House Passes Legislation to Boost Smart Growth in Maryland

The Maryland House of Delegates today passed legislation designed to make transportation spending line up with the state’s official smart growth goals. HB 1155 will help the Maryland Department of Transportation evaluate transportation proposals in order to fund the projects that would do the best job of promoting smart growth. The lead House sponsor of the bill is Del. Steve Lafferty (Baltimore County).

“Especially in this time of tight budgets, we need to make sure we are spending our state transportation dollars wisely,” said Environment Maryland State Director Brad Heavner.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 104-32. The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sens. Catherine Pugh and David Harrington, has not been brought to a vote in the Budget and Taxation Committee.

The bill increases transparency to a decision making process that many people consider to take place mainly behind closed doors. Currently, counties submit wish lists to the state and the Department of Transportation has wide latitude to choose which projects go into the state capital budget.

Supporters of the legislation have highlighted the benefits of building modern, vibrant neighborhoods centered around transit stations and boosting rural Main Street communities.  The bill would seek to use transportation dollars to promote that vision.

The state updates its official transportation goals every five years.  This bill requires that state agencies make a stronger effort to stick to those goals.  The categories of the state goals are quality of service, safety and security, system preservation, environmental stewardship, and connectivity for daily life.