Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. said the state is interested in doing
business with private groups to help finance transportation “mega-projects.”
Joining with private companies would help fund highway and mass transit
expansion, the governor said. In return, the state would share the proceeds.
The first likely projects that Maryland will explore for such
partnerships include the traffic-chocked Capital Beltway and the Interstate 270
corridor, the Baltimore Sun reported.
“Involving the private sector could help us deliver the relief in
years, rather than decades,” Ehrlich said in a written statement.
Joint ventures also could be used for the Intercounty Connector, linking Interstate 95 and I-270. Another would be construction of express toll lanes
on the Baltimore Beltway.
Private companies have been invited by the state to submit ideas.
The funding tool is touted by Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert
Flanagan who said it could enable the state to move forward with critical
projects more quickly.
“Traditionally, a lot of the projects have waited many decades past
when they were needed,” Flanagan told the Sun.
With many states struggling to pay for needed transportation work and
calls for higher fuel tax meeting stiff opposition, public-private partnerships
have become an increasingly popular means for states to finance road and bridge
Virginia, California and Texas are among the states with
such projects in the works while numerous other states continue talks.
State Highway Administrator Neal Pedersen said Maryland already has
authority to enter into agreements with private business, the Sun reported. But any such agreement would
be reviewed by the General Assembly.
Flanagan said the state would continue to consider other more
conventional methods for transportation work. Among options still drawing
consideration to pay for projects are toll-backed bonds and the state’s Transportation
The state would only consider entering into partnerships on new
projects, Flanagan said. In addition, the state doesn’t intend to add tolls to
existing lanes or sell any of its toll facilities to private groups, the Sun reported.