Bumper to Bumper: Transportation groups ally to campaign for state funding

Transportation interest groups from around the state formed a coalition that they hope will influence state lawmakers’ budget priorities.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth and about 20 other organizations from Bethesda to Baltimore are pushing for the state to increase funding for transportation. They formed “Get Maryland Moving” on Feb. 19, hoping to make a bigger impact on budget decisions.

Leaders of Get Maryland Moving warn that without a source of new revenue, critical projects like the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway could be delayed for years.

One of the new coalition’s members is Purple Line Now!, a Montgomery County and Prince George’s County alliance of local organizations that support the 16-mile light-rail project.

The Purple Line would connect Metro’s Red Line at the Bethesda station to the Green Line at New Carrollton and is estimated to cost about $2.1 billion. Without state funding, however, the Purple Line will not be built, County Councilmember George L. Leventhal said.

The Maryland Department of Transportation has started designing the light-rail line, but the state has not dedicated funds to build it.

“Our campaign right now is to get transportation funding,” Purple Line Now! President Ralph Bennett said. His organization first started working with the Coalition for Smarter Growth — a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to transit-oriented communities — last year.

“We came to the realization that we couldn’t get very far [by ourselves],” Bennett said. Purple Line Now! sends emails to constituents to encourage them to support their cause and meet with legislators. But, now that they are part of Get Maryland Moving, they can cast a wider net to look for support, he said.

Get Maryland Moving plans to make its case in Annapolis on March 6 by making fake gravestones for a major transportation project in every jurisdiction of the state, according to Bennett.

“If we don’t get funding,” he said, “all of those projects will die.”

The Greater Bethesda Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce is also a member of Get Maryland Moving.

“Transportation has always been a top priority for us, and the Purple Line is it,” said the chamber’s president and CEO, Ginanne Italiano. “Our concern is it’s wasted taxpayer dollars if they don’t finish the job and get the funding going.”

Italiano said transportation funding is at a “critical point,” and Get Maryland Moving is what’s necessary to gain support. The chamber is planning to ask its members to come to Annapolis and talk to legislators about what they want for the Purple Line.

“With the sequester happening, it’s vital,” she said.