Maryland has a large and aging transportation network. In 2012, Maryland drivers traveled 56.1 million vehicle miles, close to the state’s all-time record set in 2007 (56.8 million). Maryland Transit Administration bus and rail ridership reached 153 million in 2012. Maryland ridership on the Washington Metro system was 124.5 million. BWI Marshall Airport saw 22 million passengers in 2011 with an average 680 commercial flights a day. All of this activity is vital to the state’s economy, but the transportation network is enormously expensive to maintain.
The state owns 101 structurally deficient bridges (and that does not include bridges owned by local governments). Crowding on MARC and Metro trains is approaching suffocating levels. Maryland is also home to the most-congested road network in the nation (Washington, DC) and the sixth-most congested network (Baltimore).
In Fiscal Year 2013, the state is spending $922 million to maintain its road, rail, bus, aviation and port networks. By Fiscal Year 2018, that spending is projected to drop to $803 million, even though population and demand on the transportation system are expected to grow. It’s doubtful that the system is ready for all of this new demand.
The truth is that Maryland faces a dire choice in maintaining the usability of its transportation network: pay now or pay more later. The fact that its Transportation Trust Fund is nearly broke makes that choice even harder. If we want to compete with our neighbors, minimize commute time and costs, and avoid critical breakdowns in the future, we must keep our existing system in working order and invest in smart transportation to support smart land use.