ROCKVILLE – It’s hard to miss transportation projects underway in Virginia, including the HOT lanes construction on the Beltway and Dulles Corridor Metrorail. In Maryland, it’s a different story.
“All you have to do is look across the river at Virginia, they’re busy with a multi-billion dollar program of Beltway expansion, then you cross into Maryland — nothing,” says Lon Anderson, president of AAA Mid-Atlantic.
To encourage economic growth and promote quality of life in Maryland, transportation planners have developed a top 40 list of the most critically needed projects state-wide. The source of funding for these projects is still unclear.
Widening the Beltway in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties is at the top of the list.
The first phase of this job would probably stretch from the American Legion Bridge to Route 270, planners say, and would include bridge work or replacement. The planners also envision HOT lanes and HOV lanes on the Beltway in Maryland.
It would cost an estimated $5.8 billion to widening Maryland’s portion of the heavily-trafficked commuter loop.
In these lean economic times, Maryland lawmakers continue wrestling over a proposal to raise the gasoline tax for the first time in 23 years, while planners concede there’s a funding crisis.
“We need almost a billion dollars a year in new revenue to fund the transportation needs of Maryland,” Anderson says.
That sentiment is echoed throughout transportation development circles.
“We’re spending less and less and less on transportation every year, while the need is going up and up and up,” says Rich Parsons, who heads a group that advocates for transit projects.
National transportation research group TRIP assembled the top 40 list based on documents from the Maryland Department of Transportation.
With widening Maryland’s portion of the Beltway, the other four top proposed projects and their costs are:
Replacing the Governor Nice Bridge in Charles County ($885 million)
Widening Baltimore’s beltway ($1.2 billion)
Building the Purple light rail line ($1.9 billion)
Widening Maryland Route 5 in Prince George’s County ($1.1 billion)
Absent from the list is any mention of an additional Potomac River crossing from Montgomery County to Fairfax County. Transportation planners explain that while residents talk about such a project, it’s not currently part of any state planning.
Left unclear is how Maryland would pay for all this.
Art Holmes, Montgomery County’s director of transportation, says the state must find the means to undertake the big jobs for the sake of economic growth and quality of life.
“If you cannot move goods and services and people then you are not going to grow,” he says.