Maryland’s transportation budget is in bad shape. Soon the roads you drive on could be, too

Maryland’s transportation agencies are in really bad shape fiscally. Soon, the roads the state builds and maintains could also be in bad shape because of those budgetary struggles.

State transportation leaders met in Largo with members of the Prince George’s County Council on Thursday to talk about where money is and isn’t being cut, and where funding has been restored for the next year.

For drivers, one of the more noticeable cuts in the coming years will be the money used for maintenance and repair of roads. More than $650 million has been slashed there.

“It’ll be things like resurfacing projects,” Maryland State Highway Administrator Will Pines said. “Rather than doing a more comprehensive resurfacing of roadway, we’ll use lower cost treatments to try to extend the life of the roadway for longer. But that does lead to less driver comfort and lower service level conditions of the road while we wait to get to that bigger project.”

It also impacts the state’s ability to replace equipment and trucks when they move beyond the replacement cycle, he told the council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee.

Funding for many of the county’s top road construction priorities in the coming years is in place, including money for a new interchange at the Greenbelt Metro Station, which has been chosen to house the FBI’s new headquarter. One project in particular is getting deferred; funding for design and engineering of a new interchange at the beltway and Medical Center Driver is still in place, but $54 million in construction funding is getting deferred.

But some think that may not be a bad thing. Last fall, the proposed design of that new interchange drew lots of criticism from pedestrian and bike advocates, who said it would make it less safe for people to get across the beltway toward Largo Town Center and the hospital there. Critics noted that other crossings, such as Routes 202 and 214, are already inhospitable for those who live inside the beltway.

“It started based on some developer activity, and that’s kind of slowed down, but I think it’s still a front-line priority for the county given some of the desire to have more of a gateway into the Largo community,” Pines said.

But he said the vision of the project may have changed over the last two years.

“We need to kind of talk through, is the goal to get vehicles quickly in and out to help deal with the stadium? Or is it really to have a livable, walkable, community?” he said. “We need to understand the right balance between mobility and accessibility, connectivity, all these goals that interact on projects. We want to make sure that we’re aligned with the county on the goals there.”

Pines, Deputy Transportation Secretary Samantha Biddle, and others spent a lot of time also talking about where budget cuts won’t be hitting.

They promised that funding for the Purple Line remains in place, as does funding for the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit, a proposed light rail line that would run from Waldorf up Route 5 to the Branch Avenue Metro Station.

A significant amount of discussion also focused on litter control on state roads in the county, with Pines and Biddle promising that money for litter reduction remains in place for at least the next year. Down the line, safety concerns about the number of trucks and commercial vehicles parked along highway shoulders also might draw more discussion between the state and county.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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