Study puts Md. near top in transportation choices
A report issued by two leading environmental advocacy groups ranks Maryland No. 2 among the 50 states in adopting transportation policies that contribute to a reduction of carbon emissions that have been linked to climate change.
The study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Smart Growth America ranked Maryland as one of three states in the top tier along with No. 1 California and No. 3 New Jersey. But overall the report was highly critical of state efforts, with far more states in the bottom tier than at the top in how they align their transportation spending and policies to anti-pollution goals.
Maryland ranked particularly high for its focus on investing state dollars in transit and in supporting transit-oriented development, former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, now president of the Smart Growth America Leadership Institute, said during a phone-in news conference.
Glendening said Americans can't affort to sit back and wait for technological solutions to the problem of carbon emissions. "Technology by itself willl not solve the problem," he said. The former governor said states have an important role to pay in setting transportation policies that help achieve environmental goals.
"States will reap the rewards in terms of less pollution," he said. Among the advantages, he said, will be better, more walkable neighborhoods and more vibrant economies.
The report reflects the environmental groups' emphasis on public transportation and other alternatives to traditional highway expansion. It ranked Maryland highly in terms of its anti-pollution spending, its state spending on publiic transportation, its commuter incentives and its policies for channeling growth into already developed areas. It scored less well in such areas as the emphasis it puts on highway maintenance over new construction and its support for bicycling and other non-motorized transportation.
Glendening, who has remained active on environmental issues since leaving office in 2003, said he briefed Gov. Martin O'Malley on the contents of the report. He said the governor asked for suggestions on how Maryland could rank higher in subsequent updates of the study.
The former governor praised O'Malley's administration for building on the smart growth program that was codified under the Glendening administration.
Dru Dchmidt-Perkins, executive director of environmental group 1,000 Friends of Maryland, said it was "a real pleasure" to see the state ranked higher than its peers. But she said the state still has a long way to go in linking its ttransportation priorities with environmental goals.
"Most of our important projects come up from local governments without any connection to regional or state goals," she said.