The administration of Gov. Wes Moore (D) is expected Tuesday to announce a one-year infusion of cash meant to ease the initial effects of draconian cuts to transportation projects over the next six years.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld, in a briefing with reporters, said the state will pump $150 million dollars into transportation projects in the fiscal 2025 budget. Moore is expected to deliver his budget to the legislature Wednesday.
“The larger issue is still there,” said Wiedefeld.
In December, Wiedefeld announced $3.3 billion in cuts over six years to the state’s Consolidated Transportation Program. The rolling six-year document is updated annually.
The cuts were necessitated by declining revenues flowing to the state’s dedicated Transportation Trust Fund. That account, which pays for highway and transit projects as well as for Baltimore’s transit system and WMATA, is built on revenues from the state’s gas tax and other taxes and fees.
“I think everyone recognizes that with the Transportation Trust Fund. Some of the fundamentals are still there, meaning a declining revenue base,” Wiedefeld said. “…Then operating costs and capital costs going up, and need, right? Just the cost of what we do today goes up, and then the need for all the things we want to do. So that’s a larger discussion. That’s not what this is trying to address. This is trying to address some of the immediate concerns that we heard from across the state.”
The one-time infusion of cash will reduce the total cuts to $3.15 billion, Wiedefeld said.
More than half of the additional money would go directly to aid for locally operated transit systems and to restore highway user revenues, the primary source of local road repair funding for counties.
Counties, which saw their highway user revenues dramatically cut during the Great Recession, were expecting a roughly 18% share of state aid through highway user revenues. The cuts proposed last month would have flat-funded that share at 15.6% — the amount provided in the current budget.
“We heard obviously from across the state that they’re under the same pressures in terms of revenue and cost issues,” Wiedefeld said. “So, it was a very big hit for some of the other local road programs that they have.”
Wiedefeld said the plan for fiscal 2025 is to fully restore that aid to the expected level.
The additional $150 million would include:
● the $52 million to fully restore highway user revenue funding.
● $26 million to fully restore Locally Operated Transit System grants.
● $28 million in Maryland Transit Administration commuter bus funding to maintain service on the highest-ridership routes. Commuter bus funding for fiscal 2025 would still be cut by more than 60%.
● Restore $15 million for “state of good repair” needs within the Maryland Transit Administration. The funding also meets the requirements of the Transit Safety and Investment Act. Wiedefeld said the restoration would allow the state to remain eligible for federal aid.
● Fully restore $10 million for State Highway Administration mowing and litter removal programs.
● Fully restore $8 million for the MARC Brunswick Line. The funding would avert reducing service from three trains to West Virginia to one. It also allows the agency to move forward with a pilot program for a midday train on the line.
● $5 million information technology and cybersecurity upgrades within the state transportation department.
● $4 million to the Motor Vehicle Administration to maintain branch hours and keep open limited-service branches at locations in Baltimore and Montgomery Counties.
● $2 million for contractual services at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Without additional future actions, the infusion will only ease the pain for the coming fiscal year.
“Everything that we had had to do to meet the budget would then basically have to kick it,” Wiedefeld said. “We didn’t solve for [fiscal] ’26, ’27, ’28, or ’29. So all that remains.”
The administration is expected to provide details of the additional funding during a Tuesday morning event in Annapolis sponsored by the Baltimore Banner.
By Bryan P. Sears