Bipartisan Maryland Delegation Writes to Secretary Chao about Investing in Critical State Infrastructure Projects
(Washington, DC) – Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger today joined U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md) as well as the rest of the Maryland Congressional Delegation in urging Department of Transportation Secretary Chao to consider critical state infrastructure projects as part of the FASTLANE grant system.
The lawmakers highlighted three projects, making clear that each are vital to improving the economy and transportation across the state:
- Howard Street Tunnel project, which is aimed at improving freight movement out of the Port of Baltimore
- Access I-95 Project, which will increase accessibility to growth and development in Baltimore City while ensuring efficient movement of traffic on the I-95 corridor
- I-81 Corridor Widening Project, which would increase capacity on a critical freight corridor that carries over 19,400 trucks per day and has seen its accident rate double between 2010 and 2015
“As members representing Maryland, a state with a diverse network of urban and rural environments and multiple modes of transportation in close proximity to our nation’s capital, we look forward to working with you to develop and implement innovative and effective ways to create 21st century transportation systems,” they wrote.
In addition to Congressman Ruppersberger, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressmen Steny Hoyer, Elijah Cummings, John Sarbanes, Andy Harris, John Delaney, Anthony Brown, and Jamie Raskin. The full text is below:
Dear Secretary Chao,
Congratulations on your new position as Secretary of the Department of Transportation. As members representing Maryland, a state with a diverse network of urban and rural environments and multiple modes of transportation in close proximity to our nation’s capital, we look forward to working with you to develop and implement innovative and effective ways to create 21st century transportation systems.
As you know, Congress created an important tool for addressing large-scale transportation problems in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). This new program for projects of national or regional significance, the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grants, was authorized at $4.5 billion for fiscal years 2016 through 2020. Funds are already being used on projects across the country to reduce congestion, improve connectivity between modes, and move people and goods more efficiently.
In October of 2016, the Department of Transportation announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity for a second round of FASTLANE grants. Maryland applied for three projects of critical significance to more efficient movement of freight and reduction of bottlenecks in our state that have implications on the national freight system. The Department of Transportation did not award these grants before the last Administration left office, and we urge you to review this program and these applications and make second round awards as quickly as possible. We believe Maryland has submitted highly-competitive applications for this program.
The Howard Street Tunnel project is aimed at improving freight movement out of the Port of Baltimore, a productive port with deep water berths and on-dock rail service that can handle larger ships out of the Panama Canal. The Port’s major challenge is the 121-year-old Howard Street Tunnel, which cannot accommodate double-stack rail. For years, such modifications carried a price tag of over $1 billion, but technology advancements by CSX on other projects have reduced costs significantly, and CSX and the State of Maryland have committed to funding their share. Modernizing the Howard Street Tunnel will benefit 24 states and the District of Columbia who depend on the efficient movement of goods from the Port of Baltimore.
The Access I-95 Project will increase accessibility to growth and development in Baltimore City while ensuring efficient movement of traffic on the I-95 corridor. The package of improvements is intended to accommodate increased traffic around the Port Covington redevelopment and ensure that it is connected to surrounded communities. It would add capacity to allow for near- and long-term economic development.
The I-81 Corridor Widening Project would increase capacity on a critical freight corridor that carries over 19,400 trucks per day and has seen its accident rate double between 2010 and 2015. The project would add two travel lanes, rebuild bridges and overpasses, and make interchange improvements along the congested 12 mile segment between the West Virginia and Pennsylvania state lines. This will accommodate increasing freight traffic for decades to come and improve safety for all drivers.
We urge you to consider these important projects and move expeditiously to award the second round of FASTLANE grants. Thank you for your consideration of this request.