After years of being underfunded, Maryland’s transportation is about to receive some much needed financial support. The state’s legislatures are working to increase Metro funding permanently by $150 million a year to help Metro secure notable revenue during this year’s General Assembly sessions.
The bill is supported by Democratic legislatures and Gov. Larry Hogan, who notably changed his opinions regarding the funding’s size and span. However, the final bill is now awaiting the approval of the Maryland Senate and House.
Last fall, Hogan suggested that Maryland set aside $125 million a year for four years to Metro funding. This was on the condition that Virginia, D.C. and the federal government also agreed. The funding amount was raised to $150 million after Hogan received pressure from the House Appropriations and House Environment and Transportation committees. Likewise, the bill also made the yearly-funding amount permanent instead of Hogan’s suggested four-year plan.
All supporters aim to pressure Virginia and Washington D.C. to follow and increase their funding towards Metro. Hogan recently discussed Metro funding with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who voiced similar support. This will be tested next week when Virginia lawmakers meet in Richmond to determine how much and under what conditions the state will fund Metro.
The MetroNow coalition voiced strong support for the bill as the organization strives to make the Metro system safer and more dependable. The coalition consists of an array of groups including business and civic organizations.
The bill comes after recent transportation issues impacted thousands of the state’s commuters. In early February, the Maryland Transit Administration announced that the entire Baltimore Metro Subway Link system would immediately close for a month due to necessary repairs. The closure affected over 40,000 of the daily the Metro’s riders, who were given less than 24 hours’ notice.
The closure was originally planned for the summer, but recent safety inspections revealed that the track required repairs as soon as possible. The inspections concluded that 17 sections of the rails didn’t meet safety requirements. However, this isn’t the first time the rails failed to meet safety standards. They were previously deemed too degraded in Nov. 2016, but continued to be used at lower speeds.
Busses, which cost the state $2.2 million to fund, provided commuters impacted by the closure a free source of transportation. Out of the 40,000 daily commuters, about 6,000 of them are students. Many of those students now find their commute with buses taking twice as long as their previous commute on the Metro system and have looked for other means of transportation.
Similarly, in the summer of 2016, the Metro between Milford Mill and Mondawmin closed for 23 days straight. This closure occurred because of vital pieces of the rail needed to be replaced. Commuters at the time were similarly offered shuttle buses, but many found the commute inconvenient in comparison to Metro. Although the current bill is making Maryland’s transportation a priority, these closures serve as a reminder that it is long overdue.