BOSTON — Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) touted his administration’s improvements to Maryland’s roads, the Port of Baltimore and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport as he hosted a forum Tuesday on infrastructure policy at the National Governors Association’s first Infrastructure Stakeholder Summit.
“Baltimore-Washington International Airport continues to be the number-one airport in the Washington region in passenger traffic,” Hogan told the audience of about 100 policymakers and public servants from around the country. “So for those of you who fly to Washington, don’t go to Dulles or Reagan. BWI is the closest, most convenient and comfortable airport in the Washington region.”
Hogan spoke alongside infrastructure specialists and three New England governors in a program that included two wide-ranging discussions related to Hogan’s signature initiative as chairman of the NGA, “Infrastructure: Foundation for Success,” which he launched last month in Salt Lake City.
Calling infrastructure “an issue that is so fundamental to our economy, to our environment and to our way of life,” Hogan laid out his “four main pillars: Relieving congestion to boost economic competitiveness. … Eliminating red tape and integrating smart technology. … Protecting America’s critical infrastructure. And financing and leveraging private sector investment.”
“In Maryland, we’ve taken a balanced approach, an all-inclusive approach, to infrastructure,” Hogan told the crowd inside the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. “We’ve moved forward on nearly all of the highest priority transportation projects in every single jurisdiction all across our state — an unprecedented and historic investment in transportation, in both transit and roads.”
Speakers at the event took a deep dive into infrastructure issues such as growing urban — and rural — traffic congestion and into technological advances, such as on-demand public shuttles that work more like Uber than a city bus, smart sensors that automatically adjust traffic signals when there’s a crash, the Maryland Department of Transportation’s use of high-friction treatments on highway curves to make them easier for tires to grip, and the Port of Baltimore’s electronic system for freight logistics.
Hogan seemed at ease and was sometimes playful with the other governors, especially 6-foot-6-inch Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), who towered over the other speakers.
During a brief news conference between panel discussions, Baker began speaking over Hogan’s answer to a question and then ribbingly nagged him into sharing another Maryland achievement.
“Tell them about … the bridge story you told yesterday,” Baker said. “You guys found an extra lane just by connecting and taking it up the piece —”
“They don’t want to hear that one,” Hogan interjected, and both men laughed. Then Hogan relented.
“Innovative techniques where we added a lane to a bridge without ever shutting down the bridge. … We built it underneath the bridge in the middle of the night, and the bridge expanded all of a sudden,” Hogan said. “We saved people 30 minutes on their commute home, and they just one day came home from work and realized that there was an extra lane and there’s no more traffic.”
Later, during a panel discussion they cohosted, Hogan gently razzed New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who said his largely rural state is helping mitigate urban traffic congestion by “stealing businesses out of New York City.”
Chuckling, the Republican added that Democratic New York Gov. Andrew “Cuomo can’t do anything right, frankly, and businesses flood into New England.”
“So much for bipartisanship,” Hogan quipped. Cuomo is the vice chairman of the NGA.
Tuesday’s event focused on Hogan’s initiative, but for much of the program, he ceded the spotlight to Baker, Sununu, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and a panel of infrastructure specialists that included Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Slater.
Hogan stressed that Slater was just “a homeboy” but was speaking in his role as the chairman of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Data Management and Analytics Committee.
Slater told the audience MDOT is one of very few state transportation departments that is truly “multimodal,” overseeing roads, railways, seaports, airports and toll facilities. State roads and bridges carry 78 percent of Maryland’s traffic, Slater said, and 82 percent of the state’s truck traffic. The heavy volume, he said, force MDOT to think strategically and embrace technology.
Slater said Maryland, like many states, has a growing problem of road congestion that has evolved more quickly than strategies for addressing the issue.
“Maryland has some of the worst congestion in the nation, particularly around Washington, D.C., and Baltimore,” he said. “We go back and forth, ranking one and number two, with … L.A., and we go trying to tackle that problem every single day.”
Hogan interjected: “It’s not a ranking we’re very proud of.”
The governors’ association plans to hold three more stakeholder summits in support of Hogan’s initiative. His term as NGA chairman runs through next summer.