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The Charles County delegation applauded Monday the inclusion of $40 million worth of new local projects in the draft version of the state’s six-year transportation plan, including a light rail transit study and preliminary engineering work on a new Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge.

Released this week, the draft Consolidated Transportation Program includes $34 million in projects secured as a result of the gas tax increase approved this year by the legislature — $12 million apiece to expand the county’s commuter bus service and acquire right of way for a future interchange at Route 5 and Accokeek Road in Brandywine, plus $5 million apiece for the light rail study and to complete federal environmental surveys needed to build interchanges along U.S. 301 at Berry Road and Mattawoman-Beantown Road in Waldorf.

The delegation — Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton and Dels. Sally Y. Jameson, Peter F. Murphy and C.T. Wilson (all D-Charles) — supported the gas tax increase with the understanding that the state would add the local projects to its transportation plan.

“These new investments advance Charles County’s top transportation goals — U.S. 301 upgrades in Waldorf and light rail — while also providing immediate relief,” the delegation said in a joint statement. “It was important for us to also see a commitment to Commuter Bus service improvements — because action can and must be taken now to relieve severe overcrowding that Charles County riders experience daily.”

The light rail study will initiate project planning and public outreach on a high-speed transit line linking White Plains and Waldorf to the Branch Avenue Metro Station in Marlow Heights.

The state Board of Public Works will consider a plan to improve the county’s commuter bus service this fall.

The plan also includes $6 million in toll revenue for work on the Nice Bridge replacement. In a June 27 letter to Middleton, Maryland Transportation Authority Acting Executive Secretary Bruce Gartner wrote that the bridge funding will cover preliminary engineering, boring and geotechnical work, and ordnance detection and pile testing near the replacement’s approved location, to the immediate north of the current span.

The total cost of the bridge replacement currently is estimated at $850 million.

Each year, the Maryland Department of Transportation drafts a CTP and presents it in a fall tour to the counties and Baltimore. A final version of the plan is then delivered to the Maryland General Assembly in January.

This year’s tour meeting with Charles County officials is scheduled for Sept. 24. At last year’s meeting, MDTA’s Director of Capital Planning Dennis N. Simpson called the Nice Bridge replacement the authority’s “No. 1 priority” beyond the Intercounty Connector linking Gaithersburg and Laurel, and express toll lanes along Interstate 95 in northeast Baltimore.

The ICC is nearing completion and is open on part of its length. The toll lanes in Baltimore are scheduled for completion in 2014.

jnewman@somdnews.com