Testimony: Transportation & Climate Accountability Act

By Emily Scarr
State Director

Below is our testimony on SB788/HB695 to require the Maryland Department of Environment to conduct more thorough environmental reviews of major public-private partnership transportation projects.

Maryland PIRG and Environment Maryland support SB788 , the Transportation & Climate Accountability Act, and thank Senator Rosapepe for his leadership on the issue.

The Transportation & Climate Accountability Act would require the Maryland Department of Environment to conduct more thorough environmental reviews of major public-private partnership transportation projects (like Governor Hogan’s proposed highway expansion). The review would clearly and explicitly measure the greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and stormwater impacts of such projects, and also evaluate impacts to vulnerable communities. The review would look at the short, and long-term traffic generated after a project’s construction, including the direct traffic and traffic added to arterial roads.

You cannot address what you are not adequately measuring. By requiring more thorough environmental reviews, this bill would help ensure that our major transportation investments are designed to help us meet our emissions reduction goals and encourage smart, 21st century transportation investments. 

For example, Governor Hogan has proposed a massive $9 billion expansion of three Maryland highways with the goal of relieving traffic around Washington, DC.  Doing this would be expensive and wasteful, would add to the health and environmental impacts of our transportation system, and take resources away from more pressing transportation needs -- like expanding and modernizing transit in our cities and counties.  

Our transportation situation is not sustainable. Traffic is a problem all across the state, especially in our cities.  It keeps us from getting where we need to go when we need to get there. It is stressful and it’s inefficient. It is also bad for public health and the environment. Prolonged exposure to vehicle exhaust is associated with respiratory problems, especially in children.  Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing significantly to climate change. 

We desperately need to address our transportation problems in the state.

Maryland’s transportation system is stuck in the 20th century. We’re too dependent on cars. We don’t have enough transit options. There aren’t enough places where it is safe and convenient to walk or bike instead of drive. And 20th century solutions -- like building newer and bigger highways --are not the way to solve these problems.  

We need to be pursuing 21st century improvements to help us address these problems. We know that building newer and bigger highways is not the answer. As explained in Maryland PIRG’s 2018 report, Highway Boondoggles 4, newer and wider highways bring more cars to our roads, which lead to more traffic and more emissions.  Instead, we should be increasing access to options other than driving, like better public transit, walking and biking. This will not only help clean up our transportation system, but make it run more efficiently.

Yet there is a very real chance that if we do not make changes, we will continue to pursue outdated and inefficient options that do not actually solve our problems. 

We respectfully request a favorable report on SB788, the Transportation & Climate Accountability Act, to require the Maryland Department of Environment to conduct thorough environmental reviews of major public-private partnership transportation projects.

[1] Washington Post. 

[2] Baltimore Sun 

[3] Baltimore Sun.  

[4]  ATS Journals 

[5] Yale Digest.

[6] Highway Boondoggles 4.  

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