When President Donald Trump encouraged states and municipalities last month to quickly forward ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure projects to be included in his $1 trillion “Make America Great Again’ road, rail, and bridge funding bill, it was very hard to imagine how quickly Kent County and Talbot County responded to the new president’s request.
What was quickly approved by the Kent County Commissioners and Talbot County Council, without, it should be noted, any significant citizen input, was a radical and extremely expensive plan to implement a rapid transit master plan for the entire Mid-Shore with an estimated cost of $3 billion over the next 15 years.
The five-county transportation project will have extensive route systems in Kent and Talbot County in the first phase starting next year, and ultimately be expanded to Caroline and Dorchester Counties in 2019. Queen Anne’s Board of County Commissioners has repeatedly rejected the initiative but has allowed the plan to move forward with the construction of a Centreville stop as a compromise. In total, 25 new transit centers to accommodate the new trams line.
Worried that public hearings would delay or even stop construction of what is now being called the Chesapeake Bay Area Rapid Transit or CBART, lawmakers took the unprecedented steps to quickly approve the public transportation system last Thursday night at an undisclosed location near Chesapeake College. And it was during those same secret talks that elected officials made the environmentally friendly but costly decision to make the system almost entirely underground.
While news coverage of the creation of CBART has nearly nonexistent, details of the multi-county agreement have already started to cause alarm. In addition to using local bond measures to partially cover the initial costs of construction, tolls roads on Route 33, Route 50, and Route 213 will be used to collect the additional revenue needed for long term operations. While the cost of using those roads have not been made public, it is estimated that a typical car trip from Rock Hall to Chestertown will be in the range of $8 one way while it may take up to $22 from Tilghman Island to the Easton Airport during peak commuting hours.
It also remains clear that not every town will have its own subway stop. The town of Millington, who just recently lost its only remaining public school in Kent County through the districts’ consolidation plan, lost out in having a downtown stop which many observers suggest will only intensify that community’s isolation and pull down their economic development strategies.
Another loser will be the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton even though the complex’s landlord, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, had quietly developed and secretly lobbied for the CBART program for many years. While the reason given for this exclusion was the anticipated move of the Easton Hospital to a location near the airport off of Route 50, sources indicate that the move was a political calculation to deemphasize ESLC’s secretive role in passing the CBART plan.
In addition t0 the construction of CBART starting next year, Spy columnist Howard Freedlander, a former high ranking state official, reports that Annapolis has started to move forward to plans to operate a tunnel between the Bay Bridge Western Shore toll plaza and Claiborne. If true, this would once again bring the small Talbot County hamlet back to its orginal role of being a transportation hub.
To date, neither Kent or Talbot County government has indicated groundbreaking events.
Editor’s Note: For our less observant readers, it is important to note that this is an example of what fake news looks like. Happy April Fools Day.