Area leaders, including U.S. Representatives John Delaney and Chris Van Hollen, and a host of local and state officials from Montgomery and Frederick Counties, gathered today to launch a new coalition effort to re-start two long-delayed project studies that hold great promise for unlocking the severe traffic nightmare that is I-270 during both rush-hours. Congressman Delaney is the group’s Honorary Chair and played a key role in its creation.
The bipartisan group of business, civic and elected leaders will press for multimodal solutions, including new express-toll lanes and regional bus-rapid-transit (BRT) using those new lanes, with the current general-purpose lanes remaining free of charge. Two project studies, the I-270/US 15 Multimodal Corridor Study and the Western Mobility Study have been on hold for decades and would be necessary to complete before any long-term construction projects to add significant new lane capacity could begin. The Fix270Now coalition is urging leaders in both parties to make restarting those project studies a top priority, and to include a multimodal express-toll and BRT alternative, running from the Virginia side of the American Legion Bridge, up the 270 Spur and the entire I-270 corridor, all the way to Frederick.
In the short term, the coalition is supporting efforts by Governor Larry Hogan to upgrade key interchanges and provide an additional $100 million to explore innovative congestion management strategies.
In the long-run, studies show the addition of new toll lanes integrated with a regional BRT system that includes the long-planned Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) would improve peak-hours speeds for outbound travelers in the afternoon rush-hour by up to 87%, and for inbound morning rush-hour travelers by up to 70%.
Maryland cannot afford further delay on proven steps to keep traffic in the state’s number-one job-creation corridor moving. SMTA is strongly supporting this effort, as both I-270 and the American Legion Bridge are among our top-priority projects that area transportation experts identified as urgent investment priorities to support our region’s economy and protect our quality-of-life. Please take a moment to add your support for this important effort by using the “sign-up” button at Fix270Now.org. Let’s get Maryland moving!
Morning rush-hour conditions created the perfect backdrop for the launching of Fix270Now.
The authors note correctly that — contrary to the “spin” we often hear from anti-road activists — tens of thousands of people are using the Intercounty Connector (ICC) every day. In fact, more passengers are traveling on the ICC each day than on the much more expensive Silver Line, traffic on the parallel section of the Beltway has dropped 8% since the ICC opened, and significant traffic relief is already being felt on surrounding local roads. It is clearly a big success. The question is, what’s next?
The idea of future extensions of the ICC — both to the west, into Northern Virginia, and to the east, to Route 50 in Prince George’s County are both worth exploring. The economic benefits from tying our region together with a more efficient highway network could be extremely significant, and it would open up new possibilities for a truly regional bus-rapid transit network using the new capacity.
What do you think? Give the article a read and share your comments here. Does extending the ICC across the Potomac and over to Route 50 make sense to you? What other priorities should we also be looking at that could deliver the same kind of game-changing impacts on congestion and overall transportation network performance across the Washington region? Let us know.
Historic Vote Paves the Way for Next Round of Key Road and Transit Projects
SMTA’s Top-Priority Bill – HB1515 Passes Senate – Heads to Governor O’Malley for Signature: Today the Maryland State Senate voted 27 – 20 to approve $4.4 billion in new transportation funding, adding roughly $800 million a year to the state’s severely depleted Transportation Trust Fund when fully implemented. The State Department of Transportation has provided this summary of the bill.
What this means:
57,000 new jobs for Maryland in construction and related industries
State funding for major new transit projects like the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway will now be available, so these projects can move to construction within the next few years
Dozens of planned road, bridge and intersection improvements – none of which would be possible without this legislation – can now move to construction in the near term (Watkins Mill interchange, Georgia Avenue & Randolph Rd, Brookeville bypass, completing Mid-County Highway, several corridor improvement projects in Prince George’s County, and much more)
This is a MAJOR VICTORY for everyone who is sick of traffic and a major boost for our economy — which is why this legislation enjoyed such strong support from leading business groups and transportation advocates in the State.
“Lock Box” Provision to Protect the Transportation Trust Fund SB829 Passes in State Senate — Moves on to House of Delegates for Final Approval
SMTA’s other top-priority bill for this session won final passage in the Senate in a 45 – 2 vote. Senate Bill 829 would call for a constitutional amendment to require a 3/5 vote by both Houses of the Maryland General Assembly in order to divert any future funding from the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) to other uses — a repeated problem in Maryland. The constitutional amendment must be approved by voters before it goes into effect but enjoys overwhelming public support. It would help restore the “Trust” in our Transportation Trust Fund and boost support for the new funding plan.
Please visit our Take Action page to express your support for more jobs, better transit options and less traffic.
Today the Maryland General Assembly will vote on the first major transportation funding package since the state gas tax was last adjusted for inflation in 1992.
