The Greater Baltimore Committee, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Washington Board of Trade have initiated a study to quantify the economic impact of Maryland’s traffic congestion and to gauge the benefits of increasing transportation funding in the state.
The three largest business advocacy organizations in Maryland have commissioned the Texas Transportation Institute to measure the overall economic importance of the state’s transportation resources and to project the consequences of existing and future congestion.
The institute, a member of the Texas A&M University System with widely-recognized expertise on transportation issues, will also analyze the economic benefits of increasing funding to Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund at two potential levels — $400 million and $600 million per year.
Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) experts conservatively estimate that the state’s transportation fund needs at least $400 per year in additional revenue to pay for a growing backlog of key transit, highway, port, airport, rail and other currently unfunded projects now in the planning stages. Other transportation advocates, including GBC president and CEO Donald C. Fry, contend that the annual need for increased transportation revenue is closer to $600 million.
“Funding transportation resources is the single biggest economic development challenge that Maryland faces in the next decade,” said Fry. “Unfortunately, this very serious issue is getting lost amid the current debate about addressing the state’s $1.5 billion General Fund operating deficit.”
The Texas Transportation Institute study will better enable the GBC and other advocates to make the case in Annapolis and Washington, D.C. for focusing on capital investment in transportation as a top fiscal priority, Fry said.
The study is expected to be released in September.
“Raising up to $1.5 billion in new taxes and fees to close the General Fund spending deficit would just maintain the state government’s status quo. For approximately a third of that amount to the Transportation Trust Fund, taxpayers can gain badly needed, tangible capital projects to directly strengthen our transportation system — one of Maryland’s most important economic resources,” he said.
More than $40 billion in MDOT projects currently in the planning stages are yet to be funded for construction. Such projects in the Baltimore region include:
• Baltimore’s rapid transit Red Line from Woodlawn to Canton
• The Metro Green Line extension from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions northeast to Morgan State University and eventually to southeastern Baltimore County
• Up to 30 highway and transit projects to address needs related to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)
• Increasing MARC service capacity between Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Fort Meade, Baltimore and Washington, DC
• Major interstate highway widening projects on I-95, I-695, and I-70
• Port dredging
• Improvements to BWI Marshall Airport