ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s share in funding anti-smog efforts in the region would come from the state’s $9 billion Transportation Trust Fund, state officials said Friday.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening surprised members of the Transportation Planning Board this week by committing to the state’s share of the proposed $38 million over three years to reduce air emissions.
The governor’s support prompted the board Wednesday to unanimously adopt new stricter measures to improve the region’s air quality.
The board – representing the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland and Virginia – had planned to postpone the measures, which require funding commitments from the three jurisdictions.
Each jurisdiction’s funding share has not been determined.
But just before the board voted Wednesday, Glendening sent a letter, urging the body to move forward with the anti-smog measures, which include using compressed natural gas taxis and buses, retiring diesel truck engines and promoting more commuting.
Postponing plans to meet the federal Clean Air Act “would clearly contradict the region’s efforts to improve air quality,” Glendening wrote.
Maryland’s Department of Transportation will identify money from the trust fund’s various sources, including a portion specifically earmarked for air quality improvement initiatives, Secretary John Porcari said Friday.
“We will make sure we have money for this because it’s a priority,” Porcari said.
However, Virginia representatives expressed concern about how the commonwealth would pay for its share, said Peter Shapiro, vice chairman of the Transportation Planning Board representing Prince George’s County.
Funding for air quality improvement measures in that state come mostly from Virginia municipalities, Shapiro said.
All states are faced with cuts in federal transportation funds, but Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is planning to slash state funds as well.
The board determined that air pollution levels in the region are expected to exceed federal limits in 2005, but it said the new anti-smog measures would counter that trend.
The Washington, D.C., region must reduce emissions and meet federal clean air standards by that year or risk losing federal transportation funding, said Delegate Carol Petzold, D-Montgomery, a Transportation Planning Board member.
Maryland’s funding commitment is the step in the right direction, Petzold said.
“If you gave me a quarter and I said I’ll give you a week’s worth of meals, is that a legitimate way to spend money?” Petzold asked. “This is the same thing.”
The Transportation Planning Board is expected to decide how much each jurisdiction will pay at its March meeting.