasn’t long, however, that residents suffering through lockdowns and social distancing started walking and cycling on this outdoor venue which wasn’t officially dedicated until July 2021 as the Terrapin Run Trail.
“From that first four, this gets you the remaining seven or eight miles all the way to Westover,” said Tim Smith, administrator for the State Highway Administration.
The IIJA “enabled us to fund the remaining part.”
Mr. Smith also noted that SHA recently wrapped up resurfacing projects on Crisfield Highway from the Big Annemessex bridge on 413 to U.S. 13; on Hytche Boulevard from Somerset Avenue to UMES in Princess Anne; and along Fairmount Road near Westover.
Resurfacing also included two locations on northbound US 13: Costen Road to Camp Road, and C.N. Baughan Road to north of MD 822.
Also granted recently was $19,000 to Somerset County agencies to address highway safety, said MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, plus there was $750 to support easements for obstruction removal at the Crisfield-Somerset County Airport, said MAA Regional Aviation Assistance Director Ashish Solanki.
Delegate Mary Beth Carozza said she was encouraged that there was additional capital support of $700,000 for new hangers at the airport, and it was something Mayor Darlene Taylor also endorsed, calling it an “economic driver” for Crisfield.
The airport “is a priority,” especially with UMES being a partner in its operation, Del. Carozza said.
In support of transit, MTA Local Transit Support Director Travis Johnston said that over the past three years, MTA has reduced a backlog of projects needed to support the system’s state of good repair and to benefit Somerset County more than $4.1 million in operating and capital grants have been awarded to the Tri-County Council of the Lower Eastern Shore to support Shore Transit.
Commissioner Randy Laird and Vice President Charles Laird urged SHA to work on reducing tidal flooding over Hall Highway which leads to the TidalHealth McCready Pavilion, and later it was said that tide gates will be looked into as a first step.
Access to TidalHealth “is a major issue for our community,” said Mayor Taylor, and anything that can be improved there “helps us.”
The flooding “is worse than ever,” said Randy Laird, with employees sometimes parking on higher ground to be picked up. As for the county road as an alternative, Charles Laird said a ditch cleanout would be a start and Roads Director Woody Barnes said he will look into raising a dip in the road similar to what was done at some bridge approaches that would otherwise be covered with water during high tide.
Another location SHA was asked to work on was the railroad crossing on Perry Road.
Deputy Secretary Powell said the draft CTP raises Highway User Revenue to the county by 33% incrementally into FY27 as negotiated with the General Assembly. While that’s significant the county and both municipalities have never recovered from a 90% reduction in HUR in FY10.
“I’m glad it was noted,” said Sen. Carozza, “but we’re going to keep pushing for returning that to the locals, especially in our rural areas.”