Gov. Martin O’Malley tapped Harold Bartlett on Tuesday to run the Maryland Transportation Authority, the toll agency that has been under fire recently for raising the cost to drive its tunnels, bridges and highways.
Bartlett is a veteran of the Maryland Department of Transportation and headed the toll authority on an interim basis before retiring in February.
“Few organizations directly touch as many citizens as the MdTA, and our challenge is to deliver quality, safety and sound financial management,” Bartlett said in a statement.
Bartlett previously served as a top deputy to Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley and chief operating officer of the department with an annual budget of more than $3.7 billion. He became acting executive secretary of the MdTA in August 2010 and delayed his scheduled retirement until after the opening of the first segment of the Inter-County Connector in February.
He assumes the executive secretary post at a time of growth and change for the MdTA, which is overseeing the state’s only major transportation projects underway.
The second leg of the $2.6 billion ICC in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties is scheduled to open this year or early next year. And the authority is adding toll lanes to ease congestion on Interstate 95 through Baltimore. That project is expected to cost $1 billion.
The MdTA board voted last week to raise tolls across the state, doubling the cost to cross the Baltimore harbor, to avoid a default on the bonds used to pay for the construction and maintenance of its existing bridges, tunnels and highways.
The move was lambasted by lawmakers, truck drivers and others throughout the state.
Authority board member William C. Calhoun Sr. said the board approved of the appointment and said Bartlett would be instrumental in MdTA continuing “its mammoth work in providing quality toll infrastructure for Maryland.”
Bartlett, a Montgomery County resident, has a background in transit. He spent 23 years with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs the Metro system, including nine years as chief of staff and secretary.
Randolph P. Brown had served as acting executive secretary of MdTA between Bartlett’s two times atop the agency.