Baltimore, Maryland/Baltimore Central Light Rail Double Tracking

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Central LRT Double Tracking

Baltimore, MD

(November 1999)

(Access the Baltimore Central Corridor Light Rail Map)

Description

The Maryland Mass Transit Administration proposes to construct 9.4 miles of double track to upgrade designated areas of the Baltimore Central Corridor Light Rail Line (CCLRL) that are currently single track. The CCLRL is 29 miles long and operates from Hunt Valley in the north to Cromwell/Glen Burnie in the south, serving Baltimore City and Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties, with extensions providing service to Amtrak at Penn Station and the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The proposed project will double track eight sections of the CCLRL between Timonium and Cromwell Station/Glen Burnie. Although no new stations are required, the addition of a second track will require construction of additional station platforms at four stations. The project will reduce headways from 17 minutes to 8 minutes in the peak period, and to 12 minutes in the off-peak, and also improve operational reliability. Other elements included in the double track project are bridge and crossing improvements, bi-directional signal system with traffic signal preemption on Howard Street, and catenary and other equipment and systems. The double tracking will be constructed almost entirely in existing right-of-way. The MTA estimates the total cost of these improvements at $153.7 million (in escalated dollars). In 2020, average weekday boardings are estimated at 44,000, with an estimated 6,800 daily new riders.

Proposed Project Light rail line double tracking 9.4 miles, new platforms at 4 stations.
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $153.70 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $120.00 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1997) $8.4 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 44,000 average weekday boardings
6,800 daily new riders
FY 2001 Finance Rating: Medium-High
FY 2001 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2001 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The Recommended rating is based on the project’s strong estimated cost effectiveness and demonstrated local financial commitment. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1999. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.

Status

The original Central Corridor Light Rail Line (CCLRL) was built entirely with local funds. The line began operations in 1992 predominately as single track. MTA subsequently examined the feasibility and environmental impacts and benefits of double tracking eight sections. Three Federally funded extensions of the CCLRL, to Hunt Valley, Penn Station and Baltimore-Washington International Airport, were completed in 1998. The double track project was adopted by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and included in its financially constrained long range plan in 1993.

In January 1999, FTA approved Maryland MTA’s request to enter preliminary engineering. The project has been divided into two segments for environmental review purposes. The environmental review phase for the Southern segment, Cromwell Station to Hamburg Street, has been completed with a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) expected by January 2000. The PE phase and a FONSI for the Northern segment, North Avenue to Timonium, is anticipated to be completed in spring 2000. Upon completion of all environmental reviews, MTA is expected to request FTA approval to enter final design.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(42) authorizes the "Maryland – Light Rail Double Track" for final design and construction. Section 3030(g)(1)(C) specifies that the "Baltimore-Washington Transportation Improvements Program" projects will be funded at an 80 percent Federal share, comparing the aggregate expenditure of State and local funds, including highway funds, provided by the State of Maryland for all phases of the Central Corridor Light Rail project. Through FY 2000, Congress has appropriated $5.65 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds to the project.

Evaluation

The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Criteria were submitted on the entire 29 mile CLRL corridor. While only certain sections of the line are being improved, criteria ratings are provided for the entire line, unless otherwise noted, since double-tracking sections are scattered throughout the system and will affect service for the entire system. With FTA’s permission, the MTA did not provide criteria on a TSM alternative. N/A indicates that the data are not available for a specific measure.

FTA has evaluated this project as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.

