Will Trump make Maryland’s transportation great again?
Capital News Service
— While President-elect Donald Trump vowed to build a wall, Maryland lawmakers and officials are hopeful he will build up the state’s roads, tunnels and public transit.
Trump has plans to invest in infrastructure. According to his website, he wants to pursue “an ‘ America’s Infrastructure First’ policy.” Among other industries, like water quality, telecommunications and energy, the businessman wants to put money toward transportation.
According to Trump’s website, he wants to “implement a bold, visionary plan for a costeffective system of roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, railroads, ports and waterways, and pipelines in the proud tradition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who championed the interstate highway system.”
And this gives state leaders and legislators a glimmer of optimism.
Maryland State Highway Administration Administrator Greg Johnson said any talk of investment in infrastructure is positive. He said Maryland’s transportation funds are insufficient to fulfill needed projects.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who did not endorse Trump, allotted $14.4 billion in transportation investment for fiscal years 2017 to 2022.
“We have $14 billion worth of funds for the next six years, and our needs are $75 billion,” Johnson said about transportation spending in Maryland. “So if they can help close that gap, we’re good.”
In FY 2016, Maryland received about $1 billion in federal money for transportation, which is about 8.8 percent of the $11.6 billion the state received in federal funding. According to Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services, federal funds for transportation have increased by $240.3 million since FY 2007, experiencing an annual growth of about 3 percent.
Trump’s infrastructure plan means Maryland’s Purple Line light rail and the regional Metro system could have additional funds, as both are two of the state’s largest federally funded programs.
Congressman-elect Jamie Raskin, a Democrat elected to the state’s 8th District, said he is hopeful Trump’s background will allow massive reinvestment in Maryland’s infrastructure, especially in Metro. The president-elect is a business and real estate mogul who has developed hotels and skyscrapers.
“We need national leadership here to reinvest in a Metro system befitting a great capital city and a great capital region,” Raskin told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service Tuesday. “I know Donald Trump is a builder and developer, and I think he should see the importance of a great Metro system, which ... is not only going to be near his office in the White House, but his hotel, which is a few blocks away.”
Raskin said Maryland’s bridges and roads could use the extra attention, as well.
Maryland’s transportation secretary, Pete Rahn, said he also looks forward to Trump’s effect on transportation.
“I am encouraged to hear any conversation that’s talking about additional investment in kind of the foundation of our economy and that’s what our infrastructure represents,” Rahn said.
While Rahn said it is too early to predict what effect Trump might have on Maryland transportation, he said administration selections will be more telling.
“We’ll know more, I think, when we see some of the selections for cabinet positions and what the philosophies are, because those cabinet secretaries then will be refining policies with the current president-elect,” Rahn said.
Greg Sanders, vice president of Purple Line NOW!, agrees.
“We’ll learn more when his pick for secretary of transportation is announced,” Sanders said about Trump. Purple Line NOW! is a coalition of organizations that works with state officials with a mission to build the Purple Line light rail.
The Purple Line, which will run through Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, is expected to cost about $5.6 billion. Maryland is expected to pay about $3.3 billion of this cost over three and a half decades, according to state officials.
But the Purple Line’s progress is at a stalemate after a Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in August for the Federal Transit Administration to perform additional studies on the project. His decision put $900 million in federal funding for the project on hold.
Sanders also said while Trump has vowed for surges in infrastructure, this may take time.
“The way infrastructure spending actu- ally works in this country, it typically takes a few years of preparation, at least, before projects are ready to break ground and start producing construction jobs, let alone provide infrastructure benefits,” Sanders told Capital News Service. “Surging infrastructure spending, to have any near-term effect, would mean building up on top of projects already in the queue rather than starting again from scratch.”
In his victory speech, Trump reiterated on election night that he will rebuild a United States infrastructure that is “second-tonone.”
And Maryland Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen said he and other Democrats will especially work with the new administration to bring infrastructure to the 21st century.
“We want to work with Donald Trump on the areas where there’s common ground,” Van Hollen said in a press release Tuesday. “Modernizing our national infrastructure — we know, around this area, how important it is.”
Greg Sanders is a longtime public transit advocate and the vice president of the Purple Line Now coalition. In this 2015 photo, he stands in front of a MARC train at the College Park Metro station.