Representatives of several regional and national organizations today called on Baltimore’s county, city, and state officials to modify the draft 2020 Baltimore Regional Transportation Plan. They charged the 20-year $16.4 billion plan will exacerbate traffic congestion and sprawl, harming the Chesapeake Bay, public health, and existing communities.
More than two-thirds of the $4.1 billion allocated for system expansion would fund road expansions. Barely $22 million, or one-tenth of one percent of spending would go for pedestrian and bicycle improvements. The plan gives inadequate support to operate, manage, and maintain existing roads, transit, and non-motorized transportation, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA), and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).
Today’s forum on the draft regional plan featured 11 representatives from business, environmental, civic, and local government organizations and was sponsored by the Transportation Steering Committee (TSC), the transportation planning and policy making body for the Baltimore region.
“The draft plan fails to consider effective approaches that could give us better communities with less traffic. It wastes tax dollars on sprawl-inducing projects like the $200 million Westminster Bypass, a $175 million widening of MD 32, and $210 million HOV lanes for I-95,” said Michael Replogle, federal transportation director for the Environmental Defense Fund. “This $585 million should instead be used for flexible bus and van access to suburban jobs, traffic calming and pedestrian/bicycle improvements, better road maintenance, and traffic management.”
“People need to be given information about real choices for the future, not just a list of engineering projects that we see in this draft plan,” said Al Berry, Chair of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association Committee on the Region. “This plan should be about connecting communities to the region, not just building highways. Elected officials need to get involved now to change this plan. We don’t want just a promise to do better ‘next time,’ as we heard four years ago with the last plan update.”
According to Kristin Pauly of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, “Maryland is changing how it supports growth, moving from sprawl to smart growth. If we’re to save the Bay, we need to reduce traffic and manage growth, not to fund more automobile-dependent sprawl. This should give us a vision of the region we want to leave to our children and not just leave us stuck in traffic without choices.”
The TSC Symposium on the plan is being held from 8 am to 12:30pm at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, 601 N. Howard Street, Baltimore. Public hearings on the draft plan are set for 7pm on May 28 (Glen Burnie High School), June 2 (Baltimore Metropolitan Council), and June 9 (Loch Raven High School) and written comments on the plan are encouraged and will be accepted until June 16 by the TSC, 601 N. Howard Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.