MDOT Proposes Multi-Billion-Dollar Cut To Transit Projects, Other Services Amid Budget Shortfall

By FOX45
Posted on 12/07/23 | News Source: FOX45

A multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall could cut transportation projects short, limit transit options, and raise parking prices, according to a new proposal from the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The six-year transportation plan includes at least a $2 billion funding shortfall, and the proposed cuts could impact a large swath of services and plans. According to the proposal from MDOT, the agency must seek a $3.3 billion reduction in planned state Transportation Trust Fund expenditures over the next six years.

“Simply put, the department’s operating costs are expected to increase seven percent annually while our revenues increase one percent per year,” said MDOT Secretary Paul Wiedefeld in a letter. “And just like Maryland families are doing, we must tighten our belt to live within our resources.”

Secretary Wiedefeld said the cause of the deficit is rising costs and declining revenue. According to the proposal – which isn’t finalized – MDOT plans to reduce operating spending and increase several fees; the agency is calling for an 8% cut to operating budgets for each agency within the department.

There will be a suspension of services on Saturdays with the Motor Vehicle Administration, the State Highway Administration will reduce litter and trash pickups along the highway, and parking prices could increase at BWI Airport. Commuter buses will also be cut in the latest proposal, and certain MARC train lines will be limited.

“It’s a tough across the board cut,” said Del. Jared Solomon, D-Montgomery County. “If you’re reliant on certain types of transportation that’s been cut, certain transit pieces, you’re going to be scrambling.”

Del. Solomon is the co-chair of the Maryland Transit Caucus and said the legislature knew something was coming in terms of budget issues, but said he wished there was more communication from the Moore Administration before announcing the proposal.

“I think the scope and the size and certain scale was a little bit of a surprise, and I think we would have appreciated a more robust conversation about what is coming out,” Del. Solomon said.

Those feelings seem to be echoed by other lawmakers as well. Sen. Cory McCray, D-Baltimore City, sent a critical letter to Secretary Wiedefeld Wednesday outlining his frustrations with the proposals. McCray said the proposed cuts “sends the wrong message to Baltimore City and the Baltimore Region.”

“It also cancels Baltimore’s transit future for the second time in less than a decade,” McCray wrote.

In his letter, the Senator also criticized the proposed cuts to the Highway User Revenue and Distribution, which he said “slashes hundreds of millions from the transportation budget, with 60% of those deductions directly affecting Baltimore City.”

“I was appalled to learn that while various media outlets reported directly talking to you in great detail about the cuts, numerous Baltimore City Senators, including myself, have yet to receive the same beefing from you or a representative from MDOT,” Sen. McCray wrote in his letter to Secretary Wiedefeld.

== Had I heard from your office, it might have allowed me to better understand your thoughts (or lack thereof) behind this particular distribution of cuts, McCray continued.

Moving forward, Del. Solomon said lawmakers will work during the upcoming 90-day legislative session to find a solution.

“Without having a really serious conversation about revenue and resources going forward, it’s going to be really hard to restore some of the things that have been taken out,” he said. “Once we get to Annapolis – really collaborating on how we fix this and what a sustainable transportation budget looks like.”

An MDOT spokesperson did not provide a statement to FOX45 News regarding the proposed cuts.