Justification

The Medium project justification rating reflects strong cost-effectiveness but relatively weak transit-supportive land use.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium

MTA estimates that the project will serve 44,000 average weekday boardings and attract 6,800 daily new riders by 2020, and would result in the following annual travel time savings.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 0.6 million hours N/A

Based on 1990 Census data, there are an estimated 7,315 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of 29 stations along the proposed double track project.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: High

The Baltimore Metropolitan Area is a severe non-attainment area for ozone. MTA estimates that in 2020, the CLRL double tracking would result in the following annual emissions reductions.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) reduction of 301 annual tons N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) reduction of 2,700 annual tons N/A
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) reduction of 210 annual tons N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) No Change N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) reduction of 8,170 annual tons N/A

MTA estimates that in 2020, the project would result in the following savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (million) reduction of 105,178 million BTU N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

MTA estimates the following systemwide operating cost per passenger mile in the year 2020 for the CCLRL double tracking project and the No-Build alternative.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2025) $0.60 N/A $0.59

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium-High

MTA estimates the following cost effectiveness index for the project.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $8.70 N/A

Note: Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium land use rating reflects that although land use in the City of Baltimore remains fairly transit-supportive, adjacent counties along the corridor have not yet undertaken significant policy measures to increase transit supportive development in their jurisdictions.

Existing Conditions: The Central Corridor Light Rail Line traverses low to moderate density suburban communities, a portion of the Baltimore CBD, and several entertainment and sports centers and tourist attractions. A total of 160,000 employees and 44,000 residents are located within ½ mile of the ten central Baltimore City stations, at densities of 78 and 22 per acre, respectively. Pedestrian accessibility in the city is generally good, with a densely gridded street network. The City of Baltimore has undertaken some revitalization efforts including streetscape improvements in the downtown area. A number of redevelopment and restoration activities are underway or planned in the City near the light rail corridor. The State of Maryland has undertaken programs to improve pedestrian access in station areas. Parking policies and incentives related to transit are currently weak or non-existent. Additional parking has been recommended in the Baltimore CBD in order to increase the economic competitiveness of the area.

Elsewhere in the corridor, the character of commercial and residential development is generally suburban, at low to moderate densities. As a freight corridor, pedestrian access is frequently limited by a lack of sidewalks, due to the presence of adjacent freeways and/or railroad tracks, arterial crossings, and circuitous street systems. The State of Maryland has taken the lead in growth management with the 1996 passage of its Smart Growth Initiative. Existing or planned growth management policies for outlying areas restrict the extent of urban development and urban service provision, but contain relatively weak policies to concentrate development in transit station areas. Commercial redevelopment of formerly industrial areas is continuing to occur at the north end of the corridor. While there have been some activities to improve pedestrian access to these developments, a particular concentration of activity near light rail stations is not noted.

Future Plans and Policies: Current market forces indicate a general outward migration of population from the central city. Employment is forecasted to increase slightly in the CBD and corridor but at a slower rate than regional employment growth. Existing policies to encourage transit-oriented development are generally weak. Baltimore City has undertaken some revitalization efforts, including streetscape improvements in the downtown area. The City of Baltimore has initiated a $350 million West Side Urban Renewal Project to redevelop 18 square blocks of the Howard Street Corridor. Proposed policies would increase the minimum required parking for new development and increase the number of parking structures; however, greater emphasis on parking management would promote transit use.

Anne Arundel County has designated Transit-Oriented Development areas although with relatively modest development targets. Baltimore County has designated an employment center that includes a number of stations. Existing zoning does not generally support increased development in station areas. Design guidelines specifically for station areas have not been developed. Anne Arundel County is in the process of revising its zoning ordinances consistent with the recently adopted general plan, which should allow for mixed-use, possibly higher densities, and improved pedestrian access in station areas. Baltimore County and Baltimore City may revise zoning ordinances in the near future, consistent with general plan revisions that are currently being developed. These plans address the state’s Smart Growth Initiative and contain some provisions aimed at coordinating development with transit. The state’s long-range transportation plan has been finalized. The MTA has undertaken activities in a few station areas to integrate development with station areas and facilitate additional station area development.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 22%

MTA’s financial plan proposes to use $120 million (78 percent of total project costs) in Section 5309 New Starts funds; $3.0 million (2 percent) is proposed from Section 5307 Urban Formula funds and $30.7 million (20 percent) of State funds is also proposed. Section 3030(g)(1)(C) of TEA-21 specifies the 80 percent Federal share for this project, in recognition of previous State and local contributions for all phases of the CCLRL including the State’s prior 100 percent investment in the CCLRL main line. Taking these previous local investments into consideration results in an overall 33 percent Federal investment in the Central Corridor Light Rail system.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: High

The High capital finance plan rating reflects the strong financial condition of the Maryland Department of Transportation, parent agency of the Mass Transit Administration, and the State’s demonstrated financial commitment to the project.

