Swaim-Staley: Transportation – Maryland has it All

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Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles in Corridor Inc.'s "Economic Impact" issue, which was published this month. Click here to sign up to receive a complimentary copy of the entire print issue.

By Beverly K. Swaim-Staley

As our nation continues to recover from the recent economic downturn, transportation is helping to lead the way by creating jobs and opportunity. Throughout history, one of the great benefits of transportation has been its ability to connect people to where they need to go while also opening the door to opportunity. Today is no different. We continue to work on over $600 million in transportation projects in Maryland that are funded by President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). One benefit of ARRA is that it supports jobs while investing in our nation’s infrastructure. It is that transportation infrastructure -- highway, transit, airport and port -- that continues to put Maryland in a position to compete in today’s economy.

Maryland’s commitment to compete in the global economy is on display at the Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal. In 2009, Governor Martin O’Malley reached an unprecedented 50-year agreement with Ports America Chesapeake. Under the agreement, Ports America has assumed the day-to-day operation of Seagirt Marine terminal, and it is building, with its own capital, a new $100 million dollar, 50-foot berth capable of handling the larger container ships that will transit a widened Panama Canal beginning in 2014. Baltimore will be one of only two ports on the United States East Coast with a 50-foot berth. The agreement with Ports America supports 5,700 new jobs, provides the state $140 million for road, tunnel and bridge improvements, and generates about $15.7 million annually in taxes. The agreement with Ports America will allow the Port of Baltimore to continue on its upward trajectory that has seen a 37 percent increase in the value of cargo coming through the Port in 2010 versus 2009.

At BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, we are excited about the merger between Southwest Airlines and AirTran, our two largest carriers. Combined, these two partners today operate 254 daily flights at BWI Marshall. The potential for Southwest under this new dynamic is great. Baggage system modifications are now being made at BWI Marshall as a result of the consolidation. Passengers will see the first public signs of the merger when AirTran moves to Southwest’s terminal this fall. Like the improved performance at the Port of Baltimore, BWI Marshall has seen an increase in passenger traffic for 23 of the past 24 months and set a record for passenger traffic with 21.9 million travelers in 2010. With the opening of the Intercounty Connector this winter between Maryland’s two major economic corridors of I-270 and I-95, we project the performance of BWI Marshall will continue to improve. A strong air service presence at BWI Marshall is important to Maryland business. We are committed to maintaining the airport as a world-class gateway.

Any discussion of Maryland’s economic future must include transit. Governor O’Malley’s commitment to transit and transit-oriented development (TOD) is consistent with his broader Smart, Green and Growing initiative, designed to help chart the path for future sustainable growth in our state. He has designated 14 Maryland transit stations as priority sites for TOD. The goal is to create vibrant, mixed-use, walkable communities adjacent to established transit infrastructure. This emphasis on TOD will prevent sprawl, increase transit ridership and focus economic development in areas accessible to transit.

In the days ahead, an efficient transportation network will continue to play a key role in the success of Maryland’s economy. As a state, we must remain committed to making the wise investments necessary that will allow us to meet our needs and remain competitive in an ever-changing global economic environment.

Beverly K. Swaim-Staley is Maryland's Secretary of Transportation.
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