New GBC Chair Collins: ‘Transportation must be a top priority’

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The Greater Baltimore Committee’s new chairman, Atwood “Woody” Collins III, is urging leaders in government and the business community to make strengthening the transportation system in the Baltimore region an immediate top priority.

“In order to sustain and grow our economy, we need to place our collective focus on the transportation system,” Collins said in remarks to more than 800 GBC members after his election as chairman at the May 17 GBC Annual Meeting.

Collins, president of M&T Bank’s mid-Atlantic region, noted that in order to meet essential needs in the coming decade a way must be found to increase revenue to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund by at least $400 million per year.

That’s the minimum annual increase needed to be able to build infrastructure currently in the planning stages but not yet funded, according to expert projections. The need could be as much as $600 million per year, experts estimate.

“All too often, transportation issues never seem to become a focus of public concern until they become a crisis. And often by that time it’s too late to keep up with demand. So we must act now,” Collins said.

Projected growth in the related to bioscience industry expansion, base realignment and closure, and numerous other development initiatives underway in the Baltimore region provide a sense of urgency, he said.

“Before it becomes too late, transportation funding must be a critical part of the governor’s and the General Assembly’s agenda. And we have to get it there,” Collins told the audience of business executives and elected officials.

Approximately 75 CEOs from major businesses in the region attended the event, along with more than a dozen elected and appointed government leaders, including Governor Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, and State Senator Ulysses Currie, chairman of the Senate Budget and Tax Committee, City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and council members Helen Holton and Ken Harris also attended.

Collins suggested potential short-range goals for improving transportation include expanding MARC rail commuter service and ensuring that current plans stay on schedule to build the Red Line from Woodlawn to Inner Harbor East and extend the Metro Green Line north from Johns Hopkins.

Other short-range goals could include implementing planned traffic flow improvement in the city, establishing commuter water taxi service, and making transit-oriented development a priority, he said.

Medium-range goals Collins suggested include adding a 50-ft deep berth in the Port of Baltimore, and exploring options for privatizing highway and toll facilities and creating commuter ferry services between Baltimore and other locales that border the Chesapeake Bay.

Long-range priorities include addressing the need for greater clearances in Baltimore’s Howard Street tunnel to accommodate double-stack rail containers, and continuing to pursue a Maglev project between Baltimore and Washington.

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