Earlier this year, the state legislatures in Maryland and Virginia each approved measures that would raise upwards of $800 million a year in new revenue for transportation, the first statutory increases in two decades or more.
Now, just weeks after starting to collect the new revenue -- at the gas pump, from fuel wholesalers, or through sales taxes, depending on the jurisdiction -- both states are starting to allocate the new money to accelerate projects that have already been vetted and approved and are awaiting funding.
In July, the Maryland Department of Transportation brought five major projects worth more than $240 million to the TPB for inclusion in the region's six-year transportation spending program, known as the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP.
The three biggest-ticket items added to the program as amendments were new roadway interchanges -- one at Indian Head Highway and Kerby Hill Road in southern Prince George's County, another at I-270 and Watkins Mill Road in Montgomery County, and a third at US 15 and Monocacy Boulevard in Frederick County.
MDOT also added the second phase of a project to improve access to the Branch Avenue Metrorail station, including roadway improvements and a pedestrian bridge, and preliminary engineering work for construction of a full interchange on the Capital Beltway to provide better access to the Greenbelt Metrorail station.
All five projects were already in the region's constrained long-range transportation plan, or CLRP, which means that they had been included in federally-required air quality analysis and that the agencies responsible for the projects had committed to funding and completing them within specified timeframes in the plan. With newly available revenue, the state is now able to accelerate construction of some of the nearer-term projects in the plan.
More TIP amendments from MDOT are expected later this year. In September, the department will submit amendments for three projects in Prince George's County -- a new interchange at MD 4 and Suitland Parkway, widening of MD 4 from four lanes to six lanes, and acquisition of necessary right-of-way to reconstruct a 3.3-mile stretch of US 1 in College Park to include sidewalks and wide curb lanes to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists.
Later in the fall, the department is expected to submit amendments for several new projects announced recently by Governor Martin O'Malley -- almost $400 million for the Purple Line light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, $25 million for a two-lane bypass around the town of Brookeville, and preliminary design work for two interchanges along US 29 and widening of Route 124.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is busy making final decisions about the projects it will submit for inclusion in the TIP later this year, too.
Under Virginia's new revenue-raising measure, a significant portion of the new funds will be dedicated to projects in Northern Virginia, with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, or NVTA, responsible for deciding which projects will receive funding first. This decision-making process aims to ensure that new revenues are spent on projects that local planners, citizens, and elected officials see as the most important.
Among the projects approved recently by NVTA are $59 million for widening segments of Route 28, $41 million for the new Innovation Center Metrorail station on the Silver Line, $29 million for new VRE commuter rail station improvements and railcars, and $12 million for multimodal street improvements along Columbia Pike.
With the additional revenue now flowing into state coffers, both Maryland and Virginia have started allocating funds to projects that have already been vetted and approved by local, state, and regional leaders but that were awaiting sufficient funding to move forward. In coming years, the additional funding that is now available on a continuing basis will allow transportation agencies to move forward in developing more new projects and initiatives to address ongoing transportation challenges.