So what did we learn at the Regional Transportation Funding Forum on December 12th? Well, we learned that there is a long row to hoe before there is a feasible legislative proposal that will raise revenues for project construction.
We also got confirmation for our belief that the Red Line and Purple Line will rise–or fall–together. Experts from the Office of Policy Analysis in the Maryland Department of Legislative Services presented data on transportation economics and financing.
Some of what they said was a bit disheartening, for example, that Maryland has not invested in strengthening its transportation network in twenty years. This is one of the reasons why Virginia is outpacing us in economic growth and attractiveness to employers, creative class workers and Millennials. For decades, Virginia has expanded its transit network with light rail, street cars, and bike lanes, while Maryland built more highway lanes.
Today, northern Virginia continues to draw away talent and employers who might otherwise choose central Maryland. We learned that there are more ways to pay for construction than with the gas tax. Financing options–value capture, tolling, statewide taxes and public-private partnerships– were discussed in breakout sessions.
We learned that leaders in our region are committed to investing in modern transit. County Executives Rushern Baker, Ken Ulman and Isaiah Leggett all gave presentations about the importance of building the Purple Line and other projects.
What’s next? We have to keep the pressure on our legislators, to remind them that their constituents want more transit options, that investing in transit is a priority, and that we’ll support them when they figure out a way to pay for it. Maryland cannot wait. Baltimore city certainly cannot wait. We’ll be lobbying alot, starting in January, keeping Red Line and multi-modal issues front and center.