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January 26 2004 - Maryland’s Transportation Task Force considering surcharge on speeding tickets
The state’s Transportation Task Force is considering asking speeders to help pay Maryland’s transportation costs.
The panel, also known as the Hellmann Commission, is floating ideas that include a $20 surcharge on tickets for moving violations and establishing toll lanes along major highways as options for funding roads and replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund, raided by $300 million in last year’s legislative session. The task force, chaired by former state Transportation Secretary William K. Hellmann, presented its ideas yesterday to the House Environmental Matters Committee.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. supports the need for new revenue for transportation, but has not said exactly how it will be funded.
The task force supports adding a $20 surcharge to the approximately 1 million moving violations ticketed per year, which would generate $20 million in revenues. If the state invests $10 million of the revenue into bonds, the fund would be replenished in 10 years.
The state’s budget department has not announced how it will replenish the fund.
The task force also plans to further investigate the use of toll lanes to help fund construction of transportation projects. The new lanes would also help to reduce congestion.
A one-lane addition in both directions on the Capital Beltway in Maryland, for example, would cost approximately $2.3 billion, a price that largely could be paid for through the addition of toll lanes that motorists could choose to pay to use.
An extra lane on the Baltimore Beltway from I-95 South westbound to I-95 North would cost the state $1.2 billion, another price that could be offset by toll lanes.
Maryland ranks 47th in the county for its investments in highways, according to the task force, and congestion costs approximately $667 per person for the average car owner.
The commission also recommended funding for the Inter-County Connector, which would total $1.7 billion. Another $600 million would be generated by bonds purchased with future federal funding, $450 million from bonds supported by the existing toll facilities in the state, $500 million from tolls on the ICC and $150 million from Transportation Trust Fund revenues.
The Department of Transportation also summarized several bills assigned to the committee:
* SB 56 would allow firms that completed design work on a state construction project to bid for the construction phase of the same project. The change would allow for faster completion of projects and lessen disqualification of small and minority-owned firms.
* An unnumbered bill would increase the standards for commercial drivers’ licenses by disqualifying drivers who commit offenses in commercial vehicles as well as personal vehicles. If the law is not passed, the state could lose federal highway funding.
* HB 94 would allow the Motor Vehicle Administration to impose fees for missed drivers’ test appointments.
* SB 32 would replace paper temporary tags with hard tags for any cars sold in non-dealer sales. The MVA would save money by eliminating paper tag processing.
* SB 36 would remove restrictions on the State Highway Administration and other government agencies that prevent them from trimming trees or working on equipment closer than 10 feet to high-voltage lines.
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