GRIDLOCK SOLOMON’S BRIDGE & GREAT MILLS: How officials have been ignoring the traffic tie-ups at the intersection of Rt. 5 and Rt. 246 for decades while Solomons Bridge may still be falling down; 301 bridge finally under construction

Breaking News Election 2014 Remember when

IF HOT AIR FROM POLITICIANS COULD POWER A COMMUTER RAIL FOR SOUTHERN MARYLAND, THERE WOULD BE 100 TRAINS EACH DAY GOING 200 MPH

These officials all promised to support rail service to Charles County and none of them did a thing to keep their promise. Mac Middleton is standing on the tracks he won’t let you use for MARC service. Middleton, trying for a seventh term in the Maryland Senate in 2018, lost to Arthur Ellis, who promised to bring commuter rail to Waldorf.
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Senator Roy Dyson and Del. John Bohanan, who represented St. Mary’s County in the Maryland General Assembly, and also was the senior advisor to U. S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D. Md. 5th) are shown holding a plan they asked the SHA to adopt to eliminate the bottleneck on Rt. 5 at Great Mills with a reversible rush-hour center lane that neither of them bothered to promote. Both lost election contests in 2014 to GOP candidates after spending decades in office.   

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, center, -and-Sen. Roy Dyson-at-Great-Mills in 2006 as Sen. Dyson explains need to widen Rt. 5 to clear the gridlock. Dyson’s Chief of Staff, Christopher Falkenhagen, is at left.
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo
Del. John Bohanan at the opening of Sen. Roy Dyson campaign headquarters on Rt. 5, about a half-mile north of Great Mills Road in 2006 with Lexington Park Commissioner Dan Raley at right. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

A Senator, a Delegate and St. Mary’s Commissioner President, even with a Democrat Governor in office for 16 years, couldn’t get all the Kings Men and all the Kings Horses to build a very simple plan that they held in their hands in 1998 priced at $1.6 million to build a reversible third lane between Rt. 246 and Rt. 249 in Callaway.

Three Democrats defeated in the 2014 election in St. Mary’s County: Sen. Roy Dyson, Del. John Bohanan, Commissioner President Jack Russell. In 2018, Bohanan was able to engineer the defeat of Del. Deb Rey, who beat him in 2014, with Brian Crosby. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo.

Del. Brian Crosby hosts a Town Hall in 2021 where State Highway Officials inform the surprised St. Mary’s Delegate that it will be two years just to relocate the utilities for what will be a lacking effort to cure the gridlock. The expansion of Rt. 5 with extra lanes will only be implemented between the Rt. 5/246 intersection and Indian Bridge Road.

A proposed light rail for Southern Maryland aims to relieve some of America’s worst traffic

Maryland-Area-Regional-Commuter-MARC-service-area-shows-Southern-Maryland-as-being-devoid-of-service

GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT

The following summary of the feasibility of using the existing CSX line from Bowie into Charles County assumes that every or even most commuters wish to arrive at workplaces in downtown Washington presently served from inside the Beltway on Metro lines. This is a false assumption that was not challenged by the lightweights of the political arena of Southern Maryland. The transportation wunderkind who created the study prefers a light rail line built in the center of Rt. 301/Rt. 5 from Waldorf to DC at a cost of several billion dollars which will NEVER happen. But sticking with that plan is a great way to make sure nothing is done. Motorists, given the alternative to taking rail from park and ride lots at Hughesville, Gallant Green, Newburg, White Plains, St. Charles, Pinefield, Brandywine, Upper Marlboro will arrive in Bowie where they can connect to dozens of MARC & Amtrak trains along with existing commuter bus lines to points north and south, including two major airports.

The 2009 transportation study

Southern Maryland Commuter Rail Service
Feasibility Study created under the feckless leadership of Governor Martin O’Malley.

Governor Martin O’Malley gives a speech at a racetrack in Budds Creek, Md.

“Turning a lightly used freight line into a right-of-way appropriate for safe and competitive commuter train service is full of challenges because using the existing line for commuter service subverts the purpose for which the line was built and for which the line has been used so far. For example, the driving distance between Lexington Park and Washington DC is 60 miles, while the railroad distance between those destinations is 80 miles via Bowie. Similarly, the driving distance between La Plata and Washington is 30 miles by road and 55 miles by rail. For rail to be an attractive option, it must be competitive in terms of travel time with autos and commuter buses and therefore has to overcome the longer distances with greater speed. Achieving that greater speed will take a major upgrade to the lines in Southern Maryland”. MORE

U. S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, shown here in his office as Majority Leader, THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Steny Hoyer has been representing Southern Maryland in the House of Representatives since 1982 and is the House Majority Leader. There is no commuter rail service in Southern Maryland.

