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Maryland transportation funding situation clouded by the feds

As Maryland searches for a sustainable way to fund its transportation needs, the work being done in Annapolis will likely be overshadowed by changes being made in Washington. "I'm not sure we can anticipate the feds are going to bail us out. We're entering a new era," Anne P. Canby, president of the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, told the Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding. The state relies on the federal government for about 20 percent of its transportation funding, and Gov. Martin O'Malley is hoping for federal dollars to make up at least half of the construction costs of the Red and Purple Light Rail lines. Jack Basso, director of program finance and management for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said the Obama administration is expected to release its long-term transportation funding bill in February. He said he expects the plan will emphasize funding for transit and passenger rail, promote transit-oriented development, and seek to create an infrastructure bank to spark private investment in transportation projects. Congress has failed to pass a long-term transportation funding plan, relying on short-term funding extensions for a year. And any changes in 2011 will have to navigate a Democratic Senate and the newly Republican House of Representatives. One of the victims of the Republican wave on Nov. 2 was Rep. James L. Oberstar, the Minnesota Democrat who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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