The House bill (HB 1515) would retain the current 23.5-cent gas tax at current levels, but index it to inflation, and also apply a 1% sales tax to gasoline sales at the wholesale level, which would increase to 2% by January 2015, with further increases possible depending on federal action on an expected move in Congress to impose an national internet sales tax. If Congress enacts such a tax, Maryland would dedicate a portion of the proceeds to transportation. If not, the wholesale sales tax would be increased accordingly.
When fully implemented, the House package brings in a good portion of the $880 million per year the recent Blue Ribbon Commission found Maryland needs to invest now, to begin making up for decades of under-investment in its crowded and deteriorating transportation infrastructure. It would provide enough funding to meet maintenance needs and build major new Washington-area transit projects like the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway — which would not be possible without this legislation.
This is a must-pass bill and now is the time for action. While it contains some language to safeguard dedicated transportation funds from being diverted in the future, the language in this bill probably dos not go far enough, so we are urging the Senate to look at strengthening this provision and continue to call for a separate initiative to create a consititutional “lock-box” on Transportation Trust Fund.
But area business owners and major employers, who have been calling on Maryland officials to boost transportation funding for more than a decade, and frustrated motorists and transit riders wasting time and money in one of our nation’s most congested regions, cannot afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is a good package – an urgently needed one – and will get our economy back on track more effectively than any other action the legislature could even consider taking this year.
Please visit our Take Action page to express your support for more jobs, better transit options and less traffic.
It has been a long time coming, but perhaps it was worth the wait. Tonight, Maryland’s three top State leaders: Governor Martin O’Malley, State Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, and House Speaker Michael Busch put forward a bold new funding package to support Maryland’s decaying transportation network.
It could not have come at a better time.
With tens of thousands of jobs in Maryland’s ailing construction industry literally hanging in the balance, and recent studies once again putting the national capital area at the top of America’s most severely congested communities, we are finally seeing signs that State leaders have come up with a plan that is big enough, bold enough, and smart enough to get the job done.
The legislature will have lots to say in the coming days as this proposal moves through the committees and to the floor, but what was introduced today would do several things:
Provide over $800 million a year in new transportation funds when fully phased in — enough to fill most of the shortfall identified by the recent Blue Ribbon Commission — and enough to fund the Purple Line, Baltimore’s Red Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway, Watkins Mill interchange, improvements to I-270, and hundreds of bridges, roads and transit improvements around the state.
Put some 44,000 Marylanders back to work in the construction trades over the next 5 years — a huge and desperately-needed boost for our sagging “post-sequester” economy.
Protect the funds in the Transportation Trust Fund from future raids.
Save Maryland motorists time and money – the cost to the average consumer is far less than the nearly $2,200 each one of us wastes every year due to traffic congestion.
Visit our “Take Action” page now to make your voice heard! Our leaders have listened to local business leaders, civic leaders, transit advocates and motorist who have been crying out for action for a decade or more. Now it’s up to us to show our support. Sign our petition for transportation investment today!
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller testified in Annapolis today in favor of a far-reaching package of transportation investment measures at a hearing before the Senate Budget & Tax Committee. Calling the situation a “crisis” not a “problem” and proposing a menu of funding options for lawmakers to consider, President Miller did the one thing we’ve seen too little of from state leaders in recent years — a willingness to step up and LEAD. Bravo!
Now let’s see what the rest of our leaders are made of. As the Senate President pointed out today, this is a matter of economic survival for Maryland, especially in light of the likely passage of a major new funding package in Virginia this week. The clock is ticking…
Sign our petition right now if you are tired of congestion, poor road conditions, failing bridges and lack of new transit options. We can do something about it with your help.
For more on today’s hearing, see today’s post in the Baltimore Sun.
The Washington Region’s Transportation Planning Board (TPB) issued, as part of its weekly report, a new analysis of the region’s transportation future and it is a sobering view. Their main conclusion:
“Travelers in the Washington region will face considerably more roadway and transit congestion in coming decades if current planning and funding trajectories are allowed to continue.”
We couldn’t agree more. Current funding trends in the State of Maryland and throughout our region are absolutely unsustainable and elected leaders in this State have been AWOL for years when it comes to addressing this crisis. The economic costs of a failing transportation system are severe, and even crippling in scope, costing the state tens of thousands of well-paying construction jobs already, and hundreds of millions in lost revenue due to a systemic lack of investment in new capacity. And that doesn’t even count all the lost productivity and jobs in other sectors that will move elsewhere as our traffic congestion continues to worsen relative to other markets.
As you can see from this chart, the region is expected to see a 27% increase in vehicle work trips and a 24% increase in truck trips by 2040, but only a 7% increase in lane miles. Even the most wildly optimistic estimates show that future growth in transit ridership will not even come close to addressing this gap — and the money is not there to fund needed transit expansion projects like the Purple Line and CCT anyway. And TPB’s own figures show simply changing future development patterns doesn’t even make a dent in future congestion levels in the region. We already have some of the worst congestion in the U.S. so imagine it getting 78% worse.
