No one should be surprised by the news that there won't be any "$100 million birthday gifts," as State Sen. Robert Cassilly put it, coming to Harford County in the form of major state highways projects.
The reasons are two-fold: political and practical.
With Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who county voters strongly supported, in charge of the state budget it would seem Harford would be well positioned to get a nice chunk of highway money.
It doesn't matter whether Hogan is inclined to take really good care of Harford's highways, anyway. It's not going to happen because it can't happen.
The Democratic-controlled state legislature, worried that if Hogan were so inclined to reward those who supported him, as winners are wont to do, it would hurt their constituencies who weren't as supportive.
To make sure that didn't happen, the legislature passed a measure known as a new project scoring mandate. In essence, new projects awaiting funding are graded and put in order by how they scored. Harford County projects aren't likely to be scored very highly.
The other obstacle is a shortfall of about $746 million in expected highway money because gas is cheaper. Motorists pay less so there's less money available to fix the deteriorating and congested roads in Harford and elsewhere in the state.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn broke the bad news last Friday in a meeting with state legislators, the county government and representatives of Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace.
There are other smaller projects Rahn pointed out that could still be done because they fell under the $10 million threshold to be included into the statewide Consolidated Transportation Program.
The other thing to come out of that meeting that shouldn't be a surprise is the call for better mass transit. All three legislators from Harford County who were at the meeting – Sen. Cassilly, Del. Susan McComas and Del. Andrew Cassilly, the senator's brother – pushed for the state to improve commuter rail service north of Baltimore.
As time moves forward, the only answer to costly, congested roads will be much improved mass transit. Getting better ways to move masses of people will be costly, controversial and difficult to build.
We love our cars, but it's long past time for us to find more efficient ways to commute to work.