submitted by Bee Ditzler

With a new administration we expect changes in the transportation bills that are signed into law. The composition of the legislature remains much as it had been for the previous 2022 session, but their transportation focus may differ. We expect bills that encompass equity, safety, and the environment will be introduced and likely pass. 

The LWVUS believes that energy-efficient and environmentally sound transportation systems should afford better access to housing and jobs. LWVMD positions on transportation include: An integrated transportation system and mass transit systems which are efficient, safe, clean and accessible, adequate and equitable funding and cooperative regional programs to achieve these goals, maintaining the solvency of the Transportation Trust Fund, increasing funding for mass transit and developing regional visions and frameworks for transportation which reflect local concerns and which incorporate relevant LWV positions on land use, economic development and environmental protection. 

As LWVMD continues to advocate on multiple bills, we may see that transportation issues are a component of many of them. Transportation doesn’t just involve cars and roads, but also buses, trains, air service, trucks, land use, our environment, health, the economy, and of course bikes and pedestrians. Transportation issues affect everyone and LWVMD advocates analyze bills and promote those that support equity, our environment, and safety through good transportation policy.

Delegate Sheila Ruth last year filed a bill to collect and analyze data on racial and ethnic disparities in transportation and how persons with disabilities are impacted. This was to help in decision making to promote equity in the state transportation system. It was vetoed by Governor Hogan and we expect it to be reintroduced.

Delegate Jazz Lewis is expected to introduce a bill designed to require MDOT to include an analysis of the impacts of proposed transportation projects such as highway construction on minority and lower income communities.

Also, Del. Lewis is expected to reintroduce a bill that was called, “Equitable and Inclusive Transit-Oriented Development Enhancement Act”. It passed the Senate but not the House. The bill would provide small, competitive grants and loans to support transit-oriented development planning and construction, and expand incentives to create jobs and housing near transit. 

Delegate Lorig Charkoudian’s bill, “The SAFE Roads Act” would require the State Highway Administration (SHA) to conduct an analysis of the corridors and intersections across the state where pedestrian and bike rider injuries and fatalities occur, and then recommend engineering and safety improvements that would eliminate those accidents. SHA also would need to develop a budget and timeline to implement those improvements. This didn’t pass last year, but we expect it to be reintroduced in some form.

Delegate Marc Korman introduced “The Maryland Rail Investment Act” to establish the Maryland Rail Authority but it did not pass. This would fund and implement new rail and transit projects including improvements to the Brunswick, Camden and Penn (MARC) commuter rail lines, constructing the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit System and constructing the Baltimore Red Line. 

Numerous bills are expected involving electrifying our transportation system. These involve cars, trucks, buses, trains, charging stations, etc. 

So far, it’s unknown if there will be any bills which involve Private Public Partnerships (P3) reforms. As transparency advocates, we should look for these.

Both the House and Senate will see environmental bills that may involve transportation as well. Solutions may include investing in better transit services, encouraging smart roadway pricing, and better syncing transportation with land use. Some of the biggest challenges in transportation can be solved through better land use. Bringing essential trips closer to where people live is a vital part of transportation. Environmental justice may see more bills that help us to implement a more environmental and just transportation system. 

Many legislators seem to be evaluating what the new governor will do policy-wise for the state. They are investigating how Governor Moore’s four big ideas of 1) Cleaner Maryland Transit, 2) Quality Public Transit, 3) Road and Pedestrian Safety, and 4) Transit Hubs and Physical Infrastructure will translate into laws they make.

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