CSX-Maryland-rail-lines-map-shows-two-lines-into-Southern-Maryland-that-supply-coal-trains-to-power-plants.

Arthur Ellis campaigned on bringing MARC service to Charles County

Arthur Ellis beat Mac Middleton in Democratic Primary in 2018 for Maryland Senate. Middleton had not brought MARC service to Southern Maryland in the 24 years he was in the Senate.

Approximately 70 percent of Charles County residents currently commute outside county lines for work. The Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) train service is the rail system whose service areas include: Harford County, Baltimore City, Washington D.C., Brunswick, Frederick, and even Martinsburg, West Virginia. The commuter-only train service operates Monday through Friday. Expanding the MARC train service to Charles County residents is a main priority. Adding the La Plata and Waldorf communities to the MARC train service to Washington’s Union Station, will provide relief to Charles County workers and the environment. 

SENATE BILL 81

SB 105/20 – B&T (PRE–FILED) CF HB 414
By: Senator Ellis

Requested: October 30, 2020
Introduced and read first time: January 13, 2021
Assigned to: Budget and Taxation
A BILL ENTITLED
1 AN ACT concerning Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project – Funding
FOR the purpose of requiring the State Department of Transportation promptly to undertake all steps necessary to complete the design, engineering, and National Environmental Policy Act process and secure a record of decision for the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project; requiring the Governor to include in the annual State budget, for certain fiscal years, an appropriation of a certain amount from the Transportation Trust Fund for certain purposes; specifying that the appropriations may be reduced under certain circumstances and in accordance with certain
requirements; defining a certain term; and generally relating to the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project.
12 SECTION 1. BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF MARYLAND,
13 That: (a) In this section, “Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project” means a high–capacity, fixed-route rapid transit service, with light rail transit as the preferred option, operating in a dedicated, grade-separated, 18.7–mile transitway in the Maryland Route 5/U.S. Route 301 corridor from the Branch Avenue Metrorail Station in Prince George’s County to Waldorf and White Plains in Charles County.
(b) The State Department of Transportation promptly shall undertake all steps necessary to complete the design, engineering, and National Environmental Policy Act process and secure a record of decision for the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project.
(c) (1) Subject to paragraph (2) of this subsection, the Governor shall include in the annual State budget an appropriation from the Transportation Trust Fund for the requirements specified in subsection (b) of this section in amounts at least equal to:
(i) for fiscal year 2023, $12,000,000; and MORE

Lawmaker: MDOT treats Southern Maryland ‘like a toilet’

Sunrail-train-Florida

SUNRAIL LOCOMOTIVES.
ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE, RELIABILITY
AND CONVENIENCE.

The SunRail passenger system, powered by Motive Power Industries’ diesel-electric commuter locomotive, will make you feel like you’re stepping into the latest and greatest in passenger rail. That’s because you are!

When you step into a double-decker SunRail passenger car, you’ll find tables where you can sit with your laptop, read the paper, or let the kids draw.

Dyson Plans Series of Legislative Initiatives to Unsnarl Traffic, Provide Evacuation Routes; Mandate Commuter Rail for Region

By Kenneth C. Rossignol

ST. MARY’S TODAY

GREAT MILLS (Nov. 28, 2005) — The time has come for Southern Maryland to move ahead with commuter rail, to build a second span across the Patuxent River at Solomon’s Island, and to make significant traffic improvements on the key corridors that bring commuters to jobs at Pax River and out of St. Mary’s to the Washington metropolitan area.

Rail-Ho-Annapolis-St.-Marys-Commissioner-Larry-Jarboe-Sen.-Roy-Dyson-and-Del.-John-Bohanan-meeting-with-Comptroller-Schaefer-to-gain-his-support for commuter rail to Waldorf. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

“We have seen a spectacle of the ineptitude of unimaginable proportions with this current Ehrlich Administration,” said Senator Roy Dyson on Thursday in an interview in his kitchen at his Great Mills home.  “While the Ehrlich Administration is pushing for a $2 billion bond bill for a third nuclear reactor for Calvert Cliffs, the same state government has opposed my bill to build a second span across the Patuxent River. The Governor vetoed my bill calling for a comprehensive transportation study for the Southern Maryland region, and his State Highway Administration has seized the railroad right of way from St. Mary’s County to build the Hughesville bypass.  The Ehlrich people have bulldozed the Navy rail right of way and ignored the Dept. of Transporation’s own feasibility study which called for preserving this right-of-way for future commuter rail use.”

