Saturday, April 16, 2016

Staying in the Red

The key difference in Maryland's new decision-making process for prioritizing transportation projects is that there is a population-weighted scoring system, so that a great majority of our transportation funds will, no doubt, be allocated to projects that serve higher population areas beginning in 2018. While it has been swell coasting along the ribbon of highway that takes us to the nearest major towns eight or more miles either direction, we may have to slow down soon to dodge the potholes.

Investing the bulk of transportation funds in population centers is a change that should have been made long ago, yet Maryland seems to be leading in this respect, compared to states such as Virginia and North Carolina, which have enacted similar goals and measures based decision-making processes. As James Howard Kunstler might put it, you might as well forget your dream of being able to drive to Wal-Mart forever.

It is still possible, though more blatant, for the Governor to make his or her own decisions about transportation projects that don't jive with the priorities coming out of the scoring system. According to the mayor of Baltimore, Governor Hogan has already taken $736 M from projects in the Baltimore area and given the funds to rural transportation projects. However, having an ordered list of projects will, in the future, make any cherry-picking a lot more obvious.

One project already near the construction phase is the purple line light-rail system that will take beltway dwellers from one township to another along a route that skirts the northern edges of Washington, DC. That's something to look forward to (six years from now). Baltimore won't be getting their version of the same thing, however. Buses are going to be the mainstay there. Bicycles are figuring more into the planning of both systems.

I'm all for helping out the frazzled city commuters. In fact, making my humble abode less accessible to them by virtue of degraded roads would make me feel even better down here in Calvert County (in the map above, we're the middle finger resting on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay). Keeping these urbanites satisfied where they are makes it less likely that they will attempt to strike out for the exurbs. I hope they are not forced by circumstances to migrate before the purple line and newer projects make their city lives a bit more bearable.

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