Meet the New Boss
Same as the old boss. Martin O'Malley, who will become Maryland governor next week, introduced his designated transportation secretary at a jammed town hall meeting in Montgomery County last night.
John D. Porcari has served most recently as vice president for administrative affairs at the University of Maryland in College Park. But before that, he spent four years as Maryland's transportation secretary under Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Porcari helped get the big reconstruction projects started at BWI-Marshall Airport and the Wilson Bridge. He also helped improve Maryland's Department of Motor Vehicles services.
When O'Malley introduced Porcari last night in the auditorium at Einstein High School, many people stood to applaud, in what generally proved to be a love-fest for the governor-elect and the new Montgomery County executive, Ike Leggett.
When Leggett invited the public to approach two microphones, scores of people took up the offer. The first transportation topic that came up was a call for rebuilding the intersection at Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road. That congested interchange, not far from the high school, is a widely acknowledged failure.
Porcari took the microphone to respond, and spoke directly to the issue. He said the junction is "one of the worst inserctions in terms of performance in Montgomery County," but that the new administration needs to examine how much money is available for new projects. Porcari didn't sound optimistic.
He said that the new administration will conduct a 30-day audit of the state's transportation trust fund, but that there are real limitations on the ability to add new projects. At some point, he said, the state will need additional revenue for new work.
Porcari continued a refreshing pattern of not indulging the audience in fantasies in responding to a request for weekend MARC train service. To do that, he said, the state would first need to enter into a new operating agreement with CSX railroad, which owns the tracks, and then come up with the money for the service.
But he said "the first order of business is to get adequate capacity for the ridership we have today" during the weekday commuter service. Judging from the complaints I hear from MARC riders, many of whom say the train service is unreliable and the equipment overtaxed, Porcari was absolutely right.
Of course, the intercounty connector came up, and it was clear this crowd was very much in opposition to construction of the highway across the county. But O'Malley pledged only to keep an open mind on such issues.
It was too bad the speakers were more inclined to tell stories than ask questions. I think they would have gotten some more straight answers from Porcari. It will be very interesting to see how the new administration handles the ICC construction issue. Porcari was transportation secretary when Glendening cancelled the project, but I'm not sure that gives us any hint about what advice he'll offer the new governor.
I am optimistic, though, that Porcari will be an ally for the Washington suburbs in creating a balanced transportation system.
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