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Budget Uncertainty Hampers Maryland Transportation Planning

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The U.S. Senate will resume debate on a two-year $109 billion transportation funding bill next week. All the uncertainty surrounding this legislation is making states, including Maryland, nervous about planning major projects.

The Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs is expected to cost nearly $2 billion and be completed in 2020. Jack Cahalan is a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation. He says the state plans to ask for at least 50 percent of the construction costs from the federal government. And he says this funding uncertainty makes planning long term projects challenging.

"If you don't have the money in your pocket, you don't know where it is coming from, you're not sure it is going to be there, you are going to be reluctant to move forward on a major project," says Cahalan.

Congress has passed eight stop-gap funding extensions since the last multi-year transportation bill expired. This time around, House Republicans wanted a six-year plan, but now the Senate is debating a two-year plan that is weighed down by 30 proposed amendments. Cahalan says he's confident Congress will come up with something.

"It's tough to determine at this point what that plan will be, what the funding levels will be," he says.

Maryland's concerns are shared by all states trying to plan long term projects. The current funding bill expires at the end of this month.


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