Transportation deficit can't be ignored

May 20, 2012

Kick the can down the road. Kick the can down the road. The game is getting old in Maryland, and The Sun is absolutely right to point out that, for the second time in a matter of weeks, the Maryland General Assembly is wrapping up its business without yet tackling the absolutely critical issue of fixing our state transportation funding crisis ("Unfinished business," May 16).

Maryland's transportation trust fund has been severely depleted in recent years, with multiple raids on the fund to help offset operating budget deficits. As a result, we don't have adequate funding to handle even our basic, necessary transportation and infrastructure maintenance costs, much less tackle major new projects for the future.

The situation is particularly bleak for the state's nearly 160 cities and towns that count on a relatively small portion of those funds each year to help pay for municipal transportation projects and road repairs. Just five years ago, the state's municipalities were able to count on $45 million in annual funding to be distributed among them for local projects to pay for things as basic as filling potholes and repaving roads.

This state funding has almost completely disappeared over the past four years — even dropping as low as $1.6 million in FY 2011 and split among 159 municipalities. And, although the state transportation fund was largely repaid, there were no similar repayments made to local governments.

We can't afford to keep kicking the can down the road any longer. The crumbling roads and sidewalks in our cities and towns are living proof. Transportation funding in Maryland must be addressed, and it must be addressed soon.

Michael E. Bennett, Aberdeen

The writer is mayor of Aberdeen and president of the Maryland Municipal League.

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