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.

Sign our On-Line Petition to “Invest Now” in a Better Transportation System!

 

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.

Annapolis, MD — On Monday in the Maryland General Assembly, the House Ways & Means Committee took an historic first step toward addressing Maryland’s long-neglected crisis in transportation funding with passage of the first major transportation funding package since the state gas tax was last adjusted for inflation in 1992. 

The Ways & Means Committee voted 15-4 in favor of a package of new revenues similar to recent proposals by key Democratic leaders in Maryland that have won broad support among statewide business leaders and transportation advocates.  The House bill (HB 1515) differs from the original package introduced by Governor O’Malley and House and Senate leaders in key respects:  It would apply only a 1% sales tax at the wholesale level (instead of 2% in the original plan). That would increase to 2% by January 2015 (instead of 4% by July 2014 in the original) and it retains the current 23.5-cent gas tax at the retail level and indexes it to inflation — a very good idea given that the State’s previous failure to do so is the main reason we are in this mess today. 

It adds some new protection against future diversion of transportation funds to other uses, by requiring a supermajority committee vote and requiring repayment from the General Fund within 5 years in all cases (which is better than nothing), but this provision can and should be strengthened (to also require unanimous approval by the Board of Public Works, for example).   

Once fully implemented, the total revenues raised would be somewhat less than the roughly $800 million per year the Governor proposed, which is a cause for concern.  The actual need is for at least $880 million a year in new revenue, but this still would be by far the largest boost in transportation investment since 1992.  It would be enough to allow the State to keep up with future operating and maintenance needs, invest in new capacity on crowded roads, repair failing bridges, and provide urgently needed funds for major new Washington-area transit projects like the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway — none of which would be possible without this legislation.

As we have pointed out before — every 10-cent increase in the gas tax translates to about $90 per motorist, per year, yet each of us is literally throwing away an average of more than $2,100 per year due to wasted fuel and other added costs directly attributable to our nations-worst congestion and poor road conditions.  This package is a wise investment for taxpayers and for our future economic competitiveness as well.  It will almost immediately create over 40,000 new construction jobs in our state, not to mention hundreds of millions more in economic growth and private-sector investment it will foster year after year.  It is clearly the right step to take. 

Please visit our Take Action page to express your support for better transit options and less traffic.

For more, see recent stories in the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Protect the funds in the Transportation Trust Fund from future raids.
  4. 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.

Read more:  http://www.governor.maryland.gov/costofinaction.asp

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!

An End to all Road (and Transit) Work in Our Future?

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 2013 Maryland General Assembly will soon take up critical transportation funding legislation.  Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has introduced two bills:

Take Action:  Hearings are scheduled on both bills and related legislation on February 20, 2013, at 2:00 pm, before the Senate Budget & Tax Committee in Annapolis.  SMTA members are invited to testify in person and show your support, or to weigh in now on-line and urge your legislators and the Governor to support these needed investments to keep our economy moving sign our petition !

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.

 

Governor Martin O’Malley’s key transportation funding bills will be heard by three key committees in the Maryland State Senate and House of Delegates this week in Annapolis.  Two identical companion bills, titled the “Maryland Transportation Financing and Infrastructure Investment Act of 2012″ (SB971 and HB1302) are scheduled to come before the Senate Budget & Tax Committee, and the House Ways & Means and Environmental Matters committees, all on March 14th.  

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.

Legislation is now pending in Annapolis to enact Governor Martin O’Malley’s proposed $613 million increase in dedicated transportation funding.  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 “Maryland Transportation Financing and Infrastructure Investment Act of 2012″ (SB971 and HB1302) have been referred to the Senate Budget & Tax Committee, and the House Ways & Means and Environmental Matters committees.  Both are identical companion bills. 

Under the bills, the transportation funding increase will be paid for by applying Maryland’s 6% sales tax to gasoline sales at the wholesale level, phased in over three years.  The cost of this to the average motorist comes to about $30 per year for each of the three 2% increments, or $90 a year when fully implemented:  A small price to pay for reducing the $2,300 each of us is currently throwing away in wasted gas and added wear-and-tear on our vehicles from sitting in the nation’s worst congestion.  There are a number of other details you can get on-line at link above to the Maryland General Assembly website.

Public-Private Partnership Legislation Introduced as Well:   As a result of the study commission headed up by Lt. Governor Anthony Brown on Public-Private Partnerships, legislation has also been introduced to expand the use of “public-private partnerships” in Maryland (SB 358/HB576) to help leverage more private investment in transportation projects that benefit all of us.  The bill is now before the Senate Budget & Tax Committee (where a hearing is set for 3/7/12 at 1:00 pm), as well as the House Appropriations and Environmental Matters Committees.

Contact your legislator and urge support for these bills.  State legislators simply need to be reminded to consider traffic relief and transit improvements as urgent priorities. 

 

The Virginia Senate has just done something their Maryland counteparts have failed to do year after year, decade after decade, since 1992:  Pass legislation providing a significant long-term increase in dedicated transportation funds.  As the story below relates, they have passed a bill indexing their fixed 17.5 cent per gallon gas tax to inflation.  The payoff will be small at first, but will produce significant new revenues over time. 

Maryland, on the other hand, continues to avoid facing the hard, cold reality that their Transportation Trust Fund is now so depleated it can no longer meet even our most basic transportation needs.  With Virginia already well positioned to attract Maryland businesses across the river with lower tax and regulatory hurdles, now they have also shown more resolve in meeting future transportation needs.  The jobs picture in Maryland could get really bad, really fast, if they fail to act this session.

Maryland legislators, are you paying attention?  This is your wake-up call and you need to act now.

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Virginia Senate Approves Indexing Gas Tax for Inflation

Virginia’s Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would automatically increase the state’s per-gallon gasoline tax each year at the rate of inflation.

“The state’s gasoline tax has been set at 17.5 cents per gallon since 1986,” The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg reported. “In recent years, repeated attempts to raise the tax, or make it a percentage sales tax, have failed in the House of Delegates.”

The indexation effort is contained in a larger transportation bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach. Wagner’s bill proposes using the U.S. Department of Labor’s “producer price index for other nonresidential construction” to annually adjust the fuel tax that supports transportation investment in Virginia.

A fiscal impact statement estimates indexing the tax could generate an additional $7.7 million in 2013, and up to $124 million by 2018.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.