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Maryland Lawmakers Mull Alternative Transportation Funding Sources

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The Maryland General Assembly will grapple with how to fund upcoming mass transit projects during this year's session.  

A statewide gas or sales tax hike to pay for projects like Metro's Purple Line would likely face an uphill battle in Annapolis, Md. Some legislative leaders are instead proposing to raise taxes in Maryland counties with large mass transit systems.

But many local lawmakers aren't keen on that idea.  

Montgomery County, Md., officials explored alternative sources of funding new projects during a county council briefing Thursday.

Tax hikes for transit may seem unpopular at first, but plans to do so have appeared on nationwide ballots 473 times this century, said Art Guzzetti, vice president for policy at the American Public Transportation Association.

Guzzetti said voters approved the tax increase more than 72 percent of the time over a 13-year period.

"What could be more reflective of public views than that?" asked Guzzetti.

Guzzetti said some regions have been creative, using a private developer in Denton County, Texas, as an example.

"They paid $2.5 billion for the right to build a toll road. The region all of a sudden has $2.5 billion to work with. And they used part of that money to fund a commuter train," Guzzetti said.

Montgomery County lawmakers need money not just for the Purple Line, but also for the Corridor Cities Transitway and a countywide bus rapid transit system.

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