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Administrationís Inattention to Light Rail is Backfiring

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on September 02, 2005:

Senator Dyson To say the least, the Ehrlich administration has a horrendous record when it comes to looking at light rail. And with gas prices at $3 and above, this record is making their innattention to the issue even worse.

I have written this before, but as my office is flooded with angry consumers upset about gas prices, I have to refer back to a bill I sponsored this past General Assembly Session that passed overwhelmingly in the legislature, but was vetoed by the governor.

My proposed legislation, Senate Bill 281 would have created a blue ribbon comission consisting of members of the Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince Georgeís and St. Maryís County government, the federal government, a member of the stateís Transportation and Budget and Management departments and other experts in the field of all kinds of transportation needs.

Before the governorís veto, former Department of Transportation Secretary Dave Winstead and former Director of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland Gary Hodge expressed an interest in serving on the committee to study Southern Marylandís transportation needs. Both Mr. Winstead and Mr. Hodge understood the importance of this bill.

We have terrible transportation problems in Southern Maryland and they are growing worse by the day. My bill would have studied many important aspects of how we travel in and out of Southern Maryland.

The commission was given many tasks. Some of them include:

1) Study the Southern Maryland rail transit alternatives, including a light rail transit system in the Maryland Route Route 5 coordior from White Plains to Branch Avenue.

2) Review the study prepared by the Maryland Department of Transportation regarding mass transit in Southern Maryland under Chapter 594, the Southern Maryland Regional Transportation Study (a bill I successfully sponsored), the MD 5/U.S. 301 Transit Service Staging Plan and any other relevant mass transit studies and plans. 3) Study the current and future impact of traffic congestion in Southern Maryland including traffic levels on roads including U.S. Route 301 and Maryland Routes 2/4, 4, 5, 210, 228, 231, 235 and 260.

These are three of many of the tasks the commission was instructed by law --if passed -- to study. But I have pointed out the three tasks above because they are so relavent today. Even before our gas prices reached $3 or more, they were on a steady rise during the time the governor vetoed Senate Bill 281 which the whole Southern Maryland delegation supported.

This bill was visionary in that it recognized the need to get a handle on our transportation problems in Southern Maryland. Instead, the governor did not share in this forward-thinking.

He has appeared at many ribbon cutting ceremonies celebrating building more roads and thatís fine. Roads like the Hughesville bypass, which I have always supported, are needed.

But gasoline prices are not going to go down anytime soon and I fear they are not only here to stay for the current time at these prices, but will rise even further. Everybodyís budgets are being heavily overburdened. In the past three weeks, everywhere I have gone, the topic of high gas prices has come up.

Light rail is an excellent alternative to more roads. Good roads and light rail two can go hand-in-hand. To dismiss light rail as an option entirely is ludicrous. It saves energy and gets more people off the roads. Some of the ludicrous comments I have heard that it will bring crime and more congestion to Southern Maryland do not make any sense whatsoever.

When I was a youngster, busses and trains came into Southern Maryland. It was trains that helped build what is now our nearly $3 billion industry --the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Itís not that this option never existed -- and was successful -- before.

So while you are sitting in traffic idling away watching your gas guage shrink think about how reckless the governorís veto of the Southern Maryland Transportation Study was.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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