submitted by Bee Ditzler

The biggest transportation issue this session will be determining how Maryland can balance the transportation budget. Currently, the state is planning to spend more money for transportation than is raised by current means. This means that the planned expenditures on capital projects and programs exceed the amounts that have been estimated by Maryland Department of Transportation to be available for the capital program. The planned fiscal spending for 2025 is $101 million more than is anticipated to be available in the capital budget. The funding gap increases in subsequent years to about $500 million annually. That means that the total gap is $2.1 billion over the six-year period. A real question is, will projects be cut, or will they find money elsewhere to spend on transportation? Maryland’s Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs (TRAIN) Commission was appointed in the summer and they issued an interim report on December 13th.  They proposed some fee and toll increases for the General Assembly to consider.  During the 2024 interim they will be taking a more in depth look at program to charge drivers for vehicle miles traveled.

LWVMD supports an integrated transportation system and mass transit systems which are efficient, safe, clean and accessible. We believe that support for adequate and equitable funding and cooperative regional programs is necessary to achieve these goals including maintaining the solvency of the Transportation Trust Fund.

Other anticipate transportation legislation introducing an e-bike subsidy bill sponsored by Delegate Robyn Lewis. It would establish an income-qualified income tax credit for individuals without motor vehicles, as well as a bill establishing a registration fee for heavy passenger vehicles. She has also pre-filed, the Better Bus Service Act, which addresses dedicated bus lane enforcement. Delegate Lorig Charkoudian will introduce a bill dealing with the state highway projects so that better notification, work plans, and compliance is provided to the public. Delegate Soloman is planning to reintroduce a P3 reform bill that has failed in the past, but with the change in leadership committees he is hopeful of more success. A Vehicle Miles Traveled bill is currently being formed by Delegate Edelson. He will be a sponsor in the House, and soon there will be one in the Senate as well.  

Pedestrian safety bills are often suggested by delegates and senators In last year’s session, The Safe Access for All Roads Act of 2023 passed which LWVMD supported. With the advent of more awareness of vehicles and their impact on pedestrian safety, we may see more bills similar to this one.

Speed Limits are generally set by the state for Federal and State highways. We’ll see if any bills are proposed again that allow certain jurisdictions to lower or raise speed limits within their jurisdictions. Cameras continue to be a hot topic. With fewer law enforcement individuals, should we be utilizing more cameras? Here, there is a divide in philosophy that the legislative body continues to deal with.

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. 

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