Maryland House passes bill increasing MTA funding and requiring long-term plan

Spurred in part by the recent emergency shutdown of Baltimore’s subway, the House of Delegates approved legislation Thursday that would provide increased funding for the Maryland Transit Administration while requiring the agency to develop a long-term vision for the Baltimore region.

The House voted 98-40 to pass the bill, which also includes funding for the Washington region’s transit agency. All the opponents were Republicans, mostly from rural or outer suburban areas.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has said he supports the legislation.

The legislation originated as a funding bill providing an additional $150 million in annual funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which operates the capital’s bus system and trouble-plagued Metro. But after the MTA announced last month it had to shut down Baltimore’s Metro line for a month for emergency track repairs, Baltimore-area lawmakers put amendments on the bill ensuring a funding boost for the agency.

The MTA announced Thursday that it had completed its emergency track work three days earlier than expected and would reopen the Metro Friday.

The amendments would require the governor to increase the MTA’s operating funds by at least 4.4 percent starting in the budget year that starts July 1, 2019. That funding level would continue for at least the next two years. Critics of the administration have complained that the MTA’s operations funding was not keeping up with expenses.

The legislation would also require the governor to appropriate at least $29.1 million for capital investments in each of the three years in addition to any money already in the Maryland Department of Transportation’s plans. The MTA would also have to conduct an audit of the condition of all of its capital assets, including such things as Baltimore-area buses, Metro rail cars and tracks, the Light Rail system and MARC locomotives and cars.

The bill calls on the MTA to develop a comprehensive plan for transit services in Central Maryland, including Baltimore ad Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, over the next 30 years. It would be the first such comprehensive plan since 2002.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where Baltimore-area senators plan to try to amend the MTA provisions onto the same WMATA bill.

mdresser@baltsun.com

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