Tag: get maryland moving

VDOT Takes Heat For Big PR Bill In Support Of Bi-County Parkway

The Virginia Department of Transportation agreed to pay the D.C.-based public relations firm Stratacomm nearly $300,000 to help the agency build public support for a controversial highway plan in Northern Virginia, according to documents obtained by a state legislator through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

State Del. Bob Marshall (R-13th), a vocal opponent of the Bi-County Parkway, a ten-mile highway that would connect Loudoun and Prince William Counties west of Dulles Airport and the Manassas battlefield, obtained the contract agreement that shows VDOT agreed to pay Stratacomm $289,228 for an array of services.

Although studied for a decade, VDOT has heavily promoted the project for only the past year, with a series of public meetings, presentations, and interviews with the news media. The public relations campaign has coincided with negotiations with the National Park Service to allow VDOT to pave over part of the western fringe of the Civil War battlefield in exchange for closing congested Rt. 234 through the battlefield. Those negotiations are nearing an end, but the partial shutdown of the federal government is delaying a final agreement.

“VDOT is saying in its scope of work that the effort will increase the credibility and trust of the Virginia Department of Transportation in the eyes of the public,” said Marshall. “If trust is lacking in VDOT, it is because of their own words and conflicting statements which they have made time and time again.”

Marshall, who is part of a group of conservative Republicans in the General Assembly fighting the Bi-County Parkway, blasted Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton for the decision to retain Stratacomm. The state is in effect using tax dollars to lobby public officials and sway residents, he said.

“They are misrepresenting to the public what they are doing. That is unacceptable public policy,” said Marshall. “Sean Connaughton should be ashamed of himself. This is, in fact, stealing from the public.”

Sec. Connaughton defended the move to hire Stratacomm as a response to critics like Marshall who claimed VDOT was not performing enough public outreach.

“As a consequence, we have turned to a consultant like we do with most communications efforts to meet with stakeholders, meet with elected officials, homeowners’ associations, to help organize a communications effort,” Connaughton said.

“The whole purpose is to educate the public on what this project is, what it is not, to dispel a lot of the myths and misinformation, so we can get the public to know what we’ve been working on for the last 12 years,” he added. “This is in direct response to complaints of Delegate Marshall and others in the General Assembly… they did not think we did enough public outreach regarding this effort.”

VDOT’s internal staffing has dropped from 8,500 to 7,100 in recent years, Connaughton said, so the agency does not have adequate staff to undertake large-scale public outreach efforts. Moreover, the transportation secretary said VDOT hires outside consultants for most large projects.

Opponents seized on the contract disclosure to criticize VDOT.

“It’s one thing to do outreach to encourage the public to participate in the study process and offer their input.  That’s a legitimate use of tax dollars, but to use tax dollars to fund what amounts to a propaganda campaign is another matter entirely,” said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which opposes large highway construction projects.

Once a final agreement is reached with the National Park Service and other signatories determining the Bi-County Parkway’s precise corridor, Virginia officials anticipate final environmental approval a few weeks later. The government shutdown is delaying the process.

Photo courtesy of Shawn Honnick. Click here to read the original story.

Transit, Purple Line Activists Hit Annapolis For Lobby Day

Transit and smart growth activists greeted leaders in Annapolis today with gravestones representing “the impending death” of transportation projects such as the Purple Line if the General Assembly does not come up with transportation funding in this legislative session.

Representatives from D.C.-based Coalition for Smarter Growth, which is spearheading the “Get Maryland Moving” campaign, Purple Line Now and others made the slushy trek to the State House to meet with about 20 legislators and put on the demonstration.

State Transportation officials say without a source for state transportation funding, matching federal dollars for the 16-mile Purple Line light rail that would connect Bethesda with Chevy Chase, Silver Spring and College Park, among other places, would be in jeopardy.

The Maryland Department of Transportation plans to halt design work on the $2.2 billion project if no funding is provided from the current General Assembly.

On Monday, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), House Speaker Michael Busch (D) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D) announced their plan for a new tax on gas wholesalers that is projected to mean a 2-cent hike in gas prices this July and another 7-cent hike next July. The plan is projected to bring in $3.4 billion over the next five years, which likely would not be able to fund for the Purple Line and the Red Line light rail project in Baltimore simultaneously.

“In spite of the weather, we couldn’t have chosen a better time to come to Annapolis. We’re thrilled to finally see unified action and leadership from Governor O’Malley, Speaker Busch, and President Miller, and will do all we can as residents to organize for a statewide solution that invests in real transportation solutions for all Marylanders”, said Robbyn Lewis, founder of the Red Line Now PAC, in a prepared statement.

According to polls, a clear majority of Marylanders are against any raise in gas prices. Republicans against the proposal have argued the transit projects the funds will help support do not benefit rural areas of the state.

Rendering via Maryland Transit Administration

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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.

Coalition for Smarter Growth presses for Maryland transit funding

The Coalition for Smarter Growth has launched an advocacy campaign called “Get Maryland Moving,” BethesdaNow.com reports. The effort is intended to prod lawmakers in Annapolis to provide transportation funding for projects designed to ease congestion.

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Advocates Form Coalition To Push For Purple Line Funds

A new coalition is advocating for dollars for state transportation projects, including the planned 16-mile Purple Line light rail that would connect Bethesda with New Carrollton, The Washington Post reports.

Get Maryland Moving, a coalition of groups, including the Montgomery County and Bethesda-Chevy Chase chambers of commerce, Purple Line Now, Action Committee for Transit, and the League of Women Voters of Maryland, is pushing for state legislators to make new revenue for transportation projects a top priority this legislative session, according to the group’s website.

