Rendering of a Purple Line train, similar to those that could eventually ride on the southern Maryland rapid transit system.

Testimony by Smart Growth Maryland to Advance Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project

01/09/2020
By Smart Growth Maryland

In one of the earliest hearings after the start of the 440th Maryland General Assembly, Smart Growth Maryland and its partners in the Smarter Growth Alliance for Charles County will be testifying in support of legislation that will advance the planning of the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit project.

Southern Maryland Rapid Transit (SMRT) is a high-capacity, fixed-route transit from the Branch Avenue Metrorail Station in Prince George’s County to White Plains in Charles County.

During today’s hearing in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee in Annapolis, we will be advocating for passage of SB105, sponsored by Senator Arthur Ellis, which would compel the State to fund and complete the design, engineering, and environmental review process for SMRT. The State’s capital budget for transportation projects includes no funding for this project.

Severe traffic congestion in Southern Maryland results in one of the longest daily commutes in the country, a sad reality that was highlighted in a Bloomberg News article. Between Charles and St. Mary’s counties, there are an estimated 46,000 commuters with a combined ten million hours of lost productivity, family time, and leisure time due to excessive commute times.

The SMRT project will provide Southern Maryland residents with an alternative to driving, improve commute times, improve access to employment opportunities, and relieve traffic congestion.

Additionally, as the transportation sector is Maryland’s largest generator of greenhouses gases, investing in transit is critical to achieving the State’s goal of a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030. And the reduction in emissions will not be limited to commuters choosing transit over driving. The SMRT project will foster walkable, mixed-use, transit-oriented development – like that proposed for the Waldorf Urban Redevelopment Corridor – that allows residents to live car-free or car-light.

In the past 25 years, the State has completed five major studies on the feasibility, alignment, projected ridership, and economic impact of high-capacity, fixed-route transit service to Southern Maryland. The conclusions of every study have repeatedly confirmed the urgent and growing need.

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The 450,000 residents of Prince George’s, Charles, and St. Mary’s counties who live in the MD5- US301 corridor need the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to promptly undertake all steps necessary to complete the design, engineering, and NEPA process for the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project – high-capacity, fixed-route transit service from the Branch Avenue Metrorail Station to White Plains. SB 105 would require the State to complete this process and commit the necessary funding, estimated at $27 million over the next two to three years.

In the past 25 years, the State has completed five major studies on the feasibility, alignment, projected ridership, and economic impact of high-capacity, fixed-route transit service to Southern Maryland. The conclusions of every study have repeatedly confirmed the urgent and growing need. Southern Maryland residents suffer through one of the longest daily commutes in the country. Between Charles and St. Mary’s counties, there are an estimated 46,000 commuters with a combined ten million hours of lost productivity, family time, and leisure time as a result of excessive commute times.

Additionally, the transportation sector is Maryland’s largest generator of greenhouses gases. The impacts of climate change are being experienced throughout Maryland, especially on the Eastern Shore where sea-level rise and subsidence are resulting in considerable land loss.

Investing in transit and providing Marylanders with alternatives to driving is critical to achieving the State’s statutory goal of a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030. Notably, the reduction in emissions will not just be limited to commuters choosing transit over driving. The Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project will foster walkable, mixed-use, transit-oriented development that allows residents to live car-free or car-light – an attractive option for millennials, seniors, and many others.

The Southern Maryland Rapid Transit project will improve quality of life for Southern Maryland residents, promote economic development consistent with smart growth, and advance the State’s emissions reduction goals.

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Smart Growth Maryland is a major program of Preservation Maryland which advocates for a more environmentally and economically sustainable future that creates opportunities for all Marylanders through better development patterns.

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