The Greater Baltimore Committee is supporting proposed legislation that would create a task force to study the potential creation of a Baltimore Regional Transportation Authority.
GBC President & CEO Donald C. Fry submitted testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on February 20, supporting SB 644, sponsored by Senator Catherine E. Pugh, D-40th, Baltimore City and several co-sponsors.
The legislation would prompt “study of a subject that may present hope to a region that is in dire need of transportation planning and investment,” said Fry.
A companion bill in the House of Delegates, HB 793, sponsored by Delegate Keith E. Haynes, D-44th, Baltimore City, is scheduled to be heard by the House Environmental Matters Committee on March 11.
The bills would require a 21-member task force to study and make recommendations regarding the jurisdiction, planning role and operational scope of a regional transportation authority. The GBC has just finished compiling a report on best practices of other regional transportation authorities in the U.S. It has offered the study as a reference to lawmakers, and would share its research with task force members if the bill passes.
Fry suggested that the existing Baltimore Regional Transportation Board, a part of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, “could be fortified and could serve as the basis for a Baltimore Regional Transportation Authority,” said Fry. “Such an act would unify the roles of transportation planning and development, financing, and operation of transportation facilities.”
In addition to planning coordination, other factors in weighing potential creation of a regional authority include the need for “consistent communication” with Congress and federal transportation officials in order to ensure that the Baltimore region is a significant contender for federal transportation construction grants, said Fry.
This bill would offer hope to a region “whose transit needs have gone neglected for too long,” said Fry. “The task force proposed by this bill would be one step in an enormous, historical effort … whose time has certainly come.”