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Hogan says ‘bold’ transportation proposal is on the way

OCEAN CITY —  Gov. Larry Hogan promised county leaders a bold consolidated transportation plan as a sign the state is shifting focus from responding to the pandemic to dealing with more traditional needs.

The governor’s 15-minute address at the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference Saturday focused mostly on his administration’s previous actions, especially over the last year with the pandemic. Hogan did, however, draw applause as he teased a consolidated transportation plan that will become public this fall.

A sizable part of the money needed for the plan is expected to come from a federal aid package working its way through Congress.

“Now that we have transitioned from a state of emergency to an ongoing public health management response, we’re renewing our focus on the long-term health of our economy by continuing to invest in our infrastructure, which is critical to creating jobs and improving the lives of everyday Marylanders,” said Hogan.

Hogan said that approach would “invest far more in roads” than previous administrations.

“In the coming weeks, state transportation officials will be rolling out a bold new consolidated transportation plan, which will include even more unprecedented infrastructure improvements across the state,” said Hogan. “In fact, while we’re here in Ocean City this morning, I want to take this opportunity to announce for the first time that our new (transportation plan) will include funding for the planning of the long-awaited and desperately needed Maryland Route 90 Gateway to Ocean City project.”

Hogan said the project is a top priority for the health and safety of the area as well as for the local economy and is needed to improve emergency response times.

The two-lane state highway brings travelers to the shore town across a two-lane bridge over Assawoman Bay just north of 61st Street. The bridge was the scene of a May accident that ejected a toddler from a vehicle into the water below. Another motorist jumped into the bay to save the child.

The speech was likely Hogan’s last to close out a summer meeting of the association’s summer conference. More recent tradition has featured  candidates for governor in an election year.

In previous years, Hogan has promised counties more money for local transportation needs and vowed to restore cuts made by the General Assembly during the Great Recession.

And while Hogan recounted his actions taken during the pandemic, he also gently prodded local leaders to quicken the pace of disbursing federal aid to prevent evictions. The governor noted that while some counties have done well, many have paid out less than 20% of the total federal aid.

“Unfortunately, so far only about 20% of that money has been spent by the counties,” said Hogan. “I just can’t emphasize how important it is for you to try to get this out to the people who need it as quickly as possible.”