With the good news that the Maryland has a $500 million surplus, AAA Mid-Atlantic is calling upon Gov. Martin O’Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot to work together on a plan to dedicate those funds to transportation and return them to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which is used to fund Maryland’s roads and mass transit projects.
We have a terrible transportation funding crisis in the state that is so bad that the governor and the legislature empaneled a Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding to spend more than a year examining the issues and make recommendations, which it did in its final report of November 2011.
The commission found, among other things, that the state has borrowed almost $1 billion ($947.5 million) from the trust fund that has not been repaid. The commission also recommended that the state provide at least $870 million in additional revenue annually for transportation.
To date, the state has committed only some $50 million in new revenue to transportation, a mere drop in the proverbial bucket. Worse, while the blue ribbon commission was meeting, the governor and legislature borrowed another $100 million from the Transportation Trust Fund to help balance the state budget, with some $60 million going to the state’s rainy day fund.
With Virginia about to open several miles of express lanes on the Capital Beltway in December, and with work under way on a similar project on Interstate 95, the commonwealth has shown considerable commitment to its motorists to keep them moving. Meanwhile, with no comparable projects under way in suburban Maryland, many are asking when the state is going to tackle its own Beltway gridlock. For several years, the state has not announced any major new transportation capital projects for want of funding. A half billion dollars to the Transportation Trust Fund certainly would be a good beginning.
Given the state’s transportation funding crisis and its enormous debt to its Transportation Trust Fund, we call upon the governor and comptroller to demonstrate their dedication to transportation safety and mobility statewide and give that $500 million to the Transportation Trust Fund. After all, that still would only be a down payment on what the state has “borrowed” from the fund over the years.
Mahlon G. “Lon” Anderson, Washington, D.C.
The letter writer is managing director, public and government relations, for AAA Mid-Atlantic and was a member of Maryland’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding.