Montgomery County lawmakers are coordinating a statewide summit to discuss ways to drum up more money for transportation projects as state funding dries up.
County Council members have invited representatives from counties across the state and community groups to discuss options such as private-public partnerships and county gas taxes, which would require state approval.
The discussion comes as transportation funding shrinks from the cash-strapped state and local governments. The transportation trust fund in Montgomery County will be depleted by 2014, according to County Executive Ike Leggett, and state analysts said Maryland has no money to start new transportation projects -- and in five years its trust fund won't have enough to maintain its current infrastructure.
But without increased transportation infrastructure, Montgomery County will be hurt, said County Council President Roger Berliner.
"Our competitive position vis-a-vis Fairfax is going to be severely compromised, and our quality of life is going to be compromised," he said.
Montgomery County has come under fire for some of its recent transportation initiatives, most notably the proposed multibillion-dollar bus rapid transit system, which Leggett plans to scale back because of its expense.
But Leggett -- who is scheduled to attend the summit -- said that without the BRT and other various transportation initiatives such as the planned Purple Line light rail between New Carrollton and Bethesda and the Corridor Cities Transitway rapid bus line down Interstate 270, roads will not be able to support proposed development throughout the region.
"There are a lack of revenues to address this issue," he said. "There's a sense of urgency -- we're out of money [for transportation]."
Montgomery County officials said they are pushing for an increase of the state gas tax as a possible solution for the dwindling funds, an idea that was shot down in the General Assembly last year. Leggett and County Councilman George Leventhal have both proposed increasing the tax, which has not been raised since 1992. Officials are pushing for the state to authorize the county to charge its own gas tax to fund local projects, such as the BRT.
The summit is scheduled for Dec. 12 in Annapolis.