O’Malley outlines new transportation spending in Prince George’s

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Monday touted close to $650 million in planned spending on transportation projects in Prince George’s County, including some new interchanges that have languished on the drawing board for years.

The new projects were the latest around the state that O’Malley administration officials have attributed to a major transportation funding bill approved earlier this year that gradually raises gas taxes. The first increase of 3.5 cents per gallon took effect last week.

O’Malley (D) heralded the “modern investments” at the Branch Avenue Metro station, one of the beneficiaries of the additional tax revenue. The state plans to spend $50 million to improve access to the station in Suitland, including construction of a pedestrian bridge.

Other new funding announced Monday includes $150 million to construct a new interchange at Maryland Route 4 and Suitland Parkway that officials promised would relieve congestion and $46 million for several bicycle, pedestrian and safety improvements along various roads in Prince George’s, including U.S Route 1 in College Park.

O’Malley was joined at the event by local officials, including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who said the new spending should help the county lure more businesses and jobs.

“The biggest thing that helps us in development is infrastructure,” Baker said.

The spending announced Monday also includes $7 million to design a better interchange at the Greenbelt Metro station, which Baker said could help the county’s bid to lure the FBI to Greenbelt. State transportation officials said the project would require an additional $71 million for right-of-way acquisition and construction, which has not been funded.

Two other big-ticket projects — both previously announced — also were included in the package touted Monday: $100 million for a new interchange on Maryland Route 210 at Kerby Hill-Livingston Road and $280 million in new funding for design work and land acquisition related to the Purple Line, the proposed rail link between New Carrollton in Prince George’s and Bethesda in Montgomery County.

With a total projected cost of $2.2 billion, the Purple Line also will require federal funding or private-sector investors to build in coming years.

The projects said to be moving forward Monday were among those identified as priorities by Prince George’s leaders, in some cases long ago.

“Let’s face it: There’s a pent-up demand for projects in Maryland,” said state Transportation Secretary James T. Smith, who also appeared at Monday’s event.

Prior to the legislature’s action this year, transportation officials said they were on the verge of running out of money for new road and transit projects. They now say they have another $4.4 billion to spend over the coming six years.

The cost for the new projects will largely be borne by motorists, who can expect to pay 13 to 20 cents more per gallon of gas by mid-2016, according to legislative analysts.

The increases will be the result of a couple of upward adjustments in the gas tax. The state will start imposing a new sales tax on the commodity in addition to gradually raising the current 23.5 cent-per-gallon flat tax, which has been unchanged since 1992.

Charles County leaders also praised state officials on Monday for allocating $5 million to study a proposed transit link between Waldorf in their county and the Branch Avenue Metro station.

As envisioned, the project could be either light rail or rapid bus. It would include 11 stops.

Candice Quinn Kelly, president of the county’s board of commissioners, said the project could save commuters to Washington and surrounding points many hours now spent in the car.

“In the lives of so many, it will mean so much,” she said.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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