U.S. Rep. John Delaney, considered a potential candidate to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, paid a call on the Maryland General Assembly Thursday but said he remains undecided on whether he will jump into the Democratic primary race.
The 6th Congresional District Democrat's Annapolis visit followed that of his delegation colleague and potential rival, 8th District Rep. Chris Van Hollen, by two days. Van Hollen and 4th District Rep. Donna Edwards are declared candidates in the 2016 race.
Delaney, whose district extends from heavily Democratic Montgomery County to strongly Republican Western Maryland, met in the morning with the House Western Maryland delegation. He received a cordial welcome from the GOP-dominated group as he outlines his legislative priorities, which includes a plan to increase national infrastructure spending.
During the meeting, the congressman outlined his views on statewide transportation priorities.
The congressman told the delegation -- many of whose memberts are skeptical aboput urban transit projects -- that the Corridor Cities Transitway, a rapid bus transit project serving the Interstate 270 corridor in Montgomery, would show a better return on the state's dollars than either the Red or Purple light rail lines.
The Red Line in Baltimore and the Purple Line in the Washington suburbs are farther along than the transitway in the federal approval process. Former Gov. Martin O'Malley had put those projects -- costing about $5.5 billion combined -- at the top of the state's transit priorities. It is not sure they will remain there because the projects are under review by the Hogan administration.
After the meeting, Delaney said he supports all three transit projects.
"If we could do just the one, I'd pick the CCT. Of course, it's my job to do that," said Delaney, whose district includes much of the Interstate 270 corridor.
Delaney also called for the widening of the notoriously congested I-270 with the addition of express toll lanes. Asked how he would pay for the project, which could cost more than $1 billion, Delaney said he would oppose a financing plan that would include raising tolls on existing toll facilities such as the Baltimore Harbor crossings.
The need to pay back bonds on Intercounty Connector, another mega-project that receives limited use by Baltimore-area residents, did contribute to recent increases in those tolls. Delaney said he would rather finance the I-270 project through a public-private partnership under which the costs would be paid with future tolls. He said he would also oppose any plan that converted free lanes to toll lanes.
After the delegation meeting, Delaney paid visits to the House and Senate to schmooze with lawmakers. After he was introduced in the Senate, President Thomas V. Mike Miller noted that Delaney was planning an appearance in Calvert County Thursday night.
"Another person traveling all over the state, for what I can't imagine," Miller quipped.
Delaney later testified in front of a Senate committee in favor of a bill to promote manufacturing in Maryland. His chief of staff, Justin Schall, said Delaney's visit had been planned before the news of Mikulski's retirement broke.