O’Malley Intent on Shoring up Transportation Funding, Backs Away From Gas Tax Hike

Governor O’Malley unveiled his plan today to head off a major impending budget shortfall in Annapolis. He has proposed to raise corporate income taxes from 7 to 8 percent with half the increased funds going to higher education and the other half going to transportation projects such as (in College Park’s case) the ICC, the Purple Line, and Route 1 reconstruction. Since Maryland’s gas tax (which is not pegged to inflation), even despite huge increases in the cost of road construction, hasn’t been raised since 1992. O’Malley still plans to join dozens of other states in indexing MD’s gas tax to inflation (meaning .7-.8 cent increases every year), but he has now backed away from the significant up-front increases (23.5 cents per gallon) that he spoke of just a few short month ago. The governor has also proposed to increase the (more politically palpable) titling tax from 5 to 6 percent of a car purchase price. It’s unfortunate that the governor has bowed to the opposition on such an important issue. From an economic perspective, gas taxes are the surest way to make drivers pay for the infrastructure they use. At least there is some end in sight to the deficit.
> O’Malley to Stump for Tax Increases, Washington Post

Rethinking the Agenda – Diamondback gets some things right (and many others wrong)

The Diamondback gave so thorough and so nuanced an analysis of Doug Duncan’s selection for university VP of Administrative Affairs that we will deffer to them on the issue. We can’t help but recognize the irony of the selection given the general shuffling of positions statewide. Duncan’s involvement in and audacity during the Downtown Silver Spring project (FP-Argo did Downtown Silver Spring and is now in talks with the university to develop East Campus) gives us hope that East Campus will proceed swiftly and efficiently.

Duncan to assume top university post, The Diamondback 3/26 – Ben Slivnick
–Diamondback Analysis of the pick and Staff Editorial (“Thinking Bigger“)

We’d be remiss if we didn’t take this opportunity to point out the Diamondback’s second botching of the Impact Fee Waiver controversy. Their first article (3/14) was completely off base in it’s assertion that student leaders (namely the SGA and GSG) had done nothing to fight the proposed narrowing of incentive zone for student housing and that the student stakeholders were upset with the compromise reached at the time (we, the SGA, and the GSG were extremely happy with it). Today’s article, asserts that a second “compromise” was reached last week (3/19) when in reality the City Council further limited the zone from the actual compromise we reached at their 3/12 worksession.

The 3/19 “compromise”, which most notably takes away housing incentives for the Koon’s Ford Property cannot be deemed a “compromise” since the issue was taken up outside of a City Council work session, there was no opportunity to respond to comments, and no Rethink College Park representatives were present or consulted on the new boundaries. Real compromise remains elusive on this issue and we (RTCP and whomever else is willing) will vigorously fight any legislation that does not provide adequate space for 5,000-7,000 beds of student housing.

Transportation Hearing in Review

The PG County transportation hearing in College Park City Hall last night drew a probably unprecedented number of people to the council chambers. After some short presentations from the county, there was a seeminglyExample of unending procession of local politicians and community members lined up for the podium to request that the county government prioritize or eliminate this, that, or the other transportation project.
Everyone in attendance seemed avidly pro-transit and anti-highway and there was of course a large contingent of anti-ICC protesters doling out stickers. The interesting thing was that while everyone wanted more transit, relatively few people talked about the necessity of smart growth and infill development that makes transit feasible and trail extensions (great proposals by the way) prudent. Indeed, it’s hard to distinguish what is more important – development or transportation.
Why is bridging that 1.5 miles of farmland between the beltway and 193 so tempting to UMD administrators? We think it’s because that is the system we have built for ourselves and that is the pattern of land use that is easiest to articulate to passive observers of the debate. How, everyone seems to be wondering, with all this new development, is College Park going to be able to handle all the traffic? It’s up to elected officials to articulate this if they expect to avert the Connector Road.

UMD VP Porcari Tapped To Be State Transportation Secretary

We’re pleased to announce that UMD Vice President of Administrative Affairs John Porcari will be nominated tomorrow by Martin O’Malley to head Maryland’s Department of Transportation. Porcari, who first held the post in the final term of Democratic Governor Parris Glendenning’s administration, has overseen over the past 4 years, UMD’s departments of Facilities Management and Procurement (among many others). With the Route 1 reconstruction, Purple Line, and even a possible metro Green Line extension to BWI airport on the horizon, it’s sure good to see College Park with friends in high places (even amid looming state budget deficits).

Martin O’Malley’s commitment to Smart Growth (UMD Connector Road implications) is not yet apparent, but he did support the Intercounty Connector throughout his campaign.

Here is O’Malley’s plan for transportation.

Mote’s Connector Road Letter

We reported the other week that University President Dan Mote sent a letter to the College Park City Council supporting the continued project planning for the I-95 Connector Road. There’s nothing too surprising in the letter considering that the university administration has alway pointed to the project as the “only solution” to CP’s traffic woes.

One interesting thing is that while Mote supports the phasing of the Route 1 reconstruction he seems skeptical that even the first segment (College Ave to 193) will be funded anytime soon. “Should a shorter first segment prove desirable,” Mote says in the letter, then the University supports a project from College Ave to just north of Paint Branch Parkway. While there would be some clear pedestrian improvements from such a project, we’d like to point out to administrators that that segment of Route 1 already has a median. It may not be pretty, but this existing median provides just the sort of safety improvements needed all along the roadway and especially in the fast growing area around the University View.

“the proposed US 1 project does not provide the critically needed capacity improvements for access to and from the State’s flagship university, improvements that only the I-95 Connector Road can provide.”

What do you think? Is the Connector Road the only option for College Park?
>>Connector Road Letter 11/15/2006

Connector Road Letter

We finally received a response (PDF) from Maryland’s State Highway Administration about the proposed “Terrapin Parkway”. Unfortunately the letter provides little, if any, new information on the project (the response also took about 6 weeks).

The Diamondback reported last week about a letter that university President Dan Mote sent to the City Council stating his continued support for the project. Needless to say, the letter didn’t go over well at last Tuesday’s council meeting. We’ll post Mote’s letter and our analysis as soon as we can get our hands on it.

>> SHA letter to us 11/8/2006 (PDF)

>> Our Connector Road Page (including previous studies)

Connector Road drawing

The Connector Road Non-debate

The proposed campus connector road (our update library page) has been lingering in the background since we launched this site, but we finally have something to bring to the table. After weeks of waiting and a lot of persistence, the folks at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center were kind enough to send us a copy of a Preliminary Feasibility Study for the highway. The study was conducted in 1999 and, although fairly small, is one of the few primary sources we can find on the project. It explores 4 proposed alternatives and notes considerations for each: environmental (wetland, superfund sites, endangered species), social & cultural (historic, community impacts), and costs.

We’ll continue to vigorously pursue more information and documentation on this project and post everything just as soon as we can. Indeed it’s difficult for anyone to even have a meaningful debate on the connector road because there is more speculation than information about it.

Preliminary Connector Road Study – Examines highway alternatives to campus.
Transit Corridor Study– Examines a garage at the interchange linked to campus by a bus.

Connector Road drawing