As your councilwoman, I learn new things every day, many times because of constituent inquiries. The questions generated by citizens lead me to a deeper understanding and working knowledge of county government problems and interplays with state and federal agencies. My job is to investigate and solve these problems, or at the very least, get answers and keep citizens apprised.
I have learned a lot in the last two years. While 2020 was different in almost every way, constituent concerns and questions continued, and at a record pace. What seems like a simple problem to solve can often be more complex than one would think. While constituent cases can range from potholes to challenges contacting a department, and everything in between, there are some regular areas of concern.
Recently, I have received communications from residents on the use of reusable yard waste bags. To give background, in 2017 the waste management division ceased the acceptance and use of a handful of items to improve efficiency and cost. Plastic bags (think grocery bags) were no longer accepted in the recycling program as bags had been saturated with various liquids in the receptacle trucks and were jamming the machines used in the recycling process. Recycling and yard waste were no longer accepted in plastic garbage bags. What was not clear to many residents was that reusable yard waste bags were never an accepted part of the waste removal program. According to the Department of Public Works, these bags are difficult for contracted agencies to recognize, are difficult to empty, and often cannot be fully emptied. In addition, they can blow away become litter themselves.
Community traffic calming is another top constituent subject that I often respond to. Speeding issues, pedestrian crosswalks, stop signs, and more. Each of these scenarios requires the same process through the traffic engineering division of the county. The starting point is a request from a group of community members to initiate the review of a particular area. Potential solutions must meet established neighborhood traffic control guidelines and certain volume thresholds depending on the technique considered (islands, speed bumps, etc.) Of course, the length of time it takes to identify and implement a solution can vary depending on the problem and the scope of the solution.
Vehicular access to and from communities has also taken a front seat in recent years, especially during the summer months when Bay Bridge traffic can cause backups from Annapolis City to Severna Park and Pasadena. Contraflow, or the use of three lanes in either the east or west direction, is a critical tool to keep traffic moving. But safety concerns prevent the Maryland Transit Authority from opening the third eastbound lane on the westbound span in certain weather conditions. An event with police activity, a car accident, or a disabled vehicle can cripple commuters for hours in one direction, and these do not always take place on the bridge but oftentimes the approaching corridors. The domino effect creeps quickly onto local roads.
The need for an additional crossing over the bay has been discussed for decades. In 2016, Governor Larry Hogan took the first step to make this necessity a reality by funding a $5 million Bay Bridge crossing study. In 2018, when the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) prepared the purpose and needs statement of the study, it was narrowly focused on moving traffic only over the Bay Bridge, not including the approaches. This insufficient purpose and needs statement carried the remainder of the study as the possible locations for a third span were reduced from 14 potential locations to three locations, all existing in Anne Arundel County.
At the county council meeting on June 21, my resolution, 32-21, passed with bipartisan support. This resolution does not request a “no build” option, as I think most will agree that we need additional infrastructure to the Eastern Shore somewhere. This resolution does not request a “do over” of the entire study. The state has already invested the dollars and time. MDTA and federal agencies should not scrap the information collected to date. This resolution does state that the county council is opposed to rendering a final environmental impact statement and record of decision for a location of a third span, without considering the extremely critical components of this corridor, the infrastructure of the eastern and western approaches, and the residents and commerce entities who use this section of state road for daily essentials of living and working in Anne Arundel County.
As always, for any constituent concerns or questions on legislation, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org I am always available to you and your family.