Though the traditional “season of giving” is still a few months away, metropolitan Baltimore was nevertheless the early recipient of a $1.5 billion package of transportation funding from Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and the state Department of Transportation.
“Opened” on Thursday, Sept. 4, the package includes $689 million for million for the 14-mile Red Line east-west light rail system, $519 of which will go to construction of the design-bid-build project, scheduled to begin in 2015.
Other major components include $246 million to upgrade Baltimore Metro Subway’s 100-railcar fleet and 15 miles of signaling systems, a new $75 million bus transportation and storage building, and $146 million to address traffic issues at two separate locations along often-congested I-695 southwest of the city. Access to two key military installations—Ft. Meade in Anne Arundel County and the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County—will also be upgraded.
The funding is the result of Maryland’s Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act, passed earlier this year, which indexes the state gas tax and transit fees to the consumer price index. (Exact amounts of future increases are contingent on passage of the Federal Marketplace Fairness Act, currently idling in Congress.) The Act promises to fund $4.4 billion in new transportation projects over the next six years.
Along with the injection of public funding for the Red Line, Maryland is also exploring the use of Public Private Partnerships (P3s) for elements such as railcars, operations and maintenance facilities, track, signals, power, and maintenance. A P3 will likely to be the primary funding mechanism for Maryland’s other major transit initiative, the Purple Line in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.