Modern economies require modern investments, and if we are going to protect our recent progress and move our state forward, we have to be honest about the choices we face.
Tuesday, we launched the “Maryland Invests” blog series where members of my administration will share insight into their areas of expertise on why we need to invest in our future.
Below is the first in the series on why we need to continue making investments to modernize and maintain our transportation infrastructure.
Maryland Invests: Part I
It is estimated that we could create as many as 11,310 new jobs per year if we were to follow the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendation to increase the investment we make together in our roads, bridges, tunnels, and mass transit infrastructure by $870 million per year. Our current level of investment was established in 1992, and unless you like constantly increasing traffic congestion, it is not keeping pace with our growing needs.
To create jobs, to move forward, to give our kids a better future, we have to make better choices–choices that boil down to whether or not we make the modern investments this modern economy requires, not only to combat traffic gridlock, but to create jobs and expand opportunity.
Over the past three decades, our land consumption has increased by 154 percent, and our population has grown by 39 percent. Over the next 25 years, we’re expected to grow by a million more. The infrastructure which supports this growth is not free; and in fact, it’s becoming increasingly more expensive to build and maintain. Like everything else in this world, the cost of building and maintaining this network of roads, bridges, tunnels, and subways has risen with inflation since we last raised the gas tax.
But today, the revenues we use to invest in our transportation infrastructure are the same 23.5 cents per gallon tax that they were in 1992 when the price of gas was $1.08 per gallon. Lately, these revenues have been further reduced by two other factors: 1) the national recession, and 2) more fuel efficient engines–a huge environmental plus, but a big negative for the transportation trust fund. As cars and trucks are increasingly designed to use less and less gas in the future, the demand for gas–and thus the dollars we’re able to invest together derived from a flat tax based on consumption–will both decrease.
While these changes have reduced revenues in real dollar terms, the natural course of inflation has increased the cost of building and maintaining our much-expanded network. For example, today it costs us more to paint the first span of the Bay Bridge than it did to build it in the 1950s, and the transportation needs across the state, from Oakland to Ocean City, have continued to increase. Each year, local jurisdictions submit a priority list of transportation projects. Just the number one priority from each of those 24 jurisdictions totals more than $12 billion in costs – more than our current revenues of $2 billion a year can possibly support.
For these and so many other reasons, we have to have an honest discussion about the gas tax and other revenue options. Joblessness – especially in our hard-hit construction sector – and traffic congestion won’t go away by themselves. If we are going defend our quality of life and to accelerate our jobs recovery in Maryland, we have to make some better choices. We must find the will to invest in traffic solutions; we must make the choice to invest again in building the public goods that create jobs, that expand opportunity, and that give our kids the future they deserve in a Maryland that is smart, green, and growing.