GBC’s Fry: Aging transportation infrastructure needs strategic focus, not tactical patches

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

A recent report from a federal commission on transportation policy contains some profoundly disturbing information, not the least of which is a recommendation to increase the federal gasoline tax as much as 40 cents per gallon over the next five years.

That’s the estimated federal price tag for fixing the nation’s aging and ailing road and bridge system, according to a report by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

The nation’s transportation infrastructure is in crisis, the report contends. It calls for immediate action to strengthen funding and to maintain and expand the nation’s highways. It also calls for “more emphasis” on transit and intercity passenger rail resources to ease crippling traffic congestion that stifles economic growth.

If all of this sounds familiar, that’s because the Greater Baltimore Committee and other advocates have been making the same case for increased transportation funding and expedited planning to Maryland’s governors and lawmakers for the last several years. This federal report illustrates that transportation infrastructure is a challenge far broader than merely a Maryland concern.

As with all states, Maryland must play its part along with the federal government in addressing our state’s many transportation needs. The current target federal funding share for highways, for instance, is 40 percent. That leaves the states, including Maryland, with a substantial financial responsibility that is not going to decrease anytime soon.

America needs a “new beginning” when it comes to transportation. The current system of simply repairing our aging infrastructure is “no longer acceptable,” the federal report asserts.

The same goes for Maryland. Our state’s transportation needs must be addressed on a comprehensive, creative and strategic basis, rather than a patchwork tactical approach. Our state’s elected leaders must also face the reality that this will require funding resources greater than the $400 million increase to the state’s transportation fund enacted in the recent General Assembly special session.

Perhaps the call to action contained in this latest federal report will resonate not only on Capitol Hill but in Maryland’s State House as well.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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