No one knows exactly how much transportation money comes to Frederick County, but some officials don't think they are getting a good investment return.
Adding up the funds coming into the county is difficult because the Maryland Department of Transportation categorizes its funding plan by administration and project, not by county.
"It's probably a very difficult calculation to make," Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith said. "If you looked at that one particular budget (that funded the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway), that didn't seem fair, but I don't want to get too critical."
Smith noted that the county has received funding for several big-ticket items in the past, such as the East Street interchange at I-70.
Maryland's latest Consolidated Transportation Program, which will need approval by the General Assembly before it becomes part of the state budget, included about $200 million set aside specifically for Frederick County through fiscal 2019.
That sum includes funding for construction of the U.S. 15/Monocacy Boulevard interchange, as well as other roads, pedestrian paths, mass transit and Frederick Municipal Airport.
It is, at best, a ballpark figure and comes with huge caveats. The total takes into account regional projects that include Frederick County. It does not include funding from statewide projects or line items that do not explicitly refer to the county or its roads. It does not include direct federal funding. Above all, the items in the plan have not been budgeted yet.
The total also does not include listed items completed in fiscal 2013 to the tune of $16 million.
Whatever the exact amount of funding, Commissioners President Blaine Young worries that too much of Frederick County's gas tax revenue is being redirected to urban areas for transit projects.
"When people buy gas, they think it's going to fund roads," he said. "They don't realize that it's going to mass transit that they're not going to use, or don't want to use."
The gas tax, he said, should be reevaluated to come up with a solution that would be more fair to drivers.
The discussion about alternative revenue sources has grown more more intense as cars become more fuel-efficient and the traditional revenue stream dries up.
Carol Krimm, Frederick Area Committee for Transportation president and former Frederick alderwoman, serves on the Governor's Local and Regional Transportation Funding Task Force, which will soon issue its final reports on regional funding options.
Alternative funding strategies being implemented around the country could be instructive for Frederick County, she said. Regions might have a tax specifically dedicated to mass transit, or tax businesses to improve access to their locations, as Virginia did with its Route 28 tax district.
"These are just ideas that are out there that we need to discuss more," she said.
Smith similarly emphasized a regional solution to congestion. Frederick County commuters would benefit from improvements to I-270 beyond the stretch within the county, he said.
The key to making sure the county gets a good return on its tax investment is having a presence in the state government, Smith said.
The transportation committee has discussed hiring a lobbyist to advance the county's transportation interests in Annapolis, he said. To that end, it was awarded $25,000 through a memorandum of understanding with Frederick County government.
"We just want to be there," Smith said, "so maybe there will be money coming our way."
Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiFNP.
Copyright 2013 - The Frederick News-Post, Md.