Maryland Proposes $3.3 Billion Cut in Transportation Budget

Maryland Proposes $3.3 Billion Cut in Transportation Budget

Under Governor Wes Moore, the Maryland administration has proposed a budget cut of approximately $3.3 billion for the state’s six-year transportation budget. This decision arises from the challenges posed by inflation and the inability of traditional revenue sources to keep up with rising costs​​.

The proposed budget adjustments will impact various aspects of transportation, including highways and transit services. The plan involves reducing the transportation department’s operating budget by around $1 billion, cutting $2 billion from the capital program, and reducing grants to local governments by about $400 million​​.

To address an estimated $400 million shortfall for the next fiscal year and rising budget gaps in the future, the state plans to delay major highway and transit expansion projects that are not advertised by January 1, 2023. These funds will be postponed beyond the 2029 fiscal year​​.

Maintenance projects will also see a 30% funding reduction, affecting routine tasks like mowing, litter collection, and pothole repairs. The state intends to save approximately $40 million annually by closing smaller MVA branch offices and reducing office hours. Additionally, airport parking fees are set to increase​​.

Despite these cuts, Maryland aims to maintain its commitment to securing federal funding, with federal investments totaling around $7 billion. This approach, however, has faced criticism for reallocating funds from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to cover the department’s budget deficits. The plan has led to the redirection of funds from several approved priority roadway projects and reductions in transit services and maintenance projects​​.

The state will continue to fund key projects such as Baltimore’s Red Line, Southern Maryland Rapid Transit, and the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Project, among others. Maryland remains dedicated to supporting its subway system that connects Maryland and Virginia with the District of Columbia​​.

This budget crisis is partly attributed to the disparity between operating costs, which have increased by about 7% annually, and revenue growth, which has been around 1%. Factors like the longevity of vehicles, increased efficiency and electric car use impacting the gas tax, and lower transit ridership since the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to this imbalance​​.

Despite these challenges, Maryland is set to spend almost $20 billion on its transportation plan, with ongoing projects and future bus purchases remaining funded. However, the state acknowledges that it cannot afford to be at its desired level of investment currently​​.

The proposal by Maryland’s transportation chief to cut $3.3 billion from the state’s six-year transportation spending plan reflects a critical balancing act in the face of financial constraints. While the reduction in funding affects various sectors, including highways, transit services, and local government grants, the state is determined to leverage federal funding efficiently and maintain critical infrastructure investments. However, the adjustments necessitate the postponement of major projects, reduction in routine maintenance, and operational changes like closing smaller offices and adjusting airport fees.

This fiscal strategy illustrates the challenges states face in sustaining infrastructure development amid fluctuating revenues and increased operational costs. Maryland’s example underscores the importance of strategic planning and prioritization in public transportation budgeting, especially in times of economic uncertainty. The state’s approach, focusing on maintaining essential services and key projects while making necessary cuts, reflects a pragmatic response to these challenges.

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