Road Victory for D.C. Suburbs


Those angry complaints from Montgomery County about being shortchanged by the state in the allocation of highway money have largely subsided. And for good reason. Given the huge pile of cash handed to Montgomery and neighboring Prince George's County for road and transit projects, anyone from those jurisdictions still moaning over lack of state support is an ingrate.

In the next five years, these two jurisdictions will receive nearly half of the $865 million earmarked for highways. Most of the $1.7 billion from the recent 5-cent increase in the gasoline tax will be funneled into these two counties.

Is this fair to the rest of the state? Is it proper that these two jurisdictions will get six times the road money allocated to Baltimore City?

The answer is "yes." Montgomery experiences gruesome highway gridlock. The worst highway hang-ups in the state deserve the most attention.

Some legislators are crying because their special pet projects were left out of the Department of Transportation's five-year plan. Yet these are the same legislators who railed loud and long against higher gas taxes. For instance, lawmakers on the Eastern Shore are shouting that they deserve millions to build a Salisbury bypass along U.S. 50: they should have thought about that before they cast their anti-tax votes. These lawmakers aren't ingrates; they're hypocrites.

The Baltimore area, while faring far worse than the Washington suburbs, did get approval for several key projects: extension of Route 100 a key east-west connector between Howard and Anne Arundel counties; widening northern sections of the Baltimore beltway, and widening Interstate 97 from Route 100 to the Baltimore beltway. These steps should ease future congestion.

Maryland's road and transit plan clearly gives top priority to the Washington suburbs' enormous traffic headaches. But numerous other important projects made the list, too, such as extending commuter-rail service to Frederick, a new international terminal for BWI Airport and parking garages for the increasingly popular MARC commuter rail line. This is a true statewide plan that illustrates why money cannot simply be doled out in Annapolis according to a county head count. Those with the greatest needs are getting the most transportation assistance. Every Marylander ends up benefiting in the long run.

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