The Maryland Department of Transportation will be in town Jan. 25, holding a roundtable workshop. They must hear from the public about transportation needs to update their 20-year master plan.
It's hard not to be of two minds, since Kent County has little to say, and it gets said every year at the fall visit by Maryland transportation bigwigs.
Then again, if county and town elected officials aren't there, thumping the table on the 25th, something is wrong. If nothing else, it's rare for any state agency to hold a regional meeting nearby. The workshop starts at 9 a.m., in the District 2 office (look for the huge sign on Morgnec Road), and “your input into this 20-year vision for transportation in Maryland will ultimately help guide statewide investment decisions across all modes of transportation,” according to a news release.
Taking it at face value, here is a chance for everyone here to stick their two cents in. Even if the need is pretty specific, and not terribly strategic, the point it to get it on the record. Make some noise.
In recent years, other counties have gotten riled up about roadway shortcomings. Compared to the Dover Bridge racket from down the Shore, elected officials here are like the dogs that don't bark.
Chestertown's parkway bypass?
Rail trails and bikeways?
Traffic calming in the villages?
Roundabouts instead of stoplights and stop signs?
It's easy to guess why local electeds have given up.
It's the annual “transportation tour.”
Lately, our officials have knocked one another over fleeing to undisclosed locations during this yearly circus. Who wants to hear Department of Transportation bureaucrats say there's no money, but they'll paint a few bridges?
At one time, some would show up and state their case. For example, Dennis Hager came a few times as Millington's mayor, asking for the town's streetscape project to get back on the schedule.
Margo Bailey of Chestertown attended a few times. That was until it became clear that SHA's biggest standing joke is the Chestertown parkway-bypass, replacing our apparently-immortal drawbridge.
Most of those annual meetings it has been my duty to witness have been lots of sound, some fury and no outcome. Sometime in November, the functionaries arrive carrying one piece of paper, with a couple resurfacing projects.
They explain that there's no money for anything else, as they do each year.
Luckily, this fall, we did not get the 20-minute soliloquy on highway safety, and the number of bureaucrats making the trek has been curtailed, so it was pretty quick.
It's hard to say if our officials take this traveling circus seriously. The mayors don't attend, Chestertown's manager doesn't bother, and there's no one speaking up for the county's unincorporated villages.
Taxpaying citizens don't show up to be heard. It really should be handled by Facebook postings. That would save time and money.
Old meeting minutes show how it goes.
2009: State officials said “the existing Chester River Bridge was rehabilitated 15 years ago and only has a limited life expectancy remaining. ... it still has to be determined how traffic will continue to travel across the river after that time” while “Commissioner Pickrum expressed appreciation to Ms. Perez for ... the mobile MVA services ...”
2010: State officials said “the bridge is structurally sound, and maintenance activities on the bridge will continue. ... the MDOT plans to continue to work with both Kent and Queen Anne's County to look at the Chester River Bridge Crossing from a planning perspective.”
2011: “Commissioner Rasin reiterated the need to restore highway user funds to the county.
“Commissioner Pickrum complimented the MVA's service bus that regularly comes to Chestertown. ... suggested that all prospective state resurfacing projects include, when possible, the construction of bicycle lanes. ... expressed his opposition to an increase in the gas tax...”
State officials said an “alternative crossing over the Chester River is not in the current program and no monies are budgeted at this time. ... the state will continue to keep the project on its radar and work toward bringing an alternative crossing into the program at a future time. Commissioner Fithian acknowledged the challenges posed by the existing Chester River Bridge, which has a limited life span and is a problem that will not go away.”
2012: “Commissioner Fithian questioned the inactivity in the Chestertown bypass project ....” and “Commissioner Pickrum emphasized the importance of bike lanes in Kent County. ... stated the value of the MVA on Wheels program and how beneficial the program is to citizens of Kent County. ... stated an increase in gas tax would be very onerous.”