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Maryland Transit Administration forecasts $2 billion shortfall over next decade

The Maryland Transit Administration faces a funding shortfall of more than $2 billion over the next decade — money that is needed to keep the agency’s transit systems running safely, in compliance with regulatory requirements, and enhanced with new technology and mobility options, according to the agency’s first Capital Needs Inventory.

The report, required as part of last year’s Maryland Metro/Transit Funding Act following the emergency shutdown of the Baltimore Metro Subway, identifies $5.7 billion in necessary spending between now and 2028.

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The MTA needs $1.5 billion of that now “to bring [the] agency’s assets back into a state of good repair,” and the other $4.2 billion will be required as equipment and infrastructure continues to age, according to the MTA’s Office of Planning and Programming, which authored it.

“Out of the $5.7 billion in total needs, $3.7 billion in total funding is forecast,” the MTA wrote, “leaving an estimated funding gap of just over $2 billion for remaining [state of good repair] and enhancement needs over the 10-year period."

Immediate needs include about $287 million for buses, train cars and other vehicles, $294 million for tracks, $179 million for systems, $403 million for facilities and $372 million for stations, the MTA report said.

Of the agency’s transit modes, the Baltimore Metro Subway makes up $1.2 billion — or more than a quarter — of the agency’s required reinvestment needs, followed by the MARC Train, at $1.1 billion, and Local Bus, at $908 million, according to the report.

The funding needs “do not include projects to significantly increase capacity or reduce transit travel times in key corridors throughout the region,” said Brian O’Malley, president of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, in a statement.

The rider advocacy group is working with the MTA and a commission of other stakeholders to develop a comprehensive transit investment plan, also required by the General Assembly, which is expected to be released in October 2020.

“With no projects planned for this region to provide the significant capacity improvements needed,” O’Malley said, "this report also underscores the need for a strong Central Maryland Regional Transit Plan to identify how we can come together to meaningfully improve transit options for Central Maryland residents.”

State Del. Brooke Lierman, a transit advocate who sponsored the Metro/Transit Funding Act, said the report highlights “what [Transportation] Secretary Pete Rahn should have known all along, which is that they are drastically under-funding investments in our public transit infrastructure.”

“Now that there is a full accounting of the need, I look forward to hearing from Secretary Rahn and Gov. [Larry] Hogan what their plan is to ensure public transit infrastructure — the buses, the transit cars that Marylanders ride on every day — are in a state of good repair and are safe," Lierman said. "This demonstrates the urgency of a funding plan from Secretary Rahn and Governor Hogan.”

The Hogan administration is dedicating more than $14 billion in operating and capital funds to the MTA and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority between now and 2024, Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said in a statement.

“No governor in the history of the state has invested more,” Ricci said.

The state’s current six-year plan invests $3.3 billion in the MTA, “including critical state of good repair projects to ensure safe transit operations” for all the agency’s transit services, MTA spokeswoman Veronica Battisti said.

“Governor Larry Hogan and MDOT are dedicated to finding innovative ways to address future capital needs and maintain MDOT MTA’s transit assets in a state of good repair,” Battisti said in a statement.

The state’s next six-year Consolidated Transportation Plan is set to be released in the fall, and Department of Transportation officials will present it to lawmakers during budget hearings in the 2020 General Assembly.

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The national state-of-good-repair backlog for transit is estimated to be roughly $90 billion, much of which is related to the aging mass transit systems in the northeast, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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