Paving with Silver & Gold
Election year politics at its finest!
by Delegate Mike McDermott
(Berlin) Yesterday, the Department of Transportation will announce that they have found around $50 million with which they may continue to construct another section of RT 113 in Worcester County. Costs being what they are in Maryland, when all is said and done, we will see another 3 miles of paved highway. This is always a good thing when it comes to traffic safety for our residents and those who travel our roadways.
It might fascinate some to know that the cost of this project is actually about $60 million if you combine the previous $11 million distribution for property purchases and the actual design/construction phases of the road build, that comes out to $16 million per mile! How would you like to have that contract? Maybe there is a requirement to substitute silver and gold for the normal asphalt.
It is noteworthy that the Democratic administrations scan the political horizon before spending money on projects such as RT 113. This time is no different. In fact, they have headlined the “show” with a grand announcement today in Berlin, where two elected officials received top billing on their news release: Senator Jim Mathias and Delegate Norm Conway.
While Norm and Jim take a bow, let’s consider this “carrot on a string” approach to highway safety. Since this project began, if the state had paved merely 1 mile per year it would have been completed over 20-years ago. At the current rate (with all the optimism one can muster), this project could take another 15-20 years for completion.
If Highway User Revenues were distributed to actually build roads and bridges, we would be talking about the new project to 4-lane RT 90 into Ocean City, and the days of our family members traveling on a 2-lane version of RT 113 would be a distant memory. Sadly, that is not the case.
The lion’s share of our Highway User Revenues is going to fund Mass Transit Projects like the Red Line and the Purple Line in the metropolitan areas of our state. Even though only 6% of our population uses these systems, they receive over half of our transportation funding.
We have an abysmal rate of fare recovery in Baltimore City for the bus system/mass transit (we pay roughly 80%) and we paid out hundreds of millions for the ICC which is not receiving the traffic counts projected. The failure to require a revenue stream from the metro core to pay for mass transit projects is appalling. In fact, we are the only state in the Union that does not have such a mechanism.
So as we celebrate another 3 miles of paving on one of our highest traffic count roadways for commerce and tourism, let us not forget that these are mere scraps that fall to us from the king’s table every election year.