U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin said Monday that utility service in Montgomery County is unacceptable, following a string of high-profile outages that sparked public outrage.
Cardin, a Democrat from Pikesville, made the comments in reference to Pepco during a meeting with the Montgomery County Council on Monday in Rockville, where he also discussed transportation, federal funding, health care and environmental issues.
“It’s inexcusable the service levels they’ve gone to,” Cardin said of Pepco, the state’s second-largest utility.
A January snowstorm left tens of thousands of Pepco customers without power — some for days. The company took flak last year for its frequent outages during blizzards and summer storms.
Just three hours after Cardin’s visit, Pepco officials met with the council to discuss the outages.
“I promise to leave here so I don’t have to stay for the Pepco meeting,” Cardin joked.
On transportation, Cardin said the region’s congestion is among the worst in the nation. He supports long-term transportation projects, such as the Purple Line — a 16-mile light-rail system that would connect Bethesda to New Carrollton, he said.
He also backs a planned 14- to 16-mile light-rail or rapid bus line designed to connect the Shady Grove Metro station to Clarksburg.
“I’m for roads where we need roads, but we really do need to do a smarter job of transit,” Cardin said. “That’s where we need to be investing our money.”
However, federal lawmakers could restrict congressional earmarks this year, he said, making it difficult to fund local projects.
Council President Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring questioned whether some federal funding could be secured for a Montgomery County bike-share program, similar to one in Washington, D.C., that has 110 stations in the District and Arlington, Va.
“Anyway we can get these projects moving,” Cardin said. “We need them, and we need them now.”
Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park asked Cardin what the local health department could expect from the federal health care legislation that the U.S. House recently voted to overturn.
Cardin predicted that the Senate, which still has a Democratic majority, would vote against major changes to the legislation.
“We’re not going to repeal the health care bill,” he said. “It’s terribly irresponsible for the Republicans in the House to push that through the House.”