Report Calls for More Transportation Funds
Transportation experts outlined a plan encouraging federal lawmakers to fund road improvements and public transit.
Infrastructure improvements have become a hot issue in the Odenton and Severn area, as residents and commuters contend with the added congestion on area roads caused by thousands of new workers at Fort Meade.
The issue gained new attention on Monday as federal transportation experts issued a report asking members of Congress to do something about the nation's vast infrastructure needs.
A report released Tuesday from officials involved in the David R. Goode National Transportation Policy Conference said members of congress appear to be unwilling or unable to find a bipartisan solution to America's transportation problems.
Still, the group issued a four-part strategy to get lawmakers' attention. The plan includes:
- Setting a positive tone that frames the transportation debate around economic growth and jobs.
- Planning the campaign around the important dates in the election year and the transportation calendar.
- Building awareness through smarter use of traditional and social media.
- Coordination to link local transportation investment opportunities with national policy decisions.
The conference met in November at the University of Virginia and included five former U.S. Transportation Secretaries dating back to 1987.
The group said it was hopeful that efforts to promote an economic recovery would include talk of funding for infrastructure. The group has called for as much as $262 billion annually to be spent on infrastructure improvements through 2035. The Washington Post reported Monday that other groups have pushed for as much as $2 trillion in investments between now and 2020.
Locally, officials said more than $1.1 billion is needed to accomodate the growth at the military installation, but less than $100 million of the required work is funded.
The demand for funds has been so great that even business leaders—including the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce—called for Maryland to increase its flat gas tax to pay for transportation upgrades. The Maryland legislature ended its 2012 session with no agreement on the issue, although there has been discussion of a special session to continue tackling budget needs.
Whether the issue will be ressurected in Maryland remains uncertain, but experts from the policy conference said they hoped transportation needs would be at the forefront of the national discussion this year.
They acknowledged that being heard will be hard in an election year, especially with the recent "extreme political polarization and intense resistance to public spending of all kinds."
The ultimate goal, they said, was for the public to become aware of the dangers of an underfunded transportation system.
"It is our belief that once citizens become aware of the significant costs and risks associated with a compromised transportation system operating at less than optimal capacity, they will feel more compelled to demand calls for action that will, in turn, prompt policymakers to act,” the report said.
Later this week, Odenton-Severn Patch will begin a regular series on traffic problems in the area. To "nominate" a traffic chokepoint for coverage, leave a comment below.