Southern Maryland Proposes Light Rail to Tame the Nation's Worst Commute

The Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project could take thousands of cars off the road and ease congestion in one of the country's busiest corridors.

January 4, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Houston Bus Lane

Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock

With the nation's highest per capita number of road fatalities and the country's costliest commute, Southern Maryland is proposing to alleviate traffic with a light rail project, reports Alex Holt. The 18.7-mile-long Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project (SMRT) would include 13 stations and give D.C.-area commuters an alternative to personal vehicles.

The state has kicked around the idea since the 1990s without much progress, but as area traffic only gets worse as the population increases, SMRT could pick up more support. This January, state legislators introduced bills proposing to allocate $12 million and $15 million in the 2022 and 2023 budgets for the necessary environmental review that would move the SMRT project forward. Prince George County, which would host eight of the line's stops, has been a staunch supporter of the project, as has the Maryland Transit Caucus.

Governor Larry Hogan, however, has leaned heavily in favor of road projects, writes Alex Holt. Hogan supports doubling the number of lanes on the Harry Nice Bridge, a move that transportation experts say will only increase traffic through the area. SMRT supporters continue to push the project forward. "It's not just about transportation," said Delegate Debra Davis, who introduced one of the January bills. Light rail has the potential to promote economic development and improve public health and quality of life for Maryland residents.

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