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach has proposed a 3-cent gas tax that would raise about $300 million for transportation projects, Patch reported.

But without a tax increase to fund the Purple Line, the project—along with Baltimore’s Red Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway through the Interstate 270 corridor—could be put on hold, Maryland transportation officials have said. Montgomery County officials and transportation advocates have argued that deferring the funds in the state’s transportation funding plan could stall the projects and make them less competitive for federal dollars.

Get Maryland Moving is encouraging Maryland residents to contact their legislators and sign a petition supporting transportation funding. The petition reads:

“No funding solution this year means that critical capital projects such as the Purple Line, Red Line, and MARC upgrades may be delayed for years or decades. We call on our leaders to take a different path: to invest in our future by securing funding for critical transit projects, road maintenance, and other investments to support smart, sustainable growth for Maryland.”

Photo courtesy of MTA

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Group Introduces New Coalition To Push Transit Funding

A new collection of transit advocates yesterday began a push to get Annapolis lawmakers focused on transportation funding and a member of the group fueling the effort yesterday night asked for support from a Bethesda Advisory Board.

Kelly Blynn, of the D.C.-based nonprofit Coalition for Smarter Growth, told members of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board that without transit projects such as the Purple Line light rail in Bethesda or a Bus Rapid Transit system along Rockville Pike, Montgomery County could not handle the over 200,000 more people coming to the county by 2030.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth spearheaded the “Get Maryland Moving” campaign, which it introduced on Tuesday.

“Maryland’s economic competitiveness is at risk if the state fails to invest adequately in maintenance, local roads and modern transit systems,” Coalition for Smarter Growth executive director Stewart Schwartz said in a statement. “These transit investments are essential for providing relief from peak hour congestion, for supporting economic development, and for reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Blynn came looking for allies at the Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday and described the group’s three-legged approach toward improving local traffic issues: investment in the projected $2.4 billion Purple Line, Bus Rapid Transit (still far from its final design) and Metro system improvements.

Supporters of the “Get Maryland Moving” campaign include the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, Action Committee for Transit and and Purple Line Now.

With no state funding in sight, Purple Line design work by the Maryland Transit Administration could be stopped, which local lawmakers say would derail the process. The 16-mile light rail from New Carrollton to Bethesda, with stops in College Park, Silver Spring and Chevy Chase, among others, would bring 15,000 riders a day to the Bethesda station, according to MTA projections.

County leaders say this is the year to get a gas tax hike in the General Assembly that could cover the state’s share of the cost. They are pessimistic that leaders would agree to a gas tax hike in 2014, an election year. So far, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) hasn’t made achieving transportation funding a priority, to the chagrin of Montgomery leaders such as Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac).

The “Get Maryland Moving” campaign includes a petition to spur action from O’Malley and others on the issue.

Photo courtesy of Get Maryland Moving

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New group pushing for Maryland transportation funding

Transit advocates from the Washington and Baltimore regions have formed a new group to push for additional state transportation funding, including money to build a light rail Purple Line between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

The group, called Get Maryland Moving, is asking the Maryland General Assembly and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to make new revenue for transportation projects a top priority for this legislative session. The group includes Purple Line Now, the Red Line Now PAC in Baltimore, the Maryland League of Women Voters, state environmental groups, and the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of commerce.

A 16-mile Purple Line would connect Bethesda and New Carrollton, with 21 stations in between. A 14-mile light rail Red Line would connect western Baltimore County with eastern parts of the city.

Maryland transportation officials recently revealed that they would cut off state funding for more detailed design of both transit projects after June 30, unless the General Assembly passes some kind of tax increase to fund new road and transit construction. Transit advocates say they worry the projects could stall for years and jeopardize the state’s quest for highly competitive federal transit construction aid.

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Get Maryland Moving: Newly Unified Groups from Baltimore to Washington Call on Governor and General Assembly to Make Transportation Funding a Top Priority This Session

Get Maryland Moving: Newly Unified Groups from Baltimore to Washington Call on Governor and General Assembly to Make Transportation Funding a Top Priority This Session

A new coalition uniting groups from Baltimore to Washington announced today a joint campaign with a strong message to Annapolis: increased funding for transportation, with a particular focus on transit, must be a top priority for Governor O’Malley and the General Assembly this year. Leaders of the new coalition “Get Maryland Moving” warned that without a source of new revenue, critical transit projects like the Washington area’s Purple Line, Baltimore’s Red Line, Montgomery County’s Corridor Cities Transitway, MARC modernization and expansion, and Metro rehabilitation could miss out on federal funding and be delayed for years. Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said in a statement, “Maryland’s economic competitiveness…

New group forms to push for Maryland transportation funding

A new group has formed in Maryland to urge legislators to find new revenue options to fund transportation projects.

The group — Get Maryland Moving — is comprised of various advocacy organizations, including Purple Line Now and the Red Line Now PAC in Baltimore, Coalition for Smarter Growth, and the Maryland League of Women Voters and the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, amongst others.

The group is asking Gov. Martin O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly to make transportation funding a priority in this legislative session.

O’Malley used part of his annual State of the State speech last month to talk about Maryland’s “worst traffic congestion in the country” and the need for money for the near-bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund but offered no details. An O’Malley spokeswoman said he is working with the legislature to work out a plan.

Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund pays for road and bridge maintenance, as well as other projects such as light rail, including the proposed Purple and Red lines. The fund has enough money to pay only for current maintenance and is projected to run out of cash by 2018.

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

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