By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer
(Sept. 7. 2023) If it has to do with biking or walking on the lower Eastern Shore, most likely Ocean Pines resident Patti Stevens has something to do with it.
So, it’s no wonder that State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-38), Del. Wayne Hartman (R-38C) and Mayor Zack Tyndall recommended her when Gov. Wes Moore was looking for a representative from the biking community to join the Commission on Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs (TRAIN).
The commission is responsible for reviewing, evaluating, and making recommendations on funding transportation projects.
“My priority is to bring the perspective of the bike and pedestrian community to the commission as we consider new formulas for transportation revenue and infrastructure needs,” Stevens said.
She said she was welcomed by many of the members of the commission during its first meeting last week.
Stevens said that Catherin Banks of the Maryland and Delaware Railroad Company approached her about exploring more bike and trail options along underutilized railroad lines.
Banks was recently involved in the launching of Tracks and Yaks, which is a new Berlin company that uses the decommissioned railroad tracks in Berlin for railbike tours.
Stevens said state Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefel asked her to keep him apprised of her efforts to create safe bike and pedestrian connections in this area. He has a second home locally, bikes in the area and told her he wants to be helpful.
“The commission has a big challenge. Similar to other states, the way transportation has been funded has been based in large part on gas tax,” Stevens said.
She said she learned during the first commission meeting that transportation fund has decreased since covid hit and many people stopped commuting to work every day. The fund also is affected by the increase in electric and higher mileage vehicles.
“The funds financed by the gas tax will not keep up with demand and the need to maintain roads and bridges,” she said.
That can affect local projects, including the Route 90 bridge, which is eligible for federal funding, but Maryland would have to provide a match to that funding.
She will also be considering how the funding formulas play out across the state to connect networks of bike and pedestrian trails.
The commission has been directed to develop creative solutions to feed the transportation trust fund.
“The good news is, there is an unprecedented level of federal dollars through infrastructure and inflation reduction bills for roads and bridges and subways. But many of those grants require a match from states to apply for those funds.
The revenue forecast for Maryland makes it challenging to draw down the maximum federal funding due to limits of match requirements.”
As she works on the commission, Stevens will seek advice from members of the biking groups to which she belongs. She is currently the community coordinator for the Worcester County Bike and Pedestrian Coalition and the Eastern Shore representative for the Maryland Bikes and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
Moore has charged the commission with developing solutions that are fair and equitable for rural people and consider their environmental impact.
“I will be happy if we have come up with a formula to fund transportation needs and investment that is equitable, sustainable and includes funding for multi- modal transportation,” Stevens said.
She encourages people who are interested in transportation issues to visit the commission website Marylandhttps://www.mdot.maryland.gov/tso/Pages/Index.aspx?PageId=205 Commission on Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs – MDOT