Governor Martin O’Malley-with-new-MARC-trains. While O’Malley promised to put MARC on the tracks to Waldorf, he never took a serious step to do anything.

“I am here to tell you that the future is now, that we need commuter rail, that we need a comprehensive transportation study which looks at all of the problems and possible solutions for everyone whether you live in Port Tobacco, Ridge, or Lusby. It is time to stop whistling past the graveyard and address these problems right now,” said Dyson.

“We aren’t going to get too many chances to fix our problems before it all blows up in our faces,” said the St. Mary’s County Democrat who represents Charles, St. Mary’s, and Calvert in the Maryland Senate.

Dyson sponsored the bill requiring the Glendening Administration to perform a feasibility study of preserving the old U. S. Navy railroad right-of-way that leads from the CSX freight line at Gallant Green to Lexington Park.  The study urged that steps be taken to prevent any further encroachments on the rail right-of-way. The St. Mary’s Commissioners were urged to immediately cease granting easements across the rail line and the right-of-way to be re-graveled and posted as a future rail link.

“This rail line built one of the Navy’s most important naval air stations almost overnight, and now the State of Maryland is blasting a huge hole in the railroad right-of-way in order to accommodate traffic at the Hughesville bypass construction,” said Dyson. “It is ridiculous for the SHA to ignore their own feasibility study, which was paid for by the taxpayers, and to fail to provide for this historic rail link which moved farmer’s freight to market for 100 years and helped launched modern Naval Aviation.

Dyson said he would introduce legislation by pre-filing bills in the General Assembly in coming weeks, which will pin down the State to an ambitious plan to solve the area’s traffic woes by forcing the State to preserve the railroad right-of-way as called for in the previous feasibility study; to mandate that the Mass Transit Administration contract with CSX to use the existing freight lines from Morgantown and Aquaso for rail passenger use by MARC trains and plan commuter rail to Lexington Park.

Dyson, known for his adherence to public hearings for legislation, said the process for all of the bills he will present to the General Assembly would have exhaustive public hearings scheduled.

Rt. 301 Gov. Harry Nice Bridge over Potomac. Copyright 2020 THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo.

“In addition to that, I will tell you that I have been hearing from the public,” said Dyson. “The public tells me that they are fed up with traffic tie-ups in both directions at the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge; they are tired of the bottlenecks all along the Rt. 235 / Rt. 5 corridors every day with endless crashes and our roadways turned into landing strips for med-evac helicopters and unlimited development bringing even more traffic and overcrowded schools.”

Looking-towards-Maryland-the-pier-supports-for-the-new-bridge-are-coming-up-out-of-the-river-bottom. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Dept. of Transportation and the Taxpayers of Maryland.

“We saw gas prices jump by 50 and 75 cents overnight for gas that was already in the ground when the hurricane hit the Gulf; we saw people left by their officials to suffer for five days, we saw a traffic network which depended on a good system of roads and bridges in order to evacuate and what happened last year when I put a bill in to require the State of Maryland to build a second span across the Patuxent?  Governor Ehrlich and his team said no, we don’t need it; they said we couldn’t afford the $220 million for a second Patuxent River span, but somehow we can afford a $2 billion bond for the huge energy conglomerate to build a third nuclear reactor?”

Fleeing from the police, Timothy Hoofnagle, of Calvert, stopped his car and deftly stepped over the bridge railing at the top of the Gov, Thomas Johnson Bridge and was caught by Md. K-9 Trooper Joe Appleby when he swam to Seven Gables Island, Photo by Ken Rossignol THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY

Dyson said that given the concentration of nursing homes and retirement villages concentrated at Solomon’s and the recent Katrina failures at the evacuation of the elderly, the need for a second span at Solomon’s is more significant than ever.

Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge crash scene. Photo by Natalie Himes THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY.

“How would we evacuate the southern end of Calvert County?” asked Dyson. “Do we even have an evacuation plan for multiple disasters of a hurricane knocking out the LNG plant and the nuclear plant or of a significant terrorist attack at the two sensitive facilities?  What we saw happen at the Gulf, and the history of this area being hit by similar killer storms in the 1930s may be just the wake-up call we need to plan for such an event.”

Traffic tied up at the base of the Gov. Thomas Johnson bridge on St. Mary’s side for a daily crash. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo by Matthew Ivancie.

Dyson said that he would be requesting copies of the evacuation plan for the senior centers in Prince Frederick, Solomon’s, and in St. Mary’s County this coming week.

Dyson’s legislative agenda includes: 

          — Asking the legislative leaders to override the Governor’s veto of the transportation study.

