Op/Ed: BaltimoreLink: Hogan’s Plan for Transit Change in Baltimore by Paul Comfort, MTA

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By Paul Comfort, MTA

(BALTIMORE – August 13, 2016) – In July, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn announced the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) received the green light to advance the $27 million North Avenue Rising project to revitalize a five-mile stretch of North Avenue in Baltimore City – a key transit corridor in Governor Larry Hogan’s BaltimoreLink transit plan. Governor Hogan unveiled BaltimoreLink in October 2015, by announcing $135 million in targeted investments to transform and improve transit throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant provides the final piece needed to move North Avenue Rising forward. The MTA and the Baltimore City Department of Transportation will administer the project that is jointly funded with $14.7 million from MDOT, $1 million from Baltimore City, and $1.6 million from U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration. The TIGER grant will include funding for dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal prioritization, new bike lanes, upgrades to MTA’s Penn Station Metro Subway and Light Rail stations, targeted improvements at major bus stops, improved sidewalks, streetscaping, and needed roadway re-pavement along the corridor.

North Avenue Rising will also strengthen and improve transit connections to important institutions, such as Coppin State University and Maryland Institute College of Art, as well as employment centers along the corridor and the growing Station North Arts and Entertainment District. North Avenue is traversed by Baltimore’s second busiest bus line–carrying nearly 4 million passengers annually–and is one of the few roadways that connect the MTA’s Metro Subway and Light Rail transit systems.

A part of BaltimoreLink, North Avenue Rising is a major step to creating an integrated, efficient transportation network that connects people to life’s opportunities. BaltimoreLink includes redesigning the entire local and express bus systems throughout Baltimore, and adding 12 new high-frequency, color-coded bus routes that improve connections to jobs and to other transit modes. Three new Express BusLink routes were rolled out this summer with the launch of CityLink color-coded bus routes, and the completely redesigned LocalLink bus network will occur in June 2017.

Thanks to Governor Hogan and Senator Barbara Mikulski for championing MDOT’s application for federal funds for North Avenue Rising.

You can expect North Avenue Rising to get underway in the fall of 2017. In the meantime, please be part of our efforts to improve transit in Baltimore by participating in MTA’s public outreach meetings taking place now through September. You are urged to comment on recent revisions to our BaltimoreLink transit plan made thanks to public input. Visit our website at baltimorelink.com, where you can review the new version of the plan, share your comments, or find a meeting near you and come tell us what you think. We look forward to hearing from you as we work together to improve transit in Baltimore and throughout Maryland.

Paul Comfort is the MTA administrator and CEO.