Transportation money looks to go evenly to road and transit priorities -- Gazette.Net


By the time Maryland finishes handing out $4.4 billion in new transportation funding, the money should spread evenly among road and transit priorities, according to the state.

Maryland lawmakers this spring passed the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act, which raises the tax on gasoline and diesel, to bring $4.4 billion in new investment and 57,000 jobs in the next six years, officials said. The new law indexes the state’s current 23.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax, which has not been increased since 1992, to inflation but limits increases to 8 percent per year.

The final list of projects funded under the new law will come out with the state’s Consolidated Transportation Program in early September, said Erin Henson, spokeswoman for Maryland’s Department of Transportation.

When it comes to roads and transit priorities, the state looks to fund both about 50-50, she said.

Henson said the state meets with each jurisdiction to understand what projects are a priority and works to fund those.

State leaders have so far announced $1.9 billion in projects funded by the new law.

While in dollars, slighly more of the money promised to date funds transit projects such as the 16-mile Purple Line, a light rail planned to stretch between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, most of the projects funded will be on roads.

Henson noted that in more urban areas, the projects tend to have higher price tags.

The cost of transit creates a disparity between the priorities, Sen. Richard F. Colburn said.

Colburn (R-Dist. 37) of Cambridge said that while the gas tax was intended to fund road and bridge projects, it now also subsidizes transit.

Even with the inflation in the new law, Colburn said the state will struggle to fund road and bridge projects in the future.

Despite voting against the gas tax increase, Colburn said his region still received funding for its priorities from the state, including $50 million for a new Dover Bridge on Md. 331 and $42 million to widen and “dualize” a portion of Md. 404, a popular route to reach Ocean City.

“Can you equate that $100 million with what is going to go into the new Red Line or the Purple line? No,” he said. “We are getting our priorities funded, but they don’t cost as much, and that is part of the problem.”

About $1.1 billion has been announced for transit projects, with the bulk, or $680 million, going toward the Purple Line’s $2.2 billion price tag.

The 15-mile Corridor Cities Transitway — planned as a bus rapid transit line between Clarksburg and the Shady Grove Metro Station — as well as Montgomery County’s Ride On Bus system, the Red Line and the MARC train.

Between the Eastern Shore, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, about another $929 million will go to about 23 road projects.

Among those projects are the new $125 million Watkins Mill interchange on Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg and $100 million for an new interchange on Md. 201 (Indian Head Highway) in Oxon Hill.