In Maryland, the governor has a lot of unilateral authority to kill or approve transportation projects, and Larry Hogan hasn’t been slow to wield it. But Maryland legislators are working to pass a law that’d make it harder to cancel projects that’d benefit the community at large.
Students supporting the Baltimore Red Line, a project that Maryland governor Larry Hogan cancelled. Photo by Maryland GovPics on Flickr.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan campaigned on redirecting more money from transit to roads. And when he came in, he started doing just that, removing large amounts of state aid from the Purple Line and totally killing Baltimore’s plan for a light rail system.
Last Tuesday, Maryland lawmakers unveiled a slew of bills aimed at bringing balance back to the transportation budget. One, called the Open Transportation Decision Investment Act (SB908/HB1013), could change the way Maryland funds transportation projects.
This particular law would establish a scoring system that considered transportation projects in the context of measures like environmental stewardship, community vitality, economic prosperity, and equitable access to transportation. If a Governor decided to fund a project that ranked low over one that ranked high, he or she would have to provide an official explanation.
It’s been hard to stop Hogan from going after transit projects
In Larry Hogan’s first year, state construction aid for the Purple Line went from $700 million to $168 million, and both Montgomery County and Prince George’s County had to cough up more money to keep it alive. Highways went from making up 45% of the transportation budget to 57%.
Hogan is now using the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund to build highways and support sprawl, the exact opposite of what the fund was intended to do.
Regarding the Baltimore Red Line, Hogan called the project a “wasteful boondoggle.” Killing it, however, was a major blow to Baltimore leaders and business interests. Research pointed toward the line having huge economic benefits, with 15,000 jobs coming from project construction alone.
Cancelling the Red Line is an even bigger blow to Baltimore when you consider sprawl is a major economic drain on the city’s economy.
Where did the savings killing the Red Line go? You guessed it: roads.
Of $2 billion dollars in road projects($1.35 billion of it new), most went to sprawl-inducing development like $160 million dollars to widen Route 404 on the Eastern Shore and $90 million to realign a road in Garrett County.
This bill could keep officials like Hogan in check
While Hogan’s spokesperson called SB908/HB1013 a “power grab,” Virginia enacted a similar bill with bi-partisan support.
So is this really a partisan issue? No. What this bill does is prevent killing or approving projects arbitrarily. It makes it so that merit, not ideology, is what decides whether projects move forward.
Hopefully with more transparency, pro-sprawl governors like Larry Hogan will have to explain to taxpayers why they are spending millions of dollars on projects that just do not add up.
If you’re a Maryland resident who supports the Open Transportation Investment Act, you can contact your legislator via 1,000 Friends of Maryland.