Governor Martin O'Malley Signs Gas Tax, Announces Projects

Gov. Martin O'Malley signed Maryland's first gas tax increase in 20 years into law on Thursday and announced $1.2 billion in highway and transit projects.

The new law levies a sales tax on gasoline on top of the state's 23.5-cents per gallon tax. The sales tax, which will take effect in July, will add about 4 cents to a gallon of gas. It will jump another 8 cents by July 2015. The tax would rise another 8 cents by July 2016, unless Congress approves an Internet sales tax measure that would provide another revenue source for transportation.

The law also includes a mechanism to automatically raise the tax in the future based on inflation by linking it to changes in the Consumer Price Index. Supporters say the gas tax increase is long overdue in a state where traffic congestion can be smothering in the suburbs of the nation's capital and the suburbs of Baltimore.

At its current pace, the state was scheduled to run out of money for new transportation projects after 2017.

Supporters also note that jobs will be created in the construction industry.

``We worked hard to balance the impact on the consumer with the urgent need to address the state's aging infrastructure and relieve road congestion,'' said House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel.

The O'Malley administration said the state will continue to review project needs and make investment decisions over the summer. The law is estimated to invest an average of $800 million a year at full implementation and a total of $4.4 billion over the next six years, the administration said.

The projects include:

_$82 million for construction on the U.S. 15/Monocacy Boulevard interchange in Frederick County.

_$125 million for construction on the I-270/Watkins Mill Road Interchange in Montgomery County.

_$100 million for construction on Maryland 210 at Kerby Hill Road/Livingston Road Interchange in Prince George's County.

_$20 million for design of a new Thomas Johnson Bridge in Calvert and St. Mary's counties.

_$100 million for MARC enhancements in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., regions.

_$60 million for construction on Leeds Avenue Interchange reconstruction and bridge replacement in Baltimore County.

_$49 million for Aberdeen Proving Ground BRAC Intersection improvement in Harford County.

_$44 million for construction on U.S. 301/Maryland 304 Interchange in Queen Anne's County.

_ Transit funding for final design, including $170 million for the Red Line, $280 million for the Purple Line, and $100 million for the Corridor Cities Transitway.

The Red Line is an east-west public transit line in Baltimore. The Purple Line is a 16-mile light rail line with 21 stations between Bethesda and New Carrollton. The Corridor Cities Transitway would provide transit from the Shady Grove Metro station to the Metropolitan Grove MARC station in Montgomery County.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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