          — Introducing a bill mandating the State build a second span across the Patuxent River as part of our vital economic infrastructure for the Naval Air Warfare Center at Pax River, a safe evacuation route for Calvert County and as part of the region’s traffic system.

          — Introducing a bill requiring MARC to enter into an agreement with CSX to use existing railroad freight lines for rail passenger service immediately into Southern Maryland, linking this region over CSX tracks to Bowie for linking to Amtrak and MARC service to Baltimore and Washington and via shuttle bus to Metro.

MARC serves West Virginia, but does not send commuter trains into Southern Maryland on CSX existing tracks.

          — Introducing a bill mandating that the State restore a complete railroad right-of-way at Hughesville and present a plan for commuter rail service to Lexington Park by 2010.

“The gas crisis we are in now can only get worse and the State treasury subsidizes travel in many ways,” said Dyson.  “For the Ehrlich Administration to oppose commuter rail and a second span over the Patuxent is simply outrageous.  For their political minions to mumble about a rail line fostering huge apartment complexes near the rail line is a false fear unless the county commissioners plan on approving such complexes, which I would oppose. But we do have people who have to commute to work at jobs at Pax River and in the Washington area and they have to get back and forth up and down Rt. 4 and up and down Rt. 5 and the most efficient way for them to travel is by rail or bus.  The buses do a good job but they still get stuck in traffic like everyone else.  People are upset over the failure of our State to recognize the growth which has taken place in Southern Maryland and to plan in a realistic manner for transportation infrastructure.  I hear this from the public everywhere and this is going to be the year of solutions and the Ehrlich Administration is going to have to decide if they are on the side of the highway contractors lobby or on the side of common-sense solutions to our traffic woes.  Last year showed where they stand and they can cut and run now on this issue or join in a bipartisan effort to correct our problems by supporting my transportation agenda.”

Polls Delay Work on Key Transportation Study

This article on the procrastination and delays on the part of political leaders of both parties was published in 2006 in ST. MARY’S TODAY

GREAT MILLS — They are either sitting on their duffs or too busy with electoral politics, some insiders said.

St. Mary’s Board of County Commissioners has yet to nominate a member aboard a crucial commission meant to end Southern Maryland’s traffic nightmare. However, a commissioner said a formal letter to that effect is still awaited.

The ball has to be set into motion for the first meeting of the Commission by Senate President Thomas Mike Miller (D-Calvert and Prince George’s) and House Speaker Mike Busch (D- Anne Arundel), both of whom are contesting for re-election, ST. MARY’S TODAY has learned.

Charles, Calvert, and Anne Arundel, Charles counties likewise have yet to officially nominate their representative on the 21-member Commission to study Southern Maryland’s transportation needs. However, Prince George County has chosen a member, Councilwoman Marilyn Bland (District 9), to represent it on the Commission. From the private sector, Ron Hartman, who specializes in bus rapid transit, has been put forward for inclusion in the Commission.

Other members to sit on the Commission will include U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer (D- 5th Congressional District), three state senators, and seven delegates representing state districts 28, 29, and 27B.

The bill on the formation of the Commission was sponsored by Senators Roy Dyson (D-St. Mary’s, Charles & Calvert Counties), Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles County), and Miller, the senate president. It passed the senate 46-0 and the House of Delegates 122-10 in April last year. Despite overwhelming support for the two houses’ legislation, six weeks later, Governor Ehrlich vetoed the bill.

Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

The pencil-like, single-span Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge, accidents and snail-paced traffic movement on U.S. Route 301 and state highways 2/4, 4, 5, 210, 228, 231, 235, and 260, and absence of light rail all add up to the transportation woes of people living in Southern Maryland, including abutting parts of Prince George and Anne Arundel Counties.

Though there seems to be a bipartisan consensus that transportation is one of the critical issues confronting Southern Maryland, the problem has been mired in partisan politics arising out of Governor Bob Ehrlich‘s opposition to the formation of the Commission.

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) opposed the bill during hearings in the House of Delegates and the Senate.

The governor’s veto was overridden 33-14 in the Senate on January 12 and the House of Delegates 93-46 on January 24 this year.  Two Southern Maryland House of Delegates members who sided with the governor’s veto were Anthony O’ Donnell and Johnny Wood, though they had earlier voted yes on the bill.

Commissioner President Tommy McKay (R. Hollywood) and Calvert County Commissioner David Hale opposed the Commission purely on partisan grounds.

St. Mary’s Commissioner Tom Mattingly (D. Leonardtown) said the St. Mary’s Board of County Commissioners have yet to receive a formal letter on appointing one of its members on the Commission. “We may appoint the member either through informal discussions amongst ourselves or through a vote on the table. It could be one of us, either me, Dan Raley (D. Great Mills), or Larry Jarboe (R. Golden Beach). Or it could be the new president of the board,” Mattingly said.

