Monday is your chance to weigh in on $21.2B in state transportation spending

Published 10/21/2023 5:30 a.m. EDT

State officials are taking a six-year, $21.2 billion draft transportation plan all over the state to field questions and gather input from local officials and the public, and the tour comes to Baltimore on Monday.

The Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) is the Maryland Department of Transportation’s annual list of state capital projects that it submits to the General Assembly for approval. Officials will present the plan at Towson University Monday morning, with a focus on projects in Baltimore County. They’ll move the focus to city initiatives when presenting the CTP at City Hall at 3:30 pm.

Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld will be among those making presentations. The full list of dates, times and locations for the series of public meetings is posted here. The Baltimore County CTP presentation will also be livestreamed.

The CTP outlines state spending on transportation projects. It works parallel to, and in partnership with, regional metropolitan plans for federal funding. Here in Baltimore, that’s handled by the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board.

The plan covers everything from highway and road repairs to transit improvements and environmental studies across Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. State funds will cover $11 billion of the $21.2 billion cost, with the rest coming from federal aid. About half of the total spending will go towards roads and bridges, and roughly 37% is split between the Maryland Transit Administration and Washington’s Metro bus and rail system for transit.

Some notable projects in this year’s draft include:

  • The state’s recently announced plans to study potential transit-oriented development zones (page 90)
  • Concourse upgrades at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (page 111)
  • Rehabbing the light rail tracks in the downtown central business district (page 184)
  • $98 million for planning and engineering for the Red Line (page 232)
  • Redoing the mixed-use side path along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (page 329)

But it’s not just the projects themselves that are noteworthy.

“They’re calling this a deficit CTP, where the CTP has more projects in it than funds available,” said Eric Norton, director of policy and programs at the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance. “Usually the CTP is balanced, they project a certain amount of money, and once that is exhausted, the list of projects ends.”

“It’s a way to send a message from MDOT or from the administration to the General Assembly to make the case for more revenue, to say that if you want us to keep going with business as usual, then we need more money or they’re going to have to cut projects,” Norton said.

However, more revenue may be hard to come by. Members of the newly formed Maryland Commission on Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs are trying to think creatively about how to fill the Transportation Trust Fund, the main source of state money that goes to transportation projects. At the revenue board’s inaugural August meeting, Wiedefeld said in his opening remarks that the trust fund is facing “many pressures that impact the bottom line.”

“This draft is largely reflective of the previous administration’s priorities and does not include all the projects necessary to truly build a better transportation system for all Marylanders,” Wiedefeld wrote in the CTP’s opening letter. “Decisions made by the previous administration have only added to this extremely challenging situation.”

“It does make sense that there would be a certain number of projects that already have trucks out there on the ground … but it was striking,” said Norton, who noted that former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s first CTP differed greatly from that of his predecessor, Democrat Martin O’Malley. Norton wonders why Gov. Wes Moore and Wiedefeld didn’t do more to differentiate this year’s plan.

At the revenue board’s September meeting, Wiedefeld said that Moore recognized that projects could get cut from the CTP, but that the administration wanted to be more collaborative and forthcoming with how those decisions get made.

“There is a need to be more transparent, to have more transparency in the funding decisions made for the state’s transportation capital program. Decisions about how we prioritize our projects should be based on our shared values and priorities, and they need to be part of the public discussion and be done in partnership with many of our stakeholders,” Wiedefeld said.

Norton welcomes more transparency. He said MDOT’s overall scoring system for how it prioritizes projects that make it into the CTP lacks clarity.

Daniel Zawodny covers transportation for The Baltimore Banner as a corps member with Report For America, a national service organization that places emerging journalists with local newsrooms that cover underreported issues.

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