Message to lawmakers: Make transportation priority -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County, municipal, community and business leaders have all asked state lawmakers to make transportation a top priority in the upcoming legislative session.

They want highway user revenues restored. And they want the Transportation Trust Fund replenished for projects like the 16-mile Purple Line between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

Mayors Sidney Katz of Gaithersburg, Phyllis Marcuccio of Rockville and Bruce Williams of Takoma Park all asked for restoration of highway user revenues during the Montgomery County delegation’s annual priorities hearing Nov. 14.

“While small to you, it is big for municipalities like Takoma Park that depend on highway user revenue for funding road maintenance,” Williams testified.

In 2008, cities and towns received $45 million in highway user revenues, according to the Maryland Municipal League. In the 2012 session, the General Assembly approved only $6.5 million in municipal highway user funds.

“There is still much work to do to ensure that Maryland municipalities receive their fair share,” Marcuccio testified.

“We respectfully request that you work with us to help ensure that municipal highway user revenue is restored in fiscal year 2014,” Katz testified.

According to the MML, highway user revenue is funded through the gas tax and other transportation-related fees, and can be used for repair, maintenance and snow removal.

Business leaders also are deeply concerned about transportation in Maryland, said Heather Dlhopolsky, vice president of economic development and government affairs for The Greater Bethesda Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.

“We support a well-funded, balanced transportation system consisting of transit as well as roads,” she testified, adding that it also supports increasing the state’s gas tax.

Tina Slater, president of Action Committee for Transit, said the current transportation funding relies on a 20-year-old fixed gas tax.

“This funding is not adequate to maintain existing roads and bridges, much less build new transit systems,” she testified.

Transportation is essential to Montgomery’s economic growth and creating livable communities, said Bonnie Casper of the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors.

While transportation funding was the most frequent request Wednesday, education leaders asked for continued education funding and for projects including those at Montgomery College, Universities at Shady Grove and Montgomery County Public Schools.

Among other requests made Nov. 14, Gabriel Albornoz of the Montgomery County Collaboration Council for Children, Youth and Families, asked the delegation to push for restoring funding to Local Management Boards in the next budget.

Ben Feshbach, a student at Thomas S. Wootton High School, urged the delegation to consider legislation that would create a subsidy for low-income students who cannot afford to pay between $300 and $700 for private driver education, which Feshbach said is mandated by state law.