Detailed Responses - Maryland State Delegates District 14
Do you support the Locally Preferred Alternative selected by Gov. O'Malley for the Purple Line, including an at-grade light rail line with a trail alongside it on the Georgetown Branch right of way between Bethesda and Silver Spring, as well as the at-grade light rail line running along Campus Drive through the University of Maryland?
Neeta Datt (D) Yes, I strongly support the LPA because it strengthens and increases the capacity of our transportation infrastructure. The LPA fills the void of an east-west line necessary to access the DC region providing communities with a superior route. The LPA will reduce congestion, thereby reducing emissions harmful to our environment.
Jodi Finkelstein (D) I certainly think it is something to consider in order to improve transit in the metro area.
Anne R. Kaiser (D) Yes. I feel strongly that the purple line is long needed to connect our communities east-west and that light rail can help the vibrancy of each community that has a stop in it.
Eric Luedtke (D) Yes.
Craig Zucker (D) Yes.
Patricia A. Fenati (R) Having commuted from Damascus to DC, Lanham and the Pentagon for many years, I am very much in favor of anything that can alleviate traffic, especially on 270 and 495, and I believe that affordable public transit would be the best solution. However, with the cost of metro increasing regularly I would need to know how to increase ridership to bring down the cost and also the ridership cost of the new light rail systems. As the fares increase ridership is affected. For two people in a family it is cheaper to travel by car than by metro. Would the additional lines increase ridership on public transportation?
My other concern is the cost to the state and federal governments, especially as stimulus is depleted and Maryland is facing deficits, question 3 is a good one.
Henry Kahwaty (R) No. Additional mass transit is required for our area, but at-grade light rail is more appropriate in commercial areas (such as along 355, as in question 2). Campus Drive is the heart of the University of Maryland campus. I would prefer to see Campus Drive as a pedestrian area with light rail along University Boulevard and Baltimore Avenue. I recognize that tunneling is more expensive, but at-grade light rail may have adverse effects on the campus environment. Additional work is needed on the potential purple line route.
Do you support further study of the Action Committee for Transit's plan for the I-270 Corridor as an alternative to the $4 billion plan to widen I-270?
Neeta Datt (D) Yes, because we know that widening the road will not reduce congestion -- $4 billion is a lot of money for a solution we know won’t work. One of my priorities (visit www.neetadatt.com), is to promote and invest in an environmentally sustainable transit vision.
Jodi Finkelstein (D) A lower cost alternative that helps the environment and has the same impact is something that should be considered.
Anne R. Kaiser (D) Yes. I support further study. I believe that all viable alternatives must be considered, especially when spending such vast amounts of money.
Eric Luedtke (D) Yes, I think the ACT proposal provides a more comprehensive and affordable solution to the transportation challenges in the I-270 and 355 corridors than the proposal for more lanes on I-270.
Craig Zucker (D) I think I-270 needs to be widened. Any other plans that would assist congestion in that area I would take under consideration.
Patricia A. Fenati (R) I do not have information to compare on the cost of the rail projects vs the plan to widen I 270. I would think it would be worthwhile to continue to study the plan as I am also aware that costs will not decrease as we wait.
Henry Kahwaty (R) Yes, but I would recommend additional consideration be given to the plan. For example, should the red line be extended from Glenmont to, perhaps, Aspen Hill? Would the red line work better as a loop? The red line was designed to bring people from Maryland into Washington, but work patterns have shifted. The red line was not designed for Maryland-to-Maryland commutes. I live in Olney, and I can’t take the red line to Bethesda because it heads through the city and hence would take too long. If the red line came further out and the east and west branches met, perhaps in Rockville, the red line could be used to go from one part of suburban Maryland to another.
How can we fund WMATA?
