Ehrlich criticized on mass transit

O'Malley and Duncan say he hasn't revealed a plan

January 07, 2004|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan joined forces last night to criticize the Ehrlich administration's mass transit policies and to press for additional funding for transportation.

The two officials, viewed as potential rivals for the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, showed little disagreement as they complained that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had failed to articulate a statewide vision for relieving traffic congestion.

"Right now, I have no idea what the statewide plan is," O'Malley said at a transportation forum at the University of Maryland Law School.

O'Malley criticized Ehrlich's refusal to consider a new east-west subway line to tie into Baltimore's existing Metro system, accusing him of running a "transit-phobic administration."

Ehrlich's transportation secretary, Robert L. Flanagan, defended the administration's commitment to mass transit but flatly ruled out additional subway construction beyond an extension of the Green Line in the city. Flanagan said such an expensive endeavor could not compete for federal dollars with other transit plans around the country.

"There are no new heavy rail systems being constructed anywhere in the country except for New York City," said Flanagan. He said the administration would consider light rail or rapid bus service as alternatives to the proposed Red Line from Woodlawn to Canton.

The forum, sponsored by Citizens Planning and Housing Association, produced little in the way of direct confrontation despite the wide differences in philosophy and regional priorities.

Despite their potentially conflicting political ambitions, O'Malley and Duncan agreed on most issues -- especially the need for additional revenue to pay for transportation priorities.

A commission appointed by Ehrlich concluded late last year that the state needs to raise at least $300 million in additional revenue annually to replenish the now-depleted Transportation Trust Fund. But the panel declined to make a specific recommendation to the governor handing him a list of options including increased gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees.

Flanagan said last night that he could not say when the governor might make a decision on whether to sponsor a revenue-raising package.

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