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Maryland Gov. Hogan to talk transportation before U.S. Senate committee

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is planning to appear before U.S. senators on Wednesday to discuss how transportation projects could help the nation’s economic recovery.

Hogan, a Republican, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, are to testify before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

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Hogan has not finalized whether he will appear in person in Washington or by video, his spokesperson, Mike Ricci, said Monday.

As chairman of the National Governors Association in 2019-2020, Hogan’s signature initiative was infrastructure. But much of that work was shelved to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

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Hogan’s decisions on transportation infrastructure have come under fire in Maryland, with some saying that he’s abandoned mass transit and urban projects in favor of improving suburban highways.

Hogan’s biggest infrastructure initiative is a plan to widen several highways with toll lanes to be built and managed by private, for-profit companies. The governor sees his plan as a way to relieve gridlock on major commuter routes, while others say the plans reflect outdated thinking. Opponents worry that the toll lanes will be priced too high.

Hogan’s toll-lane plans initially involved the Capital Beltway near Washington, Interstate 270 heading out to Frederick, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The BW Parkway effort has stalled, but the state pushed forward on the Beltway and I-270 plans, announcing last week that the Australian company Transurban has been picked to develop the toll lanes.

Both the Beltway expansion and the Purple Line are public-private partnerships, known as “P3″ in the government world, in which private companies are tasked with carrying out public projects.

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Some government officials find P3s attractive because they involve little to no upfront government money. The private companies recoup their investment by collecting tolls or fares from the completed projects.

The topic of Wednesday’s Senate hearing is: “Building Back Better: Investing in Transportation while Addressing Climate Change, Improving Equity, and Fostering Economic Growth and Innovation.”

Last year, the governor did dial in by telephone to one meeting of a General Assembly coronavirus work group. Besides that, the governor’s only appearances before the legislature have been his annual State of the State speeches — and the 2021 edition was delivered by video because of the pandemic.

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