- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Score yet another traffic victory to citizens not in our area, the just-opened $2 billion I-495 Beltway express toll lanes in Virginia.
When will Maryland officials finally ensure we receive adequate transportation solutions?
This is not just about a few angry D.C.-bound commuters riding dilapidated Maryland Transit Administration buses. And it is not about transforming Waldorf into some development mecca with a proposed light rail 20 years down the road when most of us are retired or dead.
This is about recognizing how traffic solutions only happen from dedicated support at the federal, state and local levels. It requires short- and long-term approaches that together provide a comprehensive response reducing traffic congestion sooner for Southern Maryland’s nearly 1 million people. Yes, when including lower Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties you reach this number, and see how it affects our quality of life due to overwhelmed roads designed for the 1960s.
The Maryland boondoggles must be terminated or drastically modified with the remaining funds reprogrammed for our transportation needs: $2.2 billion Red Line light rail in Baltimore; $1.93 billion Purple Line light rail from New Carrollton to Bethesda; $828 million Shady Grove-Clarksburg Corridor Cities Transitway-Bus Rapid Transit; $112 million Silver Spring MARC-Metrorail Hub.
Next, the state should establish tolls for major roads, bridges and tunnels north of us. The Key Bridge, Fort McHenry and the Harbor Tunnel, the I-95 toll plazas in northeast Baltimore, as well as the Intercounty Connector, should include additional fee increases and these new monies redirected to our transportation projects.
Though not generally one who embraces a tax-and-spend philosophy, I recognize it already is in place against Southern Marylanders. Examples include the rising tolls on the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge; despite decades of dutiful tax payments, we received no regional transportation systems in return while jurisdictions north of us enjoy all sorts of improvements. So it is only fair that tolls be instituted up north to ensure projects finally get under way down here.
Additionally, we should designate restricted express lanes during rush hour on Routes 4, 5, and 210. Northern Maryland toll receipts will fund the necessary road improvements including widening to three lanes these critical DC-bound arteries.
On these same roads we should follow the example of Fairfax County, Va., where on I-66 electronic signals open up the right shoulder lanes during rush hour to move traffic more efficiently.
We need to greatly expand telecommuting, carpooling and vanpooling, flex schedule and alternative work schedules by qualifying more participating organizations for grants and tax breaks. We should encourage authorities to offer strategies that have been successful in other states like cash rewards/cash for commuter incentives paying workers to alter their driving schedules.
Millions of dollars are wasted on design studies for the exorbitant Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge replacement and related Route 4 expansion proposals everyone knows will face lawsuits, environmental impact studies and construction delays. Instead of paying for studies, any remaining funds should be reassigned to underwrite smart traffic initiatives reducing traffic congestion now over the existing bridge and Route 4 in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.
Next, the Maryland Transit Administration should establish a subsidized commuter bus service in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties to reduce congestion on the existing bridge, removing thousands of vehicles from this twice-daily rush-hour bottleneck. Departures could leave from Calvert in the morning and from points on Route 235 in St. Mary’s in the evening. Participants would gravitate toward this affordable new service since they will save money and time while practicing green initiatives.
When the economy improves, our long-term needs for building a replacement for the Johnson bridge and establishing light-rail service to Waldorf, Hughesville-Charlotte Hall and Prince Frederick, can finally be realized.
Additionally, since the state now deems a replacement for the Nice bridge a top priority, insist Virginia cover half of the costs since their drivers receive half of the benefits when driving over our river.
What cannot happen is to continually accept year after year, from generation to generation, the status quo. Government inaction should never be confused with an effective transportation policy. Because that only guarantees you get nowhere fast.
Timothy Pugh, Leonardtown