Maryland Transit Caucus unveils package of bills designed to offer transportation options

A group of Maryland lawmakers is proposing a package of bills they say will give residents across the state more transportation options.

“Our state functions better for every single person — drivers included — when people have safe, reliable and efficient transit options” said Del. Brooke Lierman, whose district is in Baltimore City, and who is one of the leaders of the Maryland Transit Caucus.

The caucus includes lawmakers from Baltimore, the close-in D.C. suburbs, and western and southern Maryland.

The group of more than three dozen lawmakers has introduced six proposals they say will allow Maryland residents more transportation flexibility in the future.

The “Transit Safety and Investment Act” would add $175 million a year for the Maryland Transit Administration’s capital budget over the next six years.

The “P3 Oversight and Reform” bill would allow lawmakers to have more oversight when public-private partnerships — such as the one that created the Purple Line and the one that’s proposed for the widening of the Capital Beltway — are introduced.

The “Pedestrian Safety Act” would increase minimum fines for traffic offenses in pedestrian collisions, and the revenues collected would go toward the Pedestrian Safety Fund.

Another measure would ensure that all 800 of the Maryland Transit Administration’s buses will be switched to an all-electric fleet as the agency replaces buses.

Two other measures would study transit options for southern and western Maryland.

Members of the caucus say current transit options aren’t workable for many residents for a number of reasons.

Del. Debra Davis, of Charles County, explained why she supports a proposal to have the state pay for the final environmental planning phase of a Southern Maryland Rapid Transit project. Referring to Maryland Route 5/U.S. 301 and Maryland Route 210, Davis said half of Charles County residents are stuck commuting on those roads for hours each day.

Del. Paul Corderman, whose district includes Washington County, supports a western Maryland transit study that would look at the feasibility of adding commuter service via the MARC train line.

Corderman said it wouldn’t just help workers, but tourism. “We’re equally excited for the opportunities for the residents in the central part of the state to come out and see all of the great things we have in western Maryland,” he said.

Joe McAndrew, director of transportation policy for the Greater Washington Partnership, which represents a number of employers in the state, said it’s not a question of choosing between road projects or public transit.

McAndrew said improvements to both should be part of efforts to break gridlock in the state.

But the problem, he said, is: “Here in the state of Maryland, the transit system places the state and the region at a competitive disadvantage because the existing service is infrequent, unreliable and it doesn’t connect residents with the places they’re looking to go.”

Increasing transit options could change that and improve the state’s competitiveness, said McAndrew.

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