Neeta Datt (D) Historically, funding for WMATA is a complicated issue. In 2004, the Brooking released a report entitled "Deficits by Design" that found the agency's serious budgetary challenges owe in large part to its problematic revenue base. Most notably, Brookings found that WMATA's extraordinary lack of dedicated funding sources necessitates an over-reliance on annually appropriated support thereby making the agency vulnerable to perennial financial crises. To create on-going and sustainable funding, I support a multi-faceted approach that requires a combination of: dedicated tax; utilization study to identify and eliminate and/or reduce under-used bus routes; and reasonably structured fare increases.
Jodi Finkelstein (D) To this end, funding should increase in order to meet the demand. However, finding the funding for this is challenging. Increasing fares will help, but funding must continue to be a priority for Maryland, Virginia and the federal government.
Anne R. Kaiser (D) We should see WMATA as not just a local priority, but as a state priority, and fund it out of the general fund. Without the general fund, however, I think we also have to consider creating a dedicated funding source for WMATA. I have supported dedicated funds in the past -- having introduced a bill to create it in 2006.
Eric Luedtke (D) I believe the three jurisdictions served need to make long-term commitments for both operating and capital expenses. This will ensure the predictability of funding necessary for WMATA to plan ahead and strengthen service. Whether that funding comes through a single region-wide dedicated funding source or funding sources developed separately by the jurisdictions is an open question, but regardless a firm long-term commitment to funding Metro should be made.
Craig Zucker (D) I believe that WMATA needs some type of dedicated funding source. I support an ongoing funding formula to deal with further WMATA needs.
Patricia A. Fenati (R) As a state legislator, it will be my duty to manage the people’s money responsibly. Perhaps the best political answer would be to promise that I will vote to build these rails immediately. But currently the state’s AAA rating is in jeopardy because we are not even funding our retirement funds adequately. I believe we have to get our financial state in order before we begin new large projects. We cannot raise taxes, bonds might be a good instrument, but not as our AAA rating is under attack. I do promise that as a legislator, I will follow this issue closely and do anything I can to expedite the building of a light rail system in this county.
Henry Kahwaty (R) Metro is in serious need of stable funding. I ride Metro every day, and the quality of service has deteriorated rapidly during the last two years. I would support an increase in gas taxes to fund WMATA infrastructure and other transportation infrastructure costs.
Should any money be spent on increasing highway capacity associated with the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan before a light rail Corridor Cities Transitway from Shady Grove to Clarksburg is fully funded for construction?
Neeta Datt (D) No, when it is a realistic alternative, I think we should first obtain funding for the light rail Corridor Cities Transitway and subsequently identify, prioritize, and fund increased highway capacity projects. It is important to build robust public transit systems both to increase accessibility and also to protect our environment.
Jodi Finkelstein (D) Transportation and funding, no matter where, should be considered as a part of a larger strategic plan. While I am not extremely knowledgeable about the master plan and the transitway, my experience has taught me that projects should only be completed if: (1) there is money to begin and end the project, and (2) the project fits into an overall strategic plan.
Anne R. Kaiser (D) No. With limited resources, we have to plan more wisely. Let's first see how traffic is mitigated by the CCT. The only expenses I'd support spending now, is planning money -- so, in case we decide to increase highway capacity in the future, we won't be caught flat-footed planning-wise.
Eric Luedtke (D) The Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan is premised on the availability of transit for the thousands of new jobs to be created in the area. Transit funding and construction should come before proposed road improvements, especially given the backlog in road improvements elsewhere in the county.
Craig Zucker (D) I think we need make the CCT a top priority. To assist this area, I believe we should assist priorities moving forward.
Patricia A. Fenati (R) I would rather build the light rail. On the surface, increasing the highway size with all the traffic congestion, environmental damage and loss of private property that will cause does not seem like a good option. And what happens when I 270 is widened but not 495? The problem is not fixed. On the other hand, if it will be years before we can afford to build the light rail does it make sense to continue the way we are? I would like to have the opportunity to sit and talk with members of your group as I believe this is an important issue for Montgomery County.
Henry Kahwaty (R) I need to understand better realistic construction costs the bases for area growth and highway or transitway usage projections before I can answer this question. I would be happy to meet with ACT to discuss this subject.