ANNAPOLIS – Important transportation projects will be delayed because the state is not willing to spend more money on roads said one of the governor’s own transportation advisers.
Gov. Parris Glendening’s recent announcement that Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund was “flush” and would require no additional funding worried some transportation advocates, said Jack Kinstlinger, a member of the Commission on Transportation Investment, which advises Glendening. Kinstlinger is also chairman of Marylanders for Efficient and Safe Highways, a coalition of advocates for funding better highways.
Glendening’s announcement comes at a time when the Washington metropolitan area has been ranked among the worst traffic headaches in the country. And it comes not long after Glendening killed the Intercounty Connector, a road project planned for years to link I-270 and I-95.
MESH wants to start projects sooner rather than later to relieve congestion, stimulate economic development, save money and make roads safer, said Christopher Costello, MESH grassroots coordinator.
Projects already funded are a good first step, Kinstlinger said, but other transportation proposals need immediate funding.
“We should use our economic good fortune to go forward with transportation improvements that will create jobs, return money to the state and benefit Marylanders for many years to come,” he said.
The governor’s office declined to comment. The 12 projects he presented at a Monday CTI meeting were approved for the Consolidation Transportation Plan, a 6-year game-plan detailing transportation projects to be developed said Christopher Costello, MESH grassroots coordinator. The dozen projects are in the planning or design and evaluation phases, according to Jack Cahalan, Department of Transportation spokesman. Over the next 20 years there will be $20 billion in unmet transportation needs across the state, Cahalan said. “You can only spend what you have,” he said. Just because the projects are on the transportation plan is no guarantee that they will be built, he said. It’s not uncommon for major transportation projects to take 8 to 15 years to be completed. Baltimore’s main light rail line spent 14 years in the process and the international terminal at Baltimore-Washington International took 7 years.
Part of the problem is the allocation of Transportation Trust Fund money to mass transit, which has no set funding level, Costello said. Because funding is limited and transit may require more than what is left over, those needs can eat away at other transportation funding.
Mass transit should have its own pot of money within the fund, Costello said. MESH backs a plan by Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, to dedicate one-fifth of sales tax revenue to transportation. By the time the governor leaves office in 2003, transportation funding will drop, said Costello. This will create a gap between the need and ability for the state to provide transportation at a time when the population is expected to undergo significant growth.
“If the state doesn’t address this or if they just put Band-Aids on it,” said Costello. “Then they are just creating problems for the next administration.”
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