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Maryland's Transportation Plans

John Porcari, who returns to the job of Maryland transportation secretary on Wednesday, isn't looking for wiggle room on the state's commitment to build the intercounty connector highway.

"It will be under construction" during the upcoming term of Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley, Porcari told me. When I noted that he wasn't leaving himself an escape hatch, despite the continuing controversy over the connector and an environmental lawsuit, he said: "No, I'm really not. Anything could happen, but I do think it's been studied enough, it's been scrutinized enough and it has been debated enough that all the significant issues have been vetted one way or another."

Porcari already has served a term as transportation secretary, under the previous Democratic governor, Parris Glendening. During those years, he helped launch two of the region's biggest and, so far, most successful projects: the Wilson Bridge reconstruction and the redevelopment of BWI-Marshall Airport. But Porcari sounds modest in setting goals for the next round.

"The first order of business is system preservation," he said. "Taking care of what you have, filling the potholes, resurfacing, fixing the bridges, and then beyond that, finishing the projects we have under construction or are about to have under construction." To him, a proper transportation network offers people choices -- drive, ride transit, bike, walk -- and is integrated with a land use plan and environmental protections.

Bob Ehrlich, the Republican governor who leaves office tomorrow, was primarily identified with one transportation goal during his 2002 campaign and four years in office: Construction of the intercounty connector. His successor, Martin O'Malley endorsed the connector highway and Maryland's major transit proposals: the Purple Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway and Baltimore's Red Line. But there is no Big New Thing associated with O'Malley's transportation plan the way there was with Ehrlich's.

Porcari knows that Maryland doesn't have the money or the room to build a lot of big new stuff in the densely populated Washington-Baltimore corridor. But he's anxious to explore ways of improving MARC train service and adding commuter buses, among other things, and is optimistic about advancing those goals.

We can talk more about Procari's thoughts on Maryland transportation issues, the push for road and transit improvements in Virginia, the Tysons tunnel issue, rush-hour double parking in Washington or any other transportation topic that vexes you during my Live Online discussion at 1 p.m. today.

You can submit a question or comment for today's discussion now. If you'd like to offer an observation or ask a question for an upcoming Dr. Gridlock column in The Post, write to me at drgridlock@washpost.com. Please include your name, home community and a phone number with the e-mail.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 16, 2007; 8:10 AM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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