GBC’s Fry: Transportation Funding

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

Transportation and transportation funding is likely to emerge as our state’s most significant economic development challenge in the next decade.

In Maryland our transportation wish list is long and our pocketbook is almost empty.

In addition to a multi-billion dollar backlog of highway and bridge needs, major studies of rail transit projects are reaching critical points. Two major projects are in Baltimore: the Red Line, a 10-mile line from Woodlawn to Canton, and a 3-mile extension of the existing Green Line subway to Morgan State University.

Both promise dramatic improvements to our transit system, but construction funding has not been secured for either. The Washington area transit system requires significant sums to address their need for more capacity as well as the aging nature of its system, and a new Purple line tops their wish list of new transit projects.

The upcoming relocation of military jobs to Maryland, the increased need for more capacity and expanded service on the popular MARC trains between Baltimore and Washington, are developing issues that signal an alarm that steps need to be taken.

Establishing a greater sense of transportation funding urgency must be at top of the next governor’s and General Assembly’s agenda.

Transportation never seems to rise to a high level of public concern until it becomes a crisis. The problem is – when transportation needs reach that critical stage, the planning and construction time to complete a highway or transit project takes so long that you never fully get ahead of the demand.

In addition to a growing demand, we now face substantial challenges shaped by diminishing federal transportation funds and the inability of the flat rate per-gallon gas tax – Maryland’s primary transportation funding mechanism – to keep pace with inflation and growing costs of building infrastructure.

It’s time for lawmakers to take a comprehensive look at inflation sensitive revenue sources and to develop a detailed long range financial plan that provides for significant investment in transportation infrastructure throughout the state.

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

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