Brings together Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding, business leaders, elected officials and stakeholders to discuss the future of transportation funding in Maryland

    COLUMBIA, MD (April 29, 2011) Governor Martin O’Malley today hosted a roundtable discussion on the Transportation Trust Fund in Maryland, the latest in his series of “Maryland Forward” policy forums. Today’s discussion was held at the Wilde Lake Community Center in Columbia, Maryland. Following the presentation of the Interim Report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding, Governor O’Malley facilitated an open dialogue with more than 100 participants on how to strategically rebuild the state’s infrastructure and protect the Transportation Trust Fund.  

    “We are all here today because we understand that we are in a fight for our children’s future. The states that win will be those states that succeed in creating jobs and expanding opportunity by innovating, educating, rebuilding, and protecting their quality of life,” said Governor O’Malley. “There is an inextricable connection between infrastructure and jobs – it all depends on building and restoring a 21st century infrastructure so we can compete and win in the new economy.”

    The Governor kicked off the panel discussion with Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and other members of the Blue Ribbon Commission, local business leaders and elected officials.  

    “I’m pleased that Governor O’Malley has decided to come to Howard County to begin a much-needed discussion on transportation solutions,” said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. “I’ve often said that Howard is where Maryland comes together, and that means we see first-hand how highways, transit and other modes of transportation work, and what the state’s needs are.”

    The Transportation Trust Fund was created in 1971 as a dedicated fund to support transportation funding in the State. The Fund supports all activities of the Maryland Department of Transportation, including debt service expenses, modal agency operations, and capital projects. Revenues deposited into the Trust Fund are not earmarked for specific programs, and the disbursement of funds to projects and initiatives is made in consultation with state and local elected officials.

    “Maryland’s highly-regarded transportation network is the lifeblood of the State, directly affecting every citizen and the essential viability of our economy,” said Blue Ribbon Commission Chair Gus Bauman. “In the highly competitive economic environment that we inhabit, other States and regions will not stand still. We must keep focused on this issue and re-establish the public trust in the Trust Fund.”

    The Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding, initiated in 2010 by the Maryland General Assembly, was established to address funding challenges. The Commission is required to review, evaluate, and make recommendations concerning:
    ·         Current State funding sources and structure of the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund;
    ·         Short– and long–term transit, highway, and pedestrian and bicycle facility construction and maintenance funding needs;
    ·         Options for public–private partnerships, including partnerships with local governments, to meet transportation funding needs; 
    ·         Structure of regional transportation authorities and the ability of these authorities to meet transportation needs in various regions of the State;
    ·         Impact of economic development and smart growth on transportation funding; and
    ·         Options for sustainable, long–term revenue sources for transportation.  

    “To meet the challenge of funding Maryland’s transportation needs it is important to seek the input and ideas of stakeholders in both the public and private sectors,” said Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley. “The Governor’s forum on transportation funding provides a unique platform for a free exchange of ideas as we work together to chart a course for funding transportation in our State.”

    The O’Malley-Brown Administration has taken steps to begin resolving the funding issues. This year’s legislative action provides for repayment of nearly $100 million a year in funding to the Trust Fund by fiscal year 2014. During the 2007 Special Session, the Administration took action to address issues affecting transportation funding. The Maryland Department of Transportation was allocated additional revenues in the amount of $450 million per year; the sales tax was increased from 5 to 6 percent; the titling tax was raised to 6 percent; and several Trust Fund transfers were shifted to the General Fund. As a result of these actions and due to the additional revenues expected from these changes, the Department of Transportation added a total of $450 million per year of new capital projects. However, the full impact of the national economic downturn took hold shortly thereafter. The Department was forced to reduce its capital budget by $2.1 billion. While the additional $450 million in revenue did cushion the damage, the severity of the downturn prohibited the State from making the progress expected.

    The Administration continues to demonstrate a commitment to rebuilding and revitalizing Maryland’s infrastructure. The first segment of the Intercounty Connector from I-370 to MD 97 (Georgia Avenue) opened in February, and the remaining segments from MD 97 to I-95 are under construction and should be complete late 2011/early 2012 – supporting thousands of jobs in Montgomery and Prince George’s County. The Administration is also working to construct the Red and Purple Lines, has invested $21 million in the Halethorpe MARC station improvement project, and continues to compete for federal funding to bring high-speed rail to Maryland among many efforts to rebuild and restore the state’s infrastructure.

    Prior to his inauguration for a second term, Governor O’Malley convened a series of five “Maryland Forward” forums designed to gather the input of various stakeholders, including recommendations for legislative in areas including jobs and the economy; skills and education; sustainability; children and health; and public safety and security. These day-long summits brought together stakeholders to generate concrete actions and recommendations that support the Administration’s strategic goals. Following that series, Governor O’Malley has convened smaller groups of local stakeholders, including today’s discussion, which focused on specific policy areas that will help Maryland be a winner in the new economy, protect our neighborhoods, and create jobs.

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