Potential solutions to Maryland’s transportation funding problems include increasing gas taxes, sales taxes or various other sources of increased revenues that detractors say taxpayers can ill afford at this time.
But what if these solutions were actually saving them money?
A report released Feb. 28 by TRIP, a national transportation industry group, estimates Baltimore drivers lose nearly $1,800 a year to costs related to roadways that lack desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions, not to mention additional vehicle operating costs and the cost of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion.
The average commuter in the Baltimore metro area spends roughly the equivalent of one full working week stuck in traffic a year and the problem will only get worse as the population grows, vehicle miles traveled increase and funding remains stagnant.
With current funding, Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund has zero dollars for new construction projects and can only maintain base-level maintenance. By 2017, it is estimated there will not even be enough funding for that, said TRIP’s Associate Director of Research and Communications and author of the report, Carolyn Kelly.
So while increasing taxes to pay for these resources may seem too much, Baltimore drivers will be “saving more in the long run,” Kelly said at a press conference held at the GBC.
Jerry Jannetti, Transport Area Manager for Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. and representing the American Council of Engineering Companies, said “there is a real cost of inaction here.” Funding to the Transportation Trust Fund has not increased since 1992, alongside a 79 percent rise in construction costs.
According to the TRIP report, 41 percent of Maryland’s major locally and state-maintained roads are in either poor or mediocre condition while 25 percent of Maryland’s bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards.
Seven percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient. An additional 18 percent of Maryland’s bridges are functionally obsolete. These bridges no longer meet current highway design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment, according to the TRIP report.
Donald C. Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said the TRIP report not only highlights the deterioration of roadways, but also the real impact this has on citizens.
“Maryland’s future business vitality and competitiveness depends upon the enactment of a substantial increase to the Transportation Trust Fund. If Maryland is to remain competitive, this is the time to act,” he said. “The longer one delays such revenue raising, the steeper the price to maintain transportation adequacy.”
In addition to the tangible outcomes increased funding could have on the area, the economic development effects could be substantial, providing long-term, sustainable jobs in the region, Fry said.