The leaders of central Maryland's various jurisdictions will haggle and negotiate in the coming months over what regional transportation projects to prioritize over the next two-and-a-half decades — and officials are looking for ideas from the public.
The Baltimore Regional Transportation Board must update the region's 25-year transportation priorities every four years, making them eligible for federal funding.
"We're looking for long-range, regional thinking, not filling the pothole on your street," said Terry Freeland, senior transportation policy planner at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.
The council, which is helping the transportation board, already has identified nine broad "draft goals" — from preserving existing infrastructure to increasing — for the "Maximize 2040" plan.
The council is hosting a public "open house" Wednesday for interested citizens to talk with board members, council planners and other transportation experts and provide input.
Such trransportation boards are required by federal law for some 400 urbanized areas across the country. Separate organizations represent the Washington region and several other population hubs in Maryland.
The local board consists of the heads of Baltimore, Annapolis and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties, as well as the state's transportation secretary. The heads of the state's departments of environment and planning and the Maryland Transit Administration hold non-voting positions.
Every four years, the board must produce a new report outlining the region's collective transportation goals. Under federal law, major transportation projects are only eligible for federal funding if they are outlined in the region's longterm plans.
While many parts of the current "Plan It 2035" plan will carry over into the new 2040 plan before it is finalized in October 2015, coordinators also must reconsider a slew of evolving information, including the state's changed transportation budget under its new gas tax structure.
The plan also will have to take into account new traffic projections, expected population shifts, trends in transit usage, regional air quality progression and projected fluctuations in local and federal transportation budgets.
Board members will balance that information against input from the public — and their own desires for what projects they'd like to see brought to fruition — as they vote on a series of drafts before establishing the final plan.
Freeland said the vast amount of legwork that is done before the plan is finalized "puts some objectivity into it," so it's "not just making political considerations."
Todd Lang, the Baltimore Metropolitan Council's director of transportation planning, said the make-up of the board also ensures local jurisdictions have a say, beyond state budgeting circles, in transportation policy vital to their constituents.
"The state can't drive this discussion," Lang said.
Wednesday's open house is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, at 1415 Key Highway. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP at maximize2040-launch.eventbrite.com.
The public may submit ideas by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to The Baltimore Regional Transportation Board, Office @ McHenry Row, 1500 Whetstone Way, Suite 300, Baltimore MD 21230.