Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) rejected a Southern Maryland lawmaker’s claim that the state hasn’t done enough to ease the region’s grueling commutes.
Asked on Tuesday about barbed criticism from Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-Charles), Hogan pointed to the Maryland Transportation Authority’s recent decision to rebuild the aging Gov. Harry W. Nice/Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton Bridge, which connects Charles County with King George County, Va., a $480 million project.
“On a per-capita basis, he may actually have the most transportation money of anybody, anywhere,” Hogan said.
“Maybe he was confused and didn’t read about that,” the governor added dryly.
(Ellis defeated the long-serving Middleton in the 2018 Democratic primary election and is surely aware of the project which now bears his former rival’s name.)
Hogan said the state has also made highway interchange improvements that local governments in Southern Maryland requested.
Last week Ellis met with a Hogan aide to press the case for a long-discussed light rail line, along the MD Route 5 corridor, between White Plains, in Charles County, and Prince George’s County.
In a follow-up interview with Maryland Matters, he pointed to a Bloomberg analysis that concluded that Southern Maryland residents face the costliest commutes in the nation.
“The state is treating Southern Maryland as a toilet,” the lawmaker said. “You flush and you forget about it. Low priority. … It’s unacceptable.”
Ellis’ comments caused a stir among his colleagues in the Southern Maryland delegation and others. Some accused him of advocating on behalf of a project — light rail — that is expensive, controversial and would take years to build.
Some lawmakers and local officials believe highway interchange improvements and improved bus service would bring relief more quickly and at a fraction of the cost.
In defending the state’s spending decisions, Hogan pointed to his decision to approve the Purple Line and his commitment to provide the Washington, D.C., area’s Metro system its first ever dedicated source of revenue.
“No governor in the history of the state has ever invested more in transit,” he said.
“If there are some good ideas that folks have about future transit to Southern Maryland, we’re all ears,” Hogan added, “but at this point there is no funding and no plan and no ideas.”
Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said Southern Maryland doesn’t have the population to justify the expense of light rail.
“The cost of transit is prohibitive,” the former Senate president said. “We can’t even get transit on I-270 in Montgomery County.”
“People need help now,” he added. “Additional roadway and additional bus service” would be a better use of limited state resources, the lawmaker said.