Sunday, February 6, 2011

State's roads congested, failing

Study calls for more transportation financial support
The state's failing roads and bridges are costing Maryland drivers in car repairs and medical bills, according to a new report.

Researchers found that nearly 30 percent of the state's roads are rated in poor state, nearly 20 percent of bridges are functionally out of date and that more than half of the state's urban highways are congested throughout peak travel times.

The report, "Future Mobility in Maryland: Meeting the State's Needs for Safe and Efficient Mobility," was released this week by The Road Information Program, or TRIP, a national transportation research group in Washington, D.C.

Representatives from the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Maryland Transportation Builders and Materials Association used the document's release on Tuesday as a way to call for an increase in transportation funding.

State Sen. Robert Garagiola, D-Montgomery, said he plans to bring in legislation that would provide about $400 million annually to the state's transportation trust fund through an increase in the gas tax and vehicle registration fees. The trust fund is supposed to support the Maryland Department of Transportation's operations and projects.

"Maryland's roads and bridges are failing at a rate faster than the state can afford to repair them," said Carolyn Bonifas, the study's author and TRIP's associate director of research and communications. These figures "definitely are not a sign of failure … The organizations are doing a marvelous job (but) they are not able to keep up with these roads because they are so strapped for financial support."

The state Department of Transportation, the State Highway Administration and the Federal Highway Administration are among the organizations that provided the data used for the report.

The lack of funding has been an continuing issue for the State Highway Administration, so the report told it nothing new, spokesman David Buck said.

During the past fiscal year, the agency spent $22.7 million on road projects in Anne Arundel County. That total included resurfacing projects, the widening of Baltimore Washington Parkway and bridge rehabilitation efforts. The total spent in the county can fluctuate, depending on the scope of the work and there have been no major projects in the county in recent years.

"We have to be able to move our products, provide services and move our employees … in a safe way," said Kathleen T. Snyder, president and chief executive officer.

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