GBC’s Fry: Our transportation funding system needs fixing

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR:

Maryland’s system of funding transportation is broken.

That became clear recently when state Transportation Secretary John Porcari announced that the Maryland’s budget for capital transportation projects will be reduced by more than $1.1 billion in the next six years.

He cited lagging revenues to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund and uncertainty over federal funding as reasons for deferring previously budgeted spending on more than 100 projects in the state’s six-year transportation capital plan.

Only three months into this fiscal year, which began July 1, revenues from state gas taxes, titling fees and other sources of funding for highways, transit, port and airport facilities, are already $115 million in the hole. Remember, this is after state lawmakers took steps during the last year that they thought would increase transportation revenue by about $350 million annually.

The more than $152 million that Porcari has cut so far from this year’s transportation budget doesn’t completely erase the effects of the lawmakers’ increase. But it puts the state back into a posture of just maintaining, rather than making a meaningful dent in the state’s more than $40 billion backlog of planned, but unfunded, transportation projects.

To make matters worse, federal gas tax revenues decreased so dramatically this summer that the U.S. highway trust fund went broke in September, requiring Congress to quickly appropriate $8 billion to keep it solvent.

All of this is not good news for mobility in our state, or our nation. Few things are more important to economic growth than a good transportation system.

That’s why the Greater Baltimore Committee is forming a private-sector task force to develop recommendations for adequately funding Maryland’s transportation resources and to explore ways to better plan and execute the development of our state’s future transportation infrastructure.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Our state and national policy leaders must get serious about developing long-term, strategic reform of transportation funding. The existing patchwork approach that has prevailed in both Annapolis and Washington, D.C. is obviously not working.

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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