Group Introduces New Coalition To Push Transit Funding
A new collection of transit advocates yesterday began a push to get Annapolis lawmakers focused on transportation funding and a member of the group fueling the effort yesterday night asked for support from a Bethesda Advisory Board. Kelly Blynn, of the D.C.-based nonprofit Coalition for Smarter Growth, told members of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board that without transit projects such as the Purple Line light rail in Bethesda or a Bus Rapid Transit system along Rockville Pike, Montgomery County could not handle the over 200,000 more people coming to the county by 2030. The Coalition for Smarter Growth spearheaded the "Get Maryland Moving" campaign, which it introduced on Tuesday. "Maryland’s economic competitiveness is at risk if the state fails to invest adequately in maintenance, local roads and modern transit systems," Coalition for Smarter Growth executive director Stewart Schwartz said in a statement. "These transit investments are essential for providing relief from peak hour congestion, for supporting economic development, and for reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions." Blynn came looking for allies at the Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday and described the group's three-legged approach toward improving local traffic issues: investment in the projected $2.4 billion Purple Line, Bus Rapid Transit (still far from its final design) and Metro system improvements. Supporters of the "Get Maryland Moving" campaign include the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, Action Committee for Transit and and Purple Line Now. With no state funding in sight, Purple Line design work by the Maryland Transit Administration could be stopped, which local lawmakers say would derail the process. The 16-mile light rail from New Carrollton to Bethesda, with stops in College Park, Silver Spring and Chevy Chase, among others, would bring 15,000 riders a day to the Bethesda station, according to MTA projections. County leaders say this is the year to get a gas tax hike in the General Assembly that could cover the state's share of the cost. They are pessimistic that leaders would agree to a gas tax hike in 2014, an election year. So far, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) hasn't made achieving transportation funding a priority, to the chagrin of Montgomery leaders such as Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac). The "Get Maryland Moving" campaign includes a petition to spur action from O'Malley and others on the issue.