Rosapepe backs hike in gas tax to boost infrastructural investment

A comprehensive transportation investment plan proposed by Gov. Martin O'Malley has the support of one local state senator.

Sen. Jim Rosapepe, a College Park Democrat, said it is "extremely important" for Maryland to increase its investment in transportation.

"We have the No. 1 education system in the country, but we also have the No. 1 traffic congestion problem," Rosapepe said.

O'Malley introduced a transportation investment plan March 4 with the support of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch.

The plan would raise the gas tax by 2 cents July 1 and 7 cents the year after. If passed, it would be the first increase in the gas tax since 1992.

Over the next five years, the plan is expected to raise $3.4 billion, while creating 44,000 jobs over that time period.

Rosapepe said he supports the governor's proposal ensuring that funding raised through the gas tax will benefit needs in the Laurel area, such as improvements to Route 32, improved MARC service and construction of the Purple Line light rail, which would not be in Laurel but would benefit northern Prince George's County residents.

Laurel City Spokesman Pete Piringer said the city has not had any major projects delayed in recent years due to a lack of funding.

The State Highway Administration's budget for new construction is projected to drop to virtually zero in 2017 with all available funding going to maintain roads and bridges, according to a news release from the governor's office.

Funding generated by the governor's plan is expected to address "road and bridge needs in every region," of the state. It is also expected to support local and state transit systems, as well as the MARC commuter train service.

In addition to the Purple line, the Red Line in the Baltimore region and the Corridor Cities Transitway are also expected to move forward with funding generated by the transportation plan.

Rosapepe said the transportation plan "absolutely has a chance to pass" and the fact it was introduced midway through the session makes no difference.

"We have plenty of time to work through these issues," he said.

Rosapepe has twice proposed transportation legislation, beginning during the second special session last year.

Rosapepe, along with Potomac Del. Brian Feldman, introduced the "End the Gridlock Constitutional Amendment," which would authorize the governor and legislature to draw up a plan for major public investment in roads, bridges and transit. The plan would then be presented to voters for approval through referendum.

The constitutional amendment was reintroduced this year, and is before the Budget and Taxation Committee, which hasn't yet acted on it.

With five weeks left in this year's General Assembly session, Rosapepe said he is "hopeful" it will be passed.

"It goes hand in hand with the governor's initiative," he said.

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