Simply stated, this area is very fortunate to have Fort Meade serving as the pulse of the region. Between the post, the National Security Agency and The National Business Park, more than 100,000 employees from the area work within that three-mile radius.
Then come the tens of thousands of additional employees who are spread across a 10-mile radius of the post, including employees at Arundel Mills, Maryland Live! Casino and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.
So when the Maryland Department of Transportation decides where to spend a finite amount of transportation money, funds spent within that larger radius improves the quality of life for more employees than anywhere else in the state. This allows employers in the market to compete for the employees needed to fill what includes a large number of highly-skilled jobs. That represents a true return on investment.
During the past four years, for Route 175, from the Route 295 (the Baltimore-Washington Parkway) interchange east to Route 32, the state, federal and a U.S. DOT TIGER Grant have funded more than $150 million in road and intersection improvements to handle the previous growth spurt of the Base Realignment and Closure, and the current growth coming from the U.S. CyberCommand.
Additional dollars will be needed down the road (so to speak) for Route 198, widening/Route 32 flyover, and the widening of Route 32 — which was originally designed as a six-lane highway, but only two were built due to budget constraints.
During the past year, there was much debate between Gov. Larry Hogan and the state delegation concerning the way prioritizing transportation projects within the state is conducted. Legislation was passed in 2016 which placed many of these projects at risk; both parties worked on a compromise this past session to repeal the current bill and work on a future bill by 2019 that incorporates good ideas and best intentions from both sides.
On the other hand, public transit services have not had the same positive results. Promises of savings and new routes made when the Local Operating Transit System (LOTS) changed hands about three years ago have never materialized. With hundreds of thousands of employees and now thousands of new families living in local communities within a 10-mile radius of Fort Meade, another opportunity to connect people to jobs by public transit should not be undervalued.
The Mass Transit Administration (MTA) is about to undergo a long-needed revamping in Baltimore City, including equipment and route revisions, which hadn’t occurred in 40 years. However, on the MTA’s web site map with the new routes, no commuter or express bus service is within three miles of Odenton/Fort Meade, arguably the largest employment area in the state.
This, after months of studies and public meetings more than demonstrating the need —but unfortunately, deemed not important enough to address at this time, with limited available funds.
Anne Arundel County did receive from the MTA a two-year grant for almost $900,000 to run shuttle services between the transit hubs and some local residential communities. Also, a Central Maryland Transit Plan is available that can be accessed via www.kfhgroup.com/centralmd/transitplan.html.
Although the local LOTS, the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland, is a direct recipient of funding from the MTA, most of its funds come from participating counties that infuse varying amounts of money.
Anne Arundel County has a new transportation director, Ramon Robinson, who has come on the scene with innovative ideas, with the background and knowledge to implement — if afforded the proper leeway and funding.
Stuart Title is vice president at A.J. Properties, in Odenton, chair of the Fort Meade Alliance Transportation Committee and president of Public/Private Transit Solutions Consulting. He can be reached at [email protected]