From Christopher Boardman, candidate for Sheriff in Harford County:
Christopher Boardman testified at the Maryland Department of the Environment hearings held Tuesday July 31 at the Joppa-Magnolia fire hall concerning the environmental impacts of proposed new construction to widen I-95 in Harford County and make bridge and stream improvements and mitigation (see previous article in The Dagger). Approximately 40 citizens were in attendance along with a group of Maryland state government officials and contracting engineers and consultants.
Stating that he serves as a member of the Public Advisory Committee of the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board, where the PAC has reviewed hundreds of new projects for central Maryland, Boardman said he is disappointed that that the state under the leadership of Governor Larry Hogan is attempting to move ahead with the construction of new highways when what is more badly needed is a more balanced, mixed transportation approach that more heavily favors mass transit projects and which serves the transportation needs of a wider public not just car drivers who are trying to flee the problems of Baltimore city.
Boardman noted that the Hogan Administration had completely ignored the unanimous recommendation by the PAC to restore the Red Line, a light rail system concept developed during the O’Malley Administration to address the transportation infrastructure needs of the city and outlying region, in favor of increasing reliance on the automobile.
“We already have automobile gridlock on Harford County roads, but the solution is not just to build more roads as Hogan and his transportation secretary want to do, but to develop a more mixed approach which will reduce reliance on car traffic exclusively. Better public transportation will reduce congestion and expenditure for more costly roads, as well as reduce carbon emissions from too many cars in favor of less from commuter trains and other forms of mass transportation. The Maryland Department of the Environment is addressing environmental issues from the proposed changes at a micro level while totally ignoring the negative macro impact of more highway construction and increased car traffic,” said Boardman.
He said the Maryland Department of Transportation should change its name to the Maryland Department of Automobile Transportation, and is forgetting the transportation needs of the entire citizenry which includes people who do not have cars. He also said the transportation program is being run for the rich by the rich, not for the general public.
Boardman questioned the timing of the project noting that there is considerable interest in reviving the Red Line among Democratic gubernatorial candidates but the Hogan Administration is trying to forge ahead with more road projects when the electorate is going to be heard from in just three months.
Virtually none of the other speakers were in favor of the improvements. Some questioned whether the proposed mitigations of streams would be effective. Others said construction sites would become public disasters. Another speaker said most cars are only transportating one passenger. Gloria Moon, another speaker said the proposed changes would likely eliminate the most heavily used Park and Ride in the county, located in Joppa wthout plans for replacement.
One landowner whose property would be impacted in Cecil County questioned why she had to endure all kinds of regulation of a sewage system while the state could have a virtual free hand to come into her property to change a natural stream. One state official defended the stream mitigation
measures proposed. Another speaker said it takes nature hundreds if not thousands of years to create conditions but state environmental officials are proposing to fix conditions that they are notable to correct so quickly.
Two members of the Joppa community advisory board requested the state to speak at an upcoming meeting of the community council but the chairperson of the meeting said the DOE had no plans to do this.
Another hearing on the permit is scheduled for January.