Transportation generation Regional strategy: Highways, mass transit both integral for planning through the year 2020.

May 20, 1998

SOME PEOPLE will suggest that building more highways is the answer to the Baltimore area's transportation woes. Officials should allocate all gas tax money to pave and repave freeways, collector roads and residential streets.

These folks, mostly members of the highway construction lobby, believe money for mass transit is money down the drain. They're wrong. This region needs an array of options to get from home to work and back. Transit helps ease congestion. Also, as government shifts thousands of people off welfare, mass transit is the only way for many to reach employment.

Environmentalists correctly point out the detrimental effects of more highways and vehicles on the Chesapeake Bay and on air quality, which was poor enough yesterdayto necessitate a health warning from the state. Mass transit and better land-use planning can help reduce the number of autos on the road and the need for more roads.

A panel of local and state officials known as the Transportation Steering Committee has drafted a plan to meet the area's transportation needs through the year 2020.

The final plan will help guide state and local governments in their use of an estimated $4 billion in federal transportation money for Maryland in the next six years.

The plan is a work in progress, but the committee has endorsed four "guiding principles": linking transportation to managed growth; improving life in our communities; increasing transportation choices; and keeping the current system in good shape.

Citizens have a chance to comment at three hearings, all beginning at 7 p.m. They will be held May 28 at Glen Burnie High, 7550 Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard SE; June 2 at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council headquarters, 60l N. Howard St.; and June 9 at Loch Raven High, Cromwell Bridge and Cowpens Road.

The region has a vital interest in maintaining its road system, but all transportation links -- highways, transit, the port, airport, even bicycles and pedestrian access -- must be in the mix.

Pub Date: 5/20/98

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