Glendening: Voters will support transportation projects
April 19, 2012
State Sen. Jim Rosapepe should be applauded for his statement on transportation funding ("Put transportation in voters' hands," April 11). Identifying funding streams for transportation investments is a national political debate. Many understand the extraordinary need to invest in rebuilding our transportation infrastructure, but no one has taken the initiative to Senator Rosapepe's level. It will take a great amount of political courage to achieve his vision.
Three thoughts came to mind in response to his column.
First, through local and regional transit referenda, citizens across the country have voted for specific types of tax increases to invest more in transportation and public transit projects. More than 300 local or regional transit measures were put on the ballot between 2000 and 2010 with an average approval rate of 70 percent. Many were held not in the typical Northeast region but in states such as North Carolina, Michigan and Texas. These figures show that, clearly, Americans are willing to pay for improved transportation systems, especially transit.
Second, as Senator Rosapepe noted, these measures need to fund specific projects so that voters know for what their taxes are being used. Many of these projects on the ballot were specific, for instance, to continue the operation of public transit services or to start a new regional transit system.
Finally, I would personally be more comfortable if 50 percent of the increased revenue supported public transit. The remainder should invest in "fix-it-first" programs that focus on road repair over new construction and existing communities to improve walkability and to create a real sense of place.
There is public traction in transit and road improvement projects. Maryland should seize this opportunity and invest in transit and road improvements to enhance economic development and quality of life.
Parris N. Glendening, Annapolis
The writer, a Democrat, was Maryland governor from 1995-2003.