06/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Maryland Unveils the Mikulski Express

Starting tonight, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) can make her daily commute home from Washington to Baltimore on a locomotive that bears her name: the Senator Barb "Go Green" Express.

The Maryland Transit Authority dedicated one of its new diesel trains to Sen. Mikulski earlier today. And though it may sound strange to say, I'm not sure I can think of a better, more fitting monument to her.

Unlike a plaque or a park named in her honor, the train stands for so much of what Barbara's been fighting for in Congress over the past two decades -- a policy direction our state and country must continue to follow in the years to come.

That direction is toward the funding of sustainable transportation options -- and away from infrastructure spending that will only serve to further choke our roads and pollute our air.

Consider some straightforward math our new Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, recently presented to Congress.

On one hand, by 2050 we can anticipate that the demand for surface transportation will be two and a half times what it is now.

On the other, "We certainly cannot more than double the number of lanes-miles of highways," LaHood said in his testimony. "Lane-miles of highway have increased by only 5.42 percent over the past 24 years, and an extrapolation to 2050 suggests that highway capacity will only increase by 10 percent that year."

Highway capacity simply can't keep up with transportation demand.

Our environment can't sustain more auto emissions, either. As a senator of a state that's the fourth most vulnerable in the nation to the effects of climate change, Sen. Mikulski knows that better than anyone.

That's why I think the train MTA dedicated to Barbara today honors her so well.

She's been a strong advocate of mass transit for years. As a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, she's fought hard for funding for MTA, MARC Commuter Rail, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and local bus systems.

The locomotive dedicated to Barbara today is one of 26 new energy-efficient, low-emissions locomotives we'll be rolling out in Maryland over the next several months.

They all meet stringent new EPA requirements for all types of pollutants, reducing nitrous oxide emissions by 42%, carbon monoxide by 70%, and particulates such as soot by 67%. Maryland is also leading the charge toward sustainable transportation by committing to convert MTA's entire fleet of buses to hybrid-electric fuel by 2014, among other green initiatives.

Another great feature of these new locomotives?

They were manufactured in Boise, Idaho. The work to upgrade MTA's buses to hybrid-electric fuel will also put lots of people to work.

Sustainable transportation isn't just the future of the way we get around and the way we protect our environment. It's an important part of our path to economic recovery.