Critics: Maryland Gov. Shortchanges Transit Again
A governor with a history of shortchanging public transit projects was called to the carpet in Baltimore late last week when an envoy for Maryland’s Department of Transportation pitched a six-year capital investment plan to city officials and legislatures that critics say will bleed public transit dry.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed a $345-million cut to state agency overseeing buses, subway, commuter trains, and light rail, angering those who believe public transit investment must be made now and not be kicked down the rail road.
“That’s a direct hit to Baltimore City,” state legislator Brooke Lierman told Hogan’s Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, who presented the 10-percent cut to officials, the Baltimore Sun reported. “This delegation is not going to sit idly by while you try to dismantle our transit system.”
In the next decade, the agency is facing a $2-billion shortfall in funds needed just to keep the system operating safely, and critics say the most recent cuts — 10 percent less than current spending levels — are compounding the problem.
Speaking with Streetsblog, Lierman, a Democrat, said Hogan has routinely diverted transportation funds away from public transit and toward highway expansion, and has even claimed that faster moving vehicular traffic is better for the environment — a logically nebulous stance that she disagrees with.
“The only way to clean our air and reduce gas emissions is to reduce vehicle miles,” she said. “And the only way to do that is with more connected and more reliable public transit.”
The closure of Baltimore’s subway for a month in the middle of winter early last year is an example of the major problems that need to be addressed — a list that also includes the need for an automated emergency breaking system on the state’s commuter rail, she said.
“We’ve got aging buses, we’ve got an aging train fleet and they need positive train control,” Lierman said.
But reps for Hogan’s said his administration is spending more on transit than any governor before, investing more than $14 billion in operating and capital funds Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and transit.
“Unfortunately, critics continue to ignore these record investments, which have led to delivering projects on accelerated timelines,” said Hogan spokeswoman Shareese Churchill, who added the state has spent $27 million for a bus facility, $22 million for region rail coach and locomotive overhauls, $10 million on light rail car overhauls and $39 million on subway rail car and signal overhaul system.
Still, Lierman said the latest cuts speak for themselves.
“We have to be a responsible government,” she said. “We can’t pass the buck.”