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Allowing voters to veto transportation projects won't change anything

ElectionsExecutive BranchChesapeake Bay BridgeWilliam Donald Schaefer

Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposal to let voters decide whether to build transportation projects ignores the long history of disconnect between the state's plans and outcomes, which cannot be resolved by a simple yes or no by voters ("Voters will support transportation projects," April 22).

This goes back at least as far as the 1960s, when voters rejected a second parallel span for the Bay Bridge — and the state built it anyway.

In the 1990s, even Gov. William Donald Schaefer got conned by his own Department of Transportation's promises regarding light rail. Massive hidden cost overruns led to a disastrous single track scheme, a costly disruptive reconstruction, and low ridership from which the entire system, especially Howard Street, has never recovered. Mr. Schaefer ultimately had to fire Metropolitan Transit Authority administrator Ron Hartman.

In 2002, voters implicitly vetoed Mr. Glendening's attempt to kill the InterCounty Connector (ICC) when they elected Gov.Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.to replace him. But the bureaucrats ultimately fooled everyone when massive toll increases throughout the state became necessary to pay for it. Then they sold us a billion dollar "express toll" lane plan for I-95, which will not attract sufficient users to cover its costs for decades, if ever.

Now Mr. Glendening wants a 50/50 allocation to transit expansions and road repair projects, even though history shows that most of the money ultimately goes to sprawl-feeding highway expansions (like the ICC) and burgeoning transit operating deficits by the chronically underperforming MTA.

The fundamental problem with putting the ultimate decision about transportation projects in the hands of voters is that the plans themselves will still be formulated by insiders and their cronies, and even if voters say "nay," those interests will simply come up with another "take it or leave it" scheme.

That's not voter empowerment or rational planning; it's just a recipe for more backroom dealing and buck-passing.

That's why the only rational response is to do what the General Assembly is already doing: Starve the transportation beast by refusing to impose increased gas taxes on Maryland's fed-up citizens.

Gerald Neily, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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