Outlook bleak for Maryland transportation funding, analysts say -- Gazette.Net


State budget analysts painted a bleak picture of Maryland transportation funding, warning lawmakers in Annapolis Tuesday that alternate revenue sources should be considered to fund major transit projects.

Analysts from the Department of Legislative Services told members of the joint Spending Affordability Committee that projections in the special fund transportion program for fiscal 2013-2018 from the state Department of Transportation may be overstated.

The $5.7 billion program that MDOT is projecting for capital projects through 2018 could be overstated by more than $2 billion, said Jonathan Martin, a DLS analyst, adding that MDOT was anticipating more titling tax revenues and less overall spending than was likely.

Furthermore, by 2018, the State Highway Administration’s Special Fund Capital Budget will only be able to fund system preservation rather than new, major construction projects, Martin said.

The draft five-year plan developed by MDOT does not include funding for the planned Purple Line light rail system in the Washington, D.C., suburbs — projected to cost $1.9 billion— or the Baltimore Red Line light rail project—estimated to cost $2.1 billion, Martin said.

The state should consider alternate ways of funding those projects , such as public-private partnerships or local revenue options, such as regional sales or motor fuel taxes, Martin said.

During this year’s regular General Assembly session, Gov Martin O’Malley (D) proposed applying the state’s six percent sales tax on gasoline, but rising prices at the pump kept the measure from gaining traction.

Del. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring, chairwoman of the House Ways & Means Committee, said Tuesday that with the election over, there may be more of an appetite for the gas tax in the upcoming session.

Hixson said she’d be meeting with the governor’s staff next month to discuss the matter. “Something has to be done,” she said.

Sen. David R. Brinkley (R-Dist. 4) of New Market said local options, such as a regional sales tax, should be considered, as should tolling on roads such as I-270.