This is not rocket science. We know traffic is going to get much worse if we don’t add significant new transit and road capacity in the next two decades, we know we have no choice but to make these investments yet we have set aside no money to do so, and we have no plan to deal with any of this because Maryland State officials continue to make transportation their absolute last priority, year after year. Irresponsible? One could say that, but it would be an understatement.
Here is a link to the latest TPB weekly report. If this isn’t enough of a wake-up call for State officials to step up to the plate this next session and do their jobs, it’s hard to imagine what would be.
Both bills add $613 million in desperately needed funding to restore Maryland’s decimated transportation capital investment program. After going without a significant increase since 1992 in the motor fuel taxes (the primary source of transportation funding in Maryland), critically important projects including the Corridor Cities Transitway, Purple Line, Baltimore Red Line, and dozens of major road and intersection improvements throughout the Washington suburbs and around the state CANNOT BE BUILT unless the legislature approves new funding of at least this magnitude.
The bill also includes a “lock-box” type mechanism to prevent future diversions of transportation dollars to unrelated purposes (to avoid future raids), and a number of other provisions.
The bills would apply Maryland’s 6% sales tax to gasoline sales at the wholesale level, phased in over three years. The cost for the average household comes out to under $30 per year in the first year; about $55 the second; and about $85 when fully implemented. Even at the full price, it is a small price to pay for reducing the $2,300 the average motorist in our state is currently throwing away in wasted gas and added wear-and-tear from sitting in the nation’s worst congestion.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has come out with his long-anticipated proposal to increase transportation investment, and his proposal is consistent with a recently-issued Blue Ribbon Panel report that highlighted Maryland’s gaping shortfall in transportation funding.
O’Malley’s proposal would raise an additional $613 million a year in dedicated transportation funds, by applying Maryland’s existing 6% sales tax to gasoline sales at the wholesale level. These new funds will be used for critical local projects in our area: The Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway, improvements to Route 1, 4 and 5, and a long list of other badly needed improvements, none of which will ever happen without a new infusion of funding. The increase will be phased in, 2% per year, over three years and the total cost to the average driver of the entire increase is roughly $90 per year.
The average Marylander is currently wasting up to $2,300 per year in wasted fuel and wear and tear directly related to our worst-in-the-nation congestion.
The Governor’s plan includes important provisions to protect the Transportation Trust Fund from future raids, which is also good news for transportation advocates in the Free State. This is critical to winning support for the package.
Legislation is expected to be introduced soon, and as soon as it is released, we will post more details as the actual bill begins to move through the General Assembly.
This is an important step forward. Please visit our Action page today, and send a message to your representatives to “Invest Now!” for more jobs and a better future for all of us.
As reported in the Washington Post, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recently renewed his commitment to introduce a transportation funding bill in this session of the Maryland General Assembly. This is very good news. Transportation advocates have been pushing for an increase of $850 million or more, consistent with the recommendations of an earlier Blue Ribbon Commission report for several years, to address the precipitous decline in transportation investment that has occurred over the past two decades.
Governor O’Malley correctly assessed the situation when he said: “Doing nothing doesn’t seem to be a responsible option.” He is absolutely right and Maryland legislators need to acknowledge this fact and act this year. There will not be another opportunity, with statewide elections looming in 2014.
Maryland’s transportation system is in critical condition right now, with deteriorating roads and bridges and the nation’s worst traffic congestion in the Washington region. Failure to act this legislative session will bring dire consequences for our local economy. Without a major infusion of capital funding, traffic conditions will soon reach a breaking point. Given the continued weakness in the state’s economy, and the inability to attract new jobs to key areas in the state without providing additional transportation capacity, this is the single most important thing on the legislature’s agenda this year because investing in transportation means jobs, jobs, jobs.
Recent polls by the Washington Post and others show that, on the surface, raising the gas tax appears to be unpopular, as is the case with most other taxes. However, these polls do not go beyond the surface level to ask if support would increase if the legislature also added a “lock box” to protect the Transportation Trust Fund from future raids, and if voters knew a 10-cent gas tax increase would cost each resident an average of $50 per year, far less than the wasted fuel and other costs each of us is currently paying due to congestion and poor road conditions — a staggering $1,500 per resident per year in Maryland, which is a direct result of continued failure to invest in key transportation improvements. When given these two pieces of information, support for a 10-cent increase soars in more detailed polling at the state and national level. Voters want more investment in transportation, and when they hear the case being made they find it persuasive.
Let’s face it, there is never an easy time to raise revenues from any source, but the gas tax has not been adjusted since 1992 and has lost more than half its value to inflation. Maryland residents are paying less now in gas taxes in real dollars than they did in the 1970s, and current funding levels are simply no longer economicially sustainable, so now is as good a time as any to bite the bullet and do what they know is right. Without an increase this year, major projects like the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway, or much needed improvements to Route 4, Route 5, I-270 and hundreds of others SIMPLY CANNOT MOVE FORWARD.
It’s time to raise the gas tax and index it to inflation now!