Keep Your District Moving: How the Federal Transportation Budget Affects Maryland District 1

This post is the second in a series examining federal transportation dollars at work in freshman congressional districts. Today I’m looking at Maryland’s first district, represented by Republican Andy Harris, serving his first term.

 This district spans all nine counties of Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore, and also includes some of the Baltimore suburbs across the bay. I’m a Marylander myself – I used to spend summers in this region at my grandmother’s cottage on the Choptank River. My wife and I have gone kayaking around here, too, enjoying wildlife at Tuckahoe State Park with its lake and streams (a refuge for many turtles), as well as the gorgeous, scenic Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, where we have seen bald eagles.

Salisbury is the biggest town on the Eastern Shore, and at its heart, a bridge on US 13 (Business) carries 35,000 cars a day over Route 50 (Business). The Federal Highway Administration has classified this bridge as “structurally deficient.” Today, a $6.7 million dollar bridge repair project is underway, thanks to federal funding, which is covering 80 percent of the cost.

Without federal money, these critical repairs would likely have been postponed, as is happening with nearly 70,000 bridges across the country. (See Transportation for America’s terrific map of deficient bridges.) Kudos to Maryland for putting the money to work where it’s needed most – not all states have a strong fix-it-first policy, and we need to fix that. Under current law states can divert up to half their federal funds for bridge repair to other projects, no questions asked.

Federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) have also been put to work in the district. Every county received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds to replace and upgrade buses, facilities and equipment.  Baltimore commuters in the district saw millions of dollars of improvements to MARC commuter rail stations and the Metro. And more than one million dollars in ARRA funds went to District 1 to help meet Americans with Disability Act requirements.

In addition to road and transit improvements, the federal government’s Transportation Enhancement grants have helped visitors and locals alike enjoy the scenery of this largely rural district. For example, Mount Ararat Farm, which you can see right off I-95 in Cecil County, was preserved using enhancement money. And in Salisbury, enhancement grants helped fund the creation of a new bike path, connecting a residential area with schools, parks and shopping.

These are just a few of the improvements in the district that came out of federal funding, and they help everyone, from Baltimore commuters to Eastern Shore farmers, get where they need to go, safely and comfortably.

We are a nation that moves -- slashing the federal transportation budget is a move we can’t afford.