Md. should devote its surplus to transportation

September 05, 2012

With the announcement by Comptroller Peter Franchot last week that the state of Maryland has a $500 million surplus ("State budget surplus greater than expected," Sept. 1), AAA Mid-Atlantic is calling upon Gov. Martin O'Malley and Comptroller 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 impaneled a Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding to spend over 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 $50 million in new revenue to transportation, a mere drop in the proverbial bucket. Worse, while the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding 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 this December, and with work underway on a similar project on I-95, the Commonwealth has shown considerable commitment to its motorists to keep them moving. Meanwhile, with no comparable projects underway in suburban Maryland, many are asking when Maryland 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 would certainly 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 would still only be a down payment on what the state has "borrowed" from the fund over the years.

Mahlon G. "Lon" Anderson, Towson

The writer is managing director for public and government affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic and was a member of Maryland's Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding.

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