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$2B MTA budget gap worries Maryland transit activists

MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn. (File photo)

MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn. (File photo)

Transit activists are voicing their concerns about the Maryland Transit Administration’s projected $2 billion funding gap.

The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance argues that the agency’s Capital Needs Inventory report, released in July, shows the state’s transit agency needs a funding increase of more than $103 million annually for the transit system to remain in a “state of good repair.” Brian O’Malley, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance CEO and president, said after a meeting Friday with Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn at City Hall that the state isn’t poised to fill that gap.

“(Rahn said) that the state feels it spends too much on transit and in Baltimore City,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley, citing the agency’s Capital Needs Inventory report, said MTA requires $462 million in the next decade for capital improvements alone to remain in good working order. Including last year’s budget, he said, the state is slated to provide $359 million during that time frame.

And, examining the agency’s overall needs, MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn acknowledged at a Greater Baltimore Committee transportation summit earlier this month that the administration faces a $2 billion gap between projected costs of general improvements, maintenance and current funding levels.

The agency predicts that maintaining its fleet and facilities in a “state of good repair” over the next decade will cost roughly $4.6 billion. Currently the agency anticipates receiving $3.6 billion in funds for maintenance during that time.

In addition the MTA expects the price tag for enhancements — such as improved bus shelters — to reach $1.1 billion during the same decade. MTA, Quinn said, is planning for a budget of $87 million annually during that period.

Despite the funding gap, MTA’s budget situation is comparable to the nation’s other transit agencies, Quinn said.

“As I go out and talk to other CEOs, this is really a problem that’s being faced nationwide,” he said at the time.

The Get Maryland Moving Coalition, an advocacy organization including the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance and supported by Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Del. Brooke Lierman, wants to increase pressure on state leaders to fill the funding gap.

Lierman, who represents much of south and southeast Baltimore, portrayed the capital funding gap not only as a service issue but a safety concern.

“Now that we have the data, it’s crucial that we take action to eliminate MTA’s maintenance backlog before we see impacts on service that Central Maryland employers and riders cannot afford,” Lierman said in a statement.

Transit activists are trying to rally supporters ahead of Gov. Larry Hogan submitting his overall budget for fiscal year 2021 to the General Assembly early next year.

The Maryland Department of Transportation launched what it calls a “road show” to discuss the budget in local jurisdictions. The department already has held meetings in Baltimore, Baltimore County, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties. A meetings is slated for Nov. 4 in Anne Arundel County.

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