Will Trump make Mary­land’s trans­porta­tion great again?

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By VICKIE CON­NOR

AN­NAPO­LIS

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.”

CAP­I­TAL NEWS SER­VICE/BRIT­TANY BRITTO

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.

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