Maryland lawmakers seek to lock in transit repair funding
By AUDREY DECKER
Capital News Service|
Feb 03, 2021 at 10:43 AM
State lawmakers are pushing a transportation bill that would increase funding to the Maryland Transit Administration to make the state’s bus system, MARC train, Metro and Light Rail more safe and reliable.
The state of Maryland had the greatest numbers of bus, Light Rail and Heavy Rail breakdowns in 2019 compared to any other state, said Sen. Cory McCray, D-Baltimore, calculated by major mechanical failures per 100,000 revenue miles.
The Transit Safety and Investment Act (SB199/HB114) would guarantee funding to the Maryland Transit Administration in future years, and aims to address the high number of breakdowns in the transit system.
Advocates for this bill argue it would strengthen the state’s public transportation systems and reduce emissions, while others oppose it due to its significant fiscal impact.
The bill requires a minimum level of funding each fiscal year from 2023 to 2028 for “good repair needs” at the transit agency, going from $361 million in 2023 and ending with $531 million in 2028.
Maryland’s bus, Heavy Rail and Light Rail breakdown numbers are leading the country “not in a good way,” McCray said on Wednesday.
However, the Maryland Department of Transportation opposes the bill because it mandates spending and doesn’t allow them to respond if a crisis arises, according to agency testimony.
In written testimony, the Maryland Department of Transportation pointed to $584.7 million it is adding to the Maryland Transit Administration’s capital program over the next six years. Investing must be done in a way that is flexible and sustainable, the agency wrote in testimony.
Revenue declines during the COVID-19 pandemic have illustrated that there needs to be flexibility when it comes to funding, the agency said.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, D, spoke in the bill hearing last week to support the bill. Historically, Maryland’s transit system has been underinvested, he said.
Advocates for the bill are also pushing it from an environmental and equity angle.
By having a robust public transit system, the state could reduce the number of emissions from single-occupancy vehicles like cars and trucks, said Ramon Palencia-Calvo, deputy executive director of Maryland League of Conservation Voters.
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