Agency Capital Financial Condition: All capital transportation investments in the State of Maryland are locally financed entirely through the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund (MTTF) administered by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT). As of June 30, 1999, MDOT had outstanding bond debt totaling $749 million; its overall debt limit equals $1.2 billion. The debt is rated Aa2 by Moody’s Investor Services, AA by Standard and Poor’s Corporation, and AA by Fitch IBCA, Inc., which are among the highest ratings awarded to transportation agencies.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies:The capital cost estimate for this project has remained constant, accounting for 3 percent inflation. Adequate contingencies built into project cost estimates provide some security against the risk of cost overruns. Beyond this, MDOT’s Transportation Trust Fund is considered secure and has additional capability to issue debt should the need arise.

Existing and Committed Funding: All non-Federal funding for the project has been committed. The State has committed $30.74 million over the six years scheduled for the project carried forward in its FY 2000 – FY 2005 Consolidated Transportation Program as the local match, funded by the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund. The Maryland Transportation Trust Fund, with its additional bonding capacity, provides a stable revenue source for capital projects throughout the State. An additional $2.95 million of Section 5307 formula funds has also been programmed to this project.

New and Proposed Sources: No new sources of funding are proposed for the project.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High operating finance plan rating reflects the reliable State support of transit operating subsidies and the financial soundness of MTA operations.

Agency Operating Financial Condition: All activities of MDOT are supported by the MTTF, including debt service, maintenance, operations and administration. Revenues allocated to the MTTF exceed $2 billion annually. MDOT is able to balance anticipated expenditures with projected revenues, despite the fact that the MTTF does not depend on inflation-sensitive revenue sources. MTA’s systemwide operating budget in 2003 is anticipated at $275.2 million. The MTA reports farebox revenues accounting for 32 percent of total revenue in FY 1997. Between 1990 and 1997, MTA’s operating expenses increased by 64 percent, or at an average rate of 7.3 percent annually. MTA’s operating revenues kept pace with increasing expenses and increased by 50 percent during the same time period.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Systemwide annual operating and maintenance costs are estimated to increase by $8.4 million with the double tracking improvements, based on the number of additional trains to be operated at reduced headways. The estimated increase in operating and maintenance costs constitutes an increase of less than 1 percent over the MTTF’s FY 2004 projected operating costs. Typically, the MTA has offset cost increases with bus service mile reductions and cost containment programs. Overall, cost increases have been less than general inflation.

Existing and Committed Funding: Total operating expenses are covered by the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund, including debt service, maintenance, operations and administration. Operations and maintenance of the Central Corridor Light Rail system have been fully programmed in the State CTP.

New and Proposed Sources: No new funding sources are proposed for the project.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
($million)
Appropriations to Date
Federal:
Section 5309 New Start
$120.00 $1.00 million appropriated through FY 1999
State:
MDOT/TFF
$30.00 N/A
Total $150.00

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
($million)
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Start $120.00 $5.65 million appropriated through FY 2000
Federal: Section 5307 Formula Funds $3.00 N/A
State: Maryland DOT/Transportation Trust Fund $30.70 N/A
Total $153.70

Baltimore Central Corridor Light Rail Double Track Map. The Central Corridor Light Rail Line (CCLRL)  is 29 miles long and operates from Hunt Valley in the north to Cromwell/Glen Burnie in the south, serving Baltimore City and Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties, with extensions providing service to Amtrak at Penn Station and the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.