County Council President Nancy Navarro (D-East County) today said a proposed gas tax hike from State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D) probably wouldn’t cover the entire cost of the Purple Line light rail, which would run from Prince George’s County to Bethesda.

“Presently it does not,” Navarro said at a weekly presser when asked if Miller’s proposal would cover the local cost associated with the projected $2.4 billion, 16-mile light rail project. Part of the cost would be picked up by the federal government. “I think we have to wait and see what will be the end result. We understand that obviously within it we will have these Regional Transportation Authorities. It’s too early to understand what the numbers will look like but we have been also very busy calculating exactly what would be the threshold and the way it looks right now is it would not be sufficient.”

Miller’s proposal includes a provision that would allow individual counties to collect up to 5 cents per gallon for local transportation projects. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has yet to weigh in on the bill. Raising the gas tax remains an unpopular idea statewide, especially in rural areas where leaders have argued they shouldn’t have to shoulder part of the cost for building transportation infrastructure in Montgomery County.

“I still believe that we have to do whatever we can to ensure that this is a statewide solution. I understand the concerns of the rural jurisdictions, but the bottom line is that Montgomery County is the economic engine of the state so if we benefit from this, so does the rest of the state. So do the rural areas,” Navarro said. “It is really important that we acknowledge that, that we understand, again, who we are in the state. Yes, the urban areas have grown dramatically, but that means more money to be distributed around the state. I’m very concerned about the creation of local transportation authorities because it creates this false impression that we can take care of all that, of this very large challenge.”

Last week, Navarro and Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) sent a letter to the Maryland Department of Transportation urging them to reconsider stopping all Purple Line design work if transportation funding is not provided in this year’s legislative session.

“It means that this is urgent,” Navarro said. “It means that if we don’t move forward with this particular piece then the risk would be our federal funding. And obviously it creates a sense of urgency for us when it comes to realizing this very important project for Montgomery County.”

Rendering via Maryland Transit Administration