Leaders discuss I-270 corridor strategy

Leaders discuss I-270 corridor strategy

By Kelsi Loos News-Post Staff [email protected] | Posted: Friday, December 19, 2014 2:00 am

Representatives of Frederick and Montgomery counties will intensify discussion about improvements to the I-270 corridor.

Rep. John Delaney invited state, county and business leaders to a roundtable Thursday in Frederick to discuss traffic issues and share possible solutions.

Delaney, D-6th, left saying he would draw up a summary of the views the officials held in common to guide the way forward as different levels of government tackle the problem.

Delegate-elect Carol Krimm, D-District 3A, suggested an I-270 work group should meet during the legislative session.

Everyone in attendance appeared to agree that traffic on the I-270 corridor is a serious problem that affects quality of life and economic development.

“Transportation is an area where we find common ground among everyone,” Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner said.

Not only do residents need to have a reasonable commute, Gardner said, but businesses, particularly the science and technology companies in Frederick, must have access to the Washington area to operate.

Members of the Frederick County, Montgomery County and Gaithersburg chambers of commerce attested that local businesses see congestion as bad for business on the I-270 corridor.

Delegate-elect Karen Young, D-District 3A, said regional transportation authorities have a plan to expand I-270 by 2030, but funding limitations have made it hard to make improvements sooner.

She advocated a “holistic approach” to the congestion problem that would take into account transportation, land-use and environmental goals.

The group agreed that funding I-270 corridor improvements will be a challenge requiring creative solutions.

Delaney will try to pass a tax bill this session that would allow companies to pay a lower overseas tax rate if they buy infrastructure bonds to fund a transportation bank.

Gardner noted Frederick County has been making the I-270 improvements more manageable financially by breaking the work into smaller projects.

Sen.-elect Michael Hough, R-District 4, looked to Virginia’s use of private investment and high-occupancy lanes as a model that might be used in Frederick.

“You have to be careful with public-private partnerships,” Delaney cautioned, saying that sometimes local governments don’t get the best deals out of those agreements.

Bringing different pots of money together, including private investment, however, is the best solution, he said.

Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, advocated setting aside separate streams of funding for transit and roads as a way to help make sure both needs are addressed.

“We need to plan our growth differently,” he said, adding that it would help to have high-occupancy lanes and buses, as well as policies that make it easier for people to work from home.

Delegate Kelly Schulz, R-District 4A, who was recently tapped as the state’s secretary of labor, licensing and regulation, wondered how leaders could help improve transit options for people outside urban areas.

If planners can get transit to rural areas, she said, “I guarantee you that traffic will decrease.”

Krimm told the leaders about Bus on Shoulders, a program she has long advocated that would allow buses to travel on the road shoulder at certain choke points on I-270, making transit more dependable and therefore more desirable.

Some states that use the program have seen 400 percent bus ridership increases, she said.

Delegation says they will work together in 2015 General Assembly

Delegation says they will work together in 2015 General Assembly

By Ed Waters Jr. News-Post Staff | Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2014 2:00 am

With a new governor about to take the helm, members of the Frederick County delegation are looking forward to challenges and opportunities in Annapolis. Six members of the delegation spoke Friday at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center, hosted by the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce Policy Committee.

“We are an eclectic mix,” Delegate Kathy Afzali said. “The election brought new blood to the Legislature.
We will have different ideas and opinions,” Afzali said, but like her fellow lawmakers, she said she would work together to make Frederick County and Maryland great places to live and work.
Afzali, Delegate Kelly Schulz and Sen. Ron Young are the only incumbents in the delegation. Carol Krimm, David Vogt and Karen Young are delegates-elect. Delegate-elect Bill Folden was unable to attend the event.
One major issue was the proposed hotel-conference center for downtown Frederick. Krimm and Karen Young, both former city aldermen, support the project, as do the other members who spoke, but said they were unsure about public funds for the project.
Ron Young, who has advocated a downtown hotel and center since he was mayor in the 1970s, said he still has not seen a plan that specifically shows how much would be asked from public versus private funding.
Taxes were a major issue in the gubernatorial campaign, delegates said, but they had differing views on the subject. Schulz said raising taxes has proved not to be a good source of revenue.
“Our job as a legislator is to find ways to raise revenue,” Vogt said. “If we can’t find that, then we should be kicked out. We have to create jobs.”
Karen Young said affordability is more of an issue, noting that wages have not risen in balance with an increase in productivity.
“Government doesn’t create jobs, you do. … I voted for the gas tax to help fix roads,” Ron Young told the chamber audience.
The state shouldn’t cut back on things that make the state strong, he said.
Those strengths include a quality education system and good workforce, delegates said.
Several delegates said Maryland has been seen as not being business-friendly. “A lot of legislators claim to be pro-business, but the proof is in the action,” Afzali said.
With a new governor and more pro-business members of the General Assembly, she said, there is hope things will improve.
Ron Young countered that Maryland is competitive with Virginia, but he said the state does need to look at regulations.
“Our (state) economic development department has been running around looking for new corporations,” he said. “We need to support the ones we have to expand, that’s where the jobs will come from.”
Vogt said Frederick County is “almost a small Maryland,” with its mix of agriculture and communities. Opportunities exist for agreement on many issues, he said, and this delegation could be a role model for the rest of the state.
“Too many times government forgets to listen to you,” Vogt said. “We will listen to you and fight for you.”
“We are in the period of a honeymoon,” Krimm said. “All of those people who voted for us are waiting to see how we vote for the first time.”
Krimm said she hoped more people would be interested in following what goes on in Annapolis.
Ron Young said people unfairly compare Maryland’s General Assembly with Congress; state lawmakers do work together, he said.
Young said the stormwater management fee (sometimes called the “rain tax” by those who oppose it) can be discussed and counties can work out their mandated share of the cost, “but we must protect the (Chesapeake) Bay.”
Robert Smariga, an insurance representative who is active with the chamber in political issues, said people shouldn’t see the recent election as a mandate for the GOP.
“I’m glad to see Hogan win, but it isn’t a mandate,” he said. “And we will have to see what happens with (County Executive) Jan Gardner. She was for the incinerator and now against it, is it the old Jan or a new Jan?”
“You couldn’t ask for a more bipartisan leadership,” said Michael Kurtianyk, president of the Frederick County Association of Realtors, of the delegation. “I’m looking forward to them keeping their word about working together.”
Tom Lynch, a lawyer who is on the chamber’s policy committee, said the delegation’s bipartisanship will be a benefit. “They can influence