With $650 million coming to Prince George’s for transportation projects, the county is on the road to improving economic development, state Sen. Jim Rosapepe told residents Monday.
“We haven’t had a major transportation investment package since 1992. The result was, we fell behind,” said Rosapepe (D-Dist. 21) of College Park.
About 20 people attended the forum in Laurel hosted by Rosapepe and Dels. Barbara Frush (D- Dist. 21) of Beltsville and Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Dist. 21) of College Park, who gave an update on the legislative session that concluded April 8.
Rosapepe said the population of Maryland has grown by approximately 50,000 per year.
“When you add 50,000 people a year, decade after decade after decade, you have to invest in transportation infrastructure.”
The state package includes $280 million for development of the light rail Purple Line, which will extend from Bethesda to New Carrollton, Rosapepe said.
Rosapepe said some of the money will go toward MARC trains, and there will be more double-decker train cars to increase capacity. District 21 has three MARC stations, at Laurel, Beltsville and College Park.
Attendees also focused on transportation.
“Is there any bus service connecting from Laurel to the D.C. area and Baltimore?” Ramesh Patel of Laurel asked.
Rosapepe said that while there is direct train service, there is no bus service. Rosapepe said the local nonprofit bus service, operated by Central Maryland Regional Transit, “is an important piece of transportation in this area, but it’s not anywhere near adequate. We do not have a specific commitment to a plan for expansion of that service, but there is money there, and we are going to be working with them and with the state to get more money for an expansion of a variety of routes.”
Frush said she was most proud of a bill she sponsored to provide low-cost spay and neuter services for the pets of families that cannot afford such services.
Frush said that every year in Maryland, 46,000 dogs and cats are euthanized due to overpopulation. Spaying and neutering pets can help reduce pet overpopulation, but the costs can be prohibitive to low-income families.
The bill, which was signed into law May 16, establishes a fund that will help pay spay and neuter costs, which will be paid for by a tax on pet food.
“If you own a cat, it will cost you 24 cents a year extra. That’s all. If you own a dog, it will cost you 46 cents a year. That’s it,” Frush said.
Peña-Melnyk, who serves on the Health and Government Operations Committee, was the main sponsor of a bill creating a council to explore ways the state can provide care for victims of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Alzheimer’s is now one of the top 10 killers in the United States,” Peña-Melnyk said, adding that 100,000 Maryland residents are expected to have the disease by 2025. “We should develop a state plan. How are we going to pay for it? How are we going to help people care for relatives?”
The next legislative session opens Jan. 8, 2014.