When local governments make policies that impede private enterprise, overtaxes residents and businesses, and makes spending decisions divorced from true cost-benefit analysis and expected returns, it soon runs out of money for infrastructure.
Our roads are overcrowded, the Metro system is standing room only the moment the trains start rolling, and current proposed transit solutions are not cost-effective and will not solve our problems. School capacity has failed to keep up with enrollment nine of the past 10 years, and thousands of students are taught in more than 400 portable classrooms throughout the country. The Board of Education recently reported there is $800M backlog in school construction and maintenance.
Our problems stem from the larger issue of poor spending decisions and our failure to grow the private sector economy or commercial tax base. The county has experienced revenue shortfalls for nine years in a row, totaling $3.4 billion. Without a change in economic development and spending priorities, it is certain to get worse. The Council just announced an eleven percent cutback on capital spending for the upcoming six-year CIP cycle, further delaying school, library, community center and road improvements.
MY PRIORITIES to ensure a better infrastructure for Montgomery County include:
- Making Montgomery County a place where businesses flourish and create jobs, so we have money to invest in infrastructure (see the section on Jobs and Affordability);
- Introducing, by statute, mandatory “best practice” cost-benefit analysis when evaluating all capital projects -- free from special interests and political agenda;
- Making needed road improvements, including building M-83, and widening I-1270 and I-495;
- Stopping the hugely expensive, non-economical planned BRT system. Instead, optimize current bus transit using data driven processes, such used in other jurisdictions, and provide low-cost or free Ride-On/express bus services;
- Introducing real-time traffic signalization control and adaptive signal technology (which DOT estimates will reduce travel times as much as 15%) and prepare for autonomous vehicles which will impact traffic patterns and lane markings;
- Initiate a comprehensive study for a long-term, regional transportation plan with neighboring jurisdictions;
- FOR SCHOOLS. Take steps to reduce school construction costs by at least 25 percent (some jurisdictions build schools at half the cost), beginning with recommendations recently made by the Office of Legislative Oversight.