By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, mgray@afro.com

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Congressman Anthony Brown (D-MD) may be on the opposite side of the aisle, but they have come to a consensus about one thing:  the pothole crisis on the federally owned portion of Baltimore Washington Parkway should be addressed by taking away the responsibility from the National Park Service (NPS) and giving it to the state.

However, coming to a resolution on how to pay for these critical infrastructure repairs to the major artery that connects Baltimore to Washington, D.C. is the latest difference in philosophy in this sometime contentious political relationship. In a letter that was sent to Gov.Hogan on the eve of the emergency repairs that began March 29, Congressman Brown expressed his feeling that Maryland drivers should not have to absorb the expense of paying for the repairs through new toll lanes.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Congressman Anthony Brown (D-MD) agree that the state needs to take control of the federally controlled, dilapidated Baltimore Washington Parkway, but disagree on how to pay for the repair. (Courtesy Photo)

“Families should not face additional financial burdens on the Parkway, nor should we pursue options that will not lead to permanent congestion relief or benefit drivers of all income levels,” Brown wrote in a letter obtained by the AFRO.  “While we must resolve these questions as we develop both a short and long-term plan for the Parkway, I cannot support any Congressional action to remove the B.W. Parkway from the National Park System if the only plan is to build new toll lanes.”

Gov. Hogan has been pushing for the Park Service to relinquish its control of the Parkway as the dilapidated conditions of the road continued to wreak havoc on motorists and their vehicles traveling in both directions. In early March, the Park Service reduced the speed limit from 55 mph to 40 mph between Maryland routes 197 and 32.

The governor also sent a letter to Maryland’s Congressional leadership on March 20 admonishing the NPS for its inability to maintain MD-295 or make the necessary upgrades that will help improve the current conditions while creating a plan for long term upgrades that would help relieve traffic congestion as well.

“NPS has increasingly demonstrated it’s not up to the task of maintaining MD-295,” Hogan wrote.  “It is clear that the state taking ownership of the parkway is the only viable long-term solution to these problems.”

Hogan also expressed his sentiment that the transfer would allow for the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) to explore concepts to “build, operate, and maintain new toll lanes.” Hogan’s said his plans would include four new toll lanes – two in each direction – but wouldn’t affect the current lanes under repair.

Brown is a member of both the House Natural Resources Committee and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees who have primary jurisdiction over this matter. He is pushing for President Donald J. Trump’s Administration to allow funding that wouldn’t add to the burden on Maryland taxpayers while reducing traffic congestion and alleviating the safety issues resulting from the years of decay that have surfaced recently.

“We must consider a wide array of options for addressing traffic and transportation needs on the B.W. Parkway itself and in the region, including examining widening of the Parkway and other highways, traffic management and options for the use of multiple travel modes such as high occupancy vehicle lanes, bus-only lanes or bus rapid transit,” Brown wrote.

Hogan said that 165,000 drivers rely on MD-295 to commute between the region’s largest cities daily and averages six fatalities and 547 accidents annually since 2006. Brown said the state must consider possible expansion of commuter rail and construction of high-speed alternatives.

“I look forward to discussing a more comprehensive proposal for the B.W. Parkway,” Brown wrote.