Few Marylanders support tax increase to fund traffic congestion fixes

Traffic on the 495 Beltway is backed up from Bethesda to College Park on Feb. 12, 2010, due to emergency pothole repairs. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Though many Marylanders in the Washington region see traffic congestion as a major problem, there is little support for any solutions that involve raising taxes, a new Washington Post poll has found.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and legislative leaders have floated several possible ways to raise hundreds of millions of additional dollars for road and mass transit projects, including increases in sales and gas taxes. And they have said they’d like to act before the 90-day session ends in April.

But barely a quarter of Marylanders statewide support any of the ideas put forward so far that involve taxes, the poll found.

● Only 26 percent say they support a new 3 percent sales tax on gas, as proposed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert).

● Only 26 percent say they support Miller’s idea of allowing counties to tack another 5 cents onto the state’s 23.5 cent-per-gallon gas tax.

● And only 27 percent support an alternative O’Malley has suggested: raising the state’s general sales tax from 6 to 7 percent and earmarking the proceeds for transportation.

Meanwhile, 36 percent of Marylanders say traffic congestion is a major problem, and another 41 percent say it is a minor problem. Twenty-two percent say it’s not a problem.

People living in areas close to the District are more likely to feel impacted by traffic. Fifty-four percent of Montgomery County residents say congestion is a major problem, as do 41 percent of Prince George’s County residents.

Those who see a “major problem” are no more likely to embrace solutions involving taxes, however.

Ryan Abdel-Megeid, an information technology consultant who lives in Bethesda, is among those who experience the crush of the region’s traffic on a daily basis.

“It’s no secret that the traffic in this area is miserable for commuting,” said Abdel-Megeid, 27. “That’s an issue I see every day.”

Interstate 270 is often a mess, and the American Legion Bridge can be a bear, he said.

Yet Abdel-Megeid is skeptical that any of the solutions being talked about in Annapolis would do much good, and no one, he said, wants to pay more at the pump when gas prices are so volatile.

“Politicians aren’t exactly the most trustworthy people,” he said.

The transportation proposal that rates highest in the Post poll is one that doesn’t involve a tax but that hasn’t gotten much traction: Leasing the Intercounty Connector and other state roads to generate cash for other projects.

That idea has been proposed by Miller, the Senate president.

In the poll, 40 percent support it, while 47 percent oppose it.

The Post poll was conducted Feb. 21-24, among a random sample of 1,156 adult residents of Maryland. The results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Peyton M. Craighill is a pollster with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media. Capital Insight Director Jon Cohen and pollster Scott Clement contributed to this report.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Peyton M. Craighill is polling manager for the Washington Post. Peyton reports and conducts national and regional news polls for the Washington Post, with a focus on politics, elections and other social and economic issues.



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