« Maryland ranks 9th in seat belt use, CDC says | Main | Greyhound launches service for rural Maryland »

January 4, 2011

Transportation funding panel wants 2011 action

A commission studying how to bolster Maryland's anemic fund for transportation has reached an apparent consensus to recommend that the General Assembly take action to raise hundreds of millions for such projects this year.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding plans to hold a special meeting Jan. 24 to decide on how much money it will urge legislators to raise to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund. Members of the panel discussed sums ranging from $300 million to $650 million a year -- an amount that would likely require an increase in the state's gasoline tax.

Sen. Rob Garagiola,a Montgomery County Democrat who is a member of the commission, said the panel believes Maryland is under pressure from other states that are moving to shore up their transportation funding in anticipation of an improved economy. 



"It seems like the commission has not kicked the can down the road and put the focus on a revenue package for the 2011 General Assembly," Garagiola said.

The hopes of panel members to find more money for roads, bridges, transit and other projects has been complicated by a proposal gaining traction in the General Assembly to divert some of the sales tax money now slated to go to the Transportation Trust fund to close the general fund budget shortfall by an estimated $200 million a year.

Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said it would take a 7-cent increase in the gas tax simply to make up for the money lost to the trust fund in sales tax revenue. That would mean a 10-cent increase supported by some transportation advocates would yield only a net gain of a little more than $100 million for transportation -- a fraction of the state's identified needs. Swaim-Staley questioned whether the 20-cent gas tax increase  needed to raise $650 million would be politically feasible.

The panel's recommendation could counter inclinations by some legislators to defer the transportation funding issue to 2012 while it grapples with the general fund shortfall. The panel is not expected to present final recommendations until late 2011. However, the commission's concerns about transportation could be overshadowed by the desire of some General Assembly fiscal leaders to use the gas tax to close the general budget shortfall.


Gus Bauman, a Washington-based transportation and land use lawyer who chairs the panel, said there was also consensus on the commission to call for a "firewall" around transportation revenue to keep it from being diverted to the general fund -- as the General Assembly and governors often do when the state runs into tight budget times. 

 Bauman acknowledged that past proposals to create a "firewall" as a constitutional amendment had repeatedly failed. He suggested there might be a statutory way to require a super-majority to tap into the trust fund.

But Garagiola said the legislature would "probably not" be able to erect an enforceable super-majority firewall without an amendment.

 The senator said he would prefer not to tap the sales tax for general fund purposes. But he said it is important to act on any transportation revenue increases because expected toll increases this year could sap the Assembly's political will to deal with other transportation needs.










Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:32 PM | | Comments (4)


Here's a novel idea: how about "firewalling" gas tax money for highways instead of siphoning it off for bike paths, mass transit, etc.?

R686ST: Another novel idea: shore up our existing (and build new) transit infrastructure to support sustainable economic development instead of creating more auto-based sprawl. The long-term economic health of this state is more important than reducing your solo auto commute time by 10 minutes - until the induced demand kicks in after 6 months and you're right back where you started.

Road widening = sprawl. It really is that simple.

If sprawl is bad for the "long-term economic health of this state", why has almost all of this regions economic growth in the past 60 years occurred in the suburbs.


We'd all be a lot better off if progressive land policy had been created and enforced 60 years ago. Sprawl happened for a number of reasons, but I think it's pretty universally accepted that it is economically nonviable long-term and pretty much a bad thing.

More traffic, more pollution, more wasted time. Why would anyone choose that?

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

Live traffic updates
Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Traffic and commuting news Subscribe to this feed
Michael Dresser's Getting There column Subscribe to this feed
Michael Dresser How-Tos

How to avoid Delaware traveling north
Obscure third route between Baltimore, D.C.
Better routes for I-95 north
How to avoid the Bay Bridge
Find cheaper gas
Check prices at area gas stations by ZIP code and find the lowest rates in the region with our new interactive gas map.

Baltimore-area lowest gas prices
Historical gas price charts
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Breaking News newsletter
When a big news event breaks, we'll e-mail you the basics with links to up-to-date details.
Sign up

Charm City Current
Traffic Resources
Baltimore Metropolitan Council (Regional transportation planning)
Maryland Department of Transportation (State transportation policy)
Maryland Transit Administration (Buses, light rail, Metro, Mobility)
State Highway Administration (Maintains numbered routes)
Motor Vehicle Administration (Licenses, permits, rules of the road)
Maryland Transportation Authority (Toll bridges, tunnels and highways)
Maryland Aviation Administration (BWI and Martin Airport)
AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report (Track Maryland average gas prices.) (Find the lowest and highest prices.)
SafeRoadMaps (Find out where the crashes happen.)
Roads to the Future (Scott M. Kozel on Mid-Atlantic infrastructure.)
WMATA (Washington metropolitan buses and Metro)
Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (D.C. regional planning)
U.S. Department of Transportation (federal transportation policy)
Stay connected