He said the issue has yet to come on the table for discussions, adding that McKay is the one who sets the agenda.

On his part, Dyson had formally informed the council members of all five counties, St. Mary’s, Charles, Calvert, Prince George, and Anne Arundel counties about the Commission a week after the bill became law on January 24. “We have done our job,” said Dyson aide Chris Falkenhagen.

With a prioritized focus on Southern Maryland, the 21-member Commission will review the study prepared by the Maryland Department of Transportation, the Southern Maryland Regional Transportation Strategy, the MD 5/U.S. 301 Transit Service Staging Plan, and other relevant mass transit studies and plans. It will also study the Southern Maryland rail transit alternatives, including a light rail transit system in the Maryland Route 5 corridor from White Plains to Branch Avenue.

“Now, as a region, we will be able to address the significant traffic problems plaguing us,” Senator Dyson said of the bill.

“We are the fastest-growing region in the State. For the first time, we have a law that brings Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s, Anne Arundel, and Prince George’s counties to develop a comprehensive approach to the transportation ills, which cannot be solved alone by Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s counties on a piecemeal basis,” he said. “Let’s face it; we are all in this together. Together, we do not want our constituents mired in gridlock.”

The-New-Rt.-301-Bridge-over-the-Potomac-is-under-construction-to-replace-the-old-1940-Governor-Harry-W-Nice-Bridge.

But the governor opposed the bill in favor of the bureaucracy. “MDOT has a process for identifying priorities in local jurisdictions throughout the State,” Ehrlich said in his letter of veto to Mike Miller. 

Bridge-construction-on-the-new-crossing-over-the-Potomac-River-at-Newburg-to-Virginia-to-replace-the-1940-Governor-Harry-W.-Nice-Bridge.-Photo-from-MDot

Ehrlich argued the Consolidated Transportation Program is a well-established process for identifying transportation needs based on extensive input from local stakeholders. He said the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has conducted studies on the transportation needs of Southern Maryland. “MTA has focused on the development of four “park & ride” facilities and has two others in the planning/negotiating phase,” Ehrlich said.

Concrete-supports-for-bridge-pilings-on-new-Rt.-301-Bridge-at-Morgantown-taking-traffic-across-the-Potomac-River.

The governor also cited financial constraints for opposing the bill. “Implementation of Senate Bill 281 would cost at least $733,000 for administrative staffing and traffic and other studies. These funds would have to be diverted from the MTA and State Highway Administration (SHA) projects throughout the State,” he said.

Literally-in-the-shadow-of-the-1940-bridge-which-was-guarded-by-soldiers-during-WWII-due-to-fears-of-German-intrusions-by-water-to-land-sabeteurs-to-destroy-the-bridge.

In his veto, Ehrlich, while stating the simple bill “is unclear,” conceded it does mandate, however, the Commission to study and make recommendations regarding traffic congestion on several state highways, roadway improvements, and strategies to reduce traffic congestion. “This mandate would necessitate interchange studies as well as other data-gathering efforts. An estimate of $733,000 is conservative if these studies would require project planning,” Ehrlich said.

Finally, he said the Commission duplicates efforts being handled by way of other existing planning studies and existing organizations,

But Dyson said, “Instead of doing a lot of little studies, what we needed is one comprehensive study.”

He said the studies that the governor referred to were outdated, divorced from new ground realities. “Gas prices are on the rise again, and according to economists, they are not likely to stabilize. With the turmoil in the Middle East, the strong possibility is that gas prices will become so expensive, they will be a major economic drain,” he said.

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Dyson said light rail, which would be a subject of investigation of the Commission’s study, will get the commuters off the roads, reduce traffic gridlock and recuse them from paying sky-high gas prices.

“I hope the Commission will meet pretty soon. We can’t wait any longer we have to get started; the sooner, the better,” Dyson said. “The law is in place. What remains is pretty much everybody coming together.”

He said a date for the first meeting would come from Maryland’s bicameral parliament’s presiding officers, meaning Miller and Busch.

 “The governor has decided not to play any role though he comes down here often and sees all the problems himself,” Dyson regretted.

The Commission was initially supposed to report its findings to the Governor by November 1, 2006, but that deadline has been extended because of the veto. 

1 thought on “GRIDLOCK SOLOMON’S BRIDGE & GREAT MILLS: How officials have been ignoring the traffic tie-ups at the intersection of Rt. 5 and Rt. 246 for decades while Solomons Bridge may still be falling down; 301 bridge finally under construction

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