Maryland would receive as much as $6 billion from the roughly $1.2 trillion package passed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday to improve roads, bridges, transit systems and broadband and help fund Chesapeake Bay restoration, according to White House and congressional estimates.
The legislation contains a number of provisions of specific importance to Maryland.
Those include five years of funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay program, and language allowing the Red Line — a planned Baltimore light rail system rejected by Gov. Larry Hogan six years ago — to be revisited.
The spending package reauthorizes large, national transportation programs and contains about $550 million in new spending. It passed the Senate, 69-30, on Tuesday and now heads to the House, which is in its August recess and isn’t scheduled to return until Sept. 20.
The legislation attracted the support of Republicans as well as Democrats in the Democratic-controlled Senate. It was backed by Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats.
Hogan, a Republican, called the bill “historic” and said it will “grow jobs, expand economic opportunity, and enhance our national security — all without raising taxes.”
Van Hollen said the measure amounted to a “serious down payment” on some of the nation’s most pressing needs.
Maryland’s infrastructure — including roads, bridges, water systems and the bay — received a “C” in 2020 from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The membership group gave the nation as a whole a “C-minus.”
Here are some of the Maryland-specific details about the bill:
- The EPA’s Chesapeake Bay restoration effort would receive $238 million in new funding over five years. “An infusion of $238 million for the Bay Program and additional funds for improving wastewater treatment are critical to save the Bay,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker said in a written statement.
- The state would receive an estimated $4.1 billion in federal highway aid, according to White House and congressional estimates. The estimates are based on a need-based formula.
- The bill contains language, secured by Van Hollen and Cardin, allowing the Red Line to be revisited as part of billions of dollars in capital investment grants. The Red Line isn’t mentioned by name in the 2,702-page bill. Rather, the senators’ language specifies that such previously vetted projects be placed at the front of the line for funding consideration, assuming state and local leaders endorse them.
- The bill includes a program to reconnect communities split by transportation projects. Van Hollen and Cardin said this could help redress damage done by West Baltimore’s so-called Highway to Nowhere, a partially-built project halted in the early 1970s amid opposition from threatened neighborhoods along the proposed route and environmentalists. The program in the legislation will fund “planning, design, demolition, and reconstruction of street grids, parks, or other infrastructure through $1 billion of dedicated funding,” Van Hollen said.
- According to White House and congressional estimates, Maryland would receive $409.5 million for bridge replacement and repairs. The state has 273 bridges in poor condition, according to a recent federal assessment.
- Maryland would qualify for $62.8 million to expand electric vehicle charging over the next five years, the White House and lawmakers said.
- The bill contains $17 billion for ports, but it is unclear how much the Port of Baltimore would receive.
- According to Cardin, Maryland will receive a minimum of $100 million to improve broadband coverage across the state. The senator said more than a million Marylanders will be eligible for the Affordability Connectivity Benefit, designed to help low-income families afford online access.