As both major gubernatorial candidates voice support for the Greater Baltimore Committee’s priorities for strengthening transit in the region and Maryland’s transportation resources in general, they also agree that finding ways to fund future transportation projects will be difficult.
“We think more people would ride the Baltimore subway if one could go from east to west on it, instead of just from north to south. The ‘how to’ of how you pay for that is going to be a real challenge,” Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley told the GBC board of directors on October 13.
Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has budgeted more than $242 million in funding to pay for planning the new Red Line from Woodlawn to East Baltimore. He has pledged to the GBC that he will ensure that planning and environmental impact work will be completed “so that construction can begin by 2010.”
Beyond that, however, neither candidate has put forth a specific proposal for funding increasing transportation needs beyond Maryland’s current six-year Consolidated Transportation Budget.
“The challenges to future transportation funding in Maryland are substantial,” says GBC President Donald C. Fry. “They include anticipated diminishing federal funding for transportation projects coupled with the increasing inability of the gas tax – Maryland’s primary mechanism for generating transportation funding – to keep up with inflation.”
In his response to a Baltimore Transit Alliance/GBC questionnaire to candidates, Governor Ehrlich noted that General Assembly legislation passed this year, which he signed into law, requires the Maryland Department of Transportation to conduct an analysis of transit funding needs, to identify strategies for leveraging federal funding, and to review how transit is funded in other states. That report is expected before the General Assembly convenes in January 2007.
A successful transportation funding strategy will have to overcome the political challenge of gaining General Assembly approval. “A delegate or senator from western Maryland isn’t very likely to vote for investments in transportation if none for them are coming back to his or her district,” Mayor O’Malley said. Nevertheless, “we need a statewide vision for transportation that has to include mass transit,” he said.
View text of Governor Ehrlich’s and Mayor O’Malley’s responses to the Baltimore Transit Alliance/GBC transit questionnaire to candidates, Governor Ehrlich’s list of transportation accomplishments from his campaign web site and Mayor O’Malley’s transportation platform on his campaign site.