The Maryland House of Delegates has approved the State budget for FY24, including a significant funding commitment for the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit (SMRT) Project. The budget bill, HB200, includes a provision to add $100 million in general funds to the appropriation for the Dedicated Purpose Account within the State Reserve Fund to support the State match for future federal grant awards and to fund future environmental studies for the Red Line and Southern Maryland Rapid Transit projects.
The SMRT project has been in the planning phase for several years, and a year ago, Congress appropriated $5 million to begin the final planning phase of the project. The State responded with an equal commitment of $5 million, as required by legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 2021. The combined $10 million in federal and State funding is shown on the page describing SMRT in the Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) new Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP). However, more money is needed to complete the project’s final planning phase.
The Charles County Commissioners have submitted a new funding request to the Congressional Delegation for the next round of federal earmarks, and discussions in recent months with State leaders have emphasized the need to include additional funding for SMRT in the State’s budget for FY24 that would be available to match future federal appropriations.
The new State budget commitment of $100 million is significant as it means that when Congress approves additional earmark appropriations for SMRT, State money will be on hand to match it, dollar for dollar. The progress of the final phase of required environmental studies for SMRT will not be interrupted midstream by a lack of funding, and MDOT will have the money it needs to promptly complete the design, engineering, NEPA process, and secure a federal Record-of-Decision for SMRT.
SMRT is a need and merit-based State priority and will bring fast, safe, and accessible rapid transit service to the half-million residents of the MD5-US301 corridor, one of the most congested and gridlocked in the State. Many residents suffer through one of the worst and longest daily commutes in America. The project has the potential to expand the tax base by $5 to $6 billion.
The approval of the State budget for FY24 with a major funding commitment for the SMRT project is the work of many key players. Elected leaders and staff at all three levels of government—local, State, and federal—have been working together for years to put the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project on the fast track to implementation.