SHA Moving Forward With Highway Access Permit Reforms

On October 30, 2015, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) released an executive summary outlining how SHA was going to move ahead with reforms to the highway access permit process.  As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo supported legislation during the 2015 Session to reform the process used by the SHA to issue the permits.  In lieu of legislation, SHA agreed to work with MACo and other concerned stakeholders and held a forum on August 5 to identify and discuss concerns.  The executive summary lists issues raised at the forum (broken down into chain of command, continuity, and consistency priorities), actions already taken by SHA to address stakeholder concerns, planned short-term (6 month) implementation actions, and potential long term actions. A sample of priorities from the executive summary:

Customer Priorities Addressed by SHA:

The following items are customer priorities that are being addressed or have already been addressed.                               

Chain of Command 

  • Gave the district offices the ultimate authority to resolve conflicts, and created a culture of empowerment within the decision-making process.
  • Assigned an employee at the district level to be the single point of contact (Regional Engineer) and to have ownership and authority for each stakeholder.
  • Decentralized the access management responsibilities and authority to the local District Offices while focusing on maintaining consistency.
  • Created and made public a clear, definitive decision-making process naming those who have authority for final approval and issue resolution.
  • Created flow charts and guides to help customers navigate the process.
  • Clarified roles for each position and responsibilities at each level within the districts.
  • Reviewing and revising the existing Access Management Manual as the very first priority.
  • Offering “pre-design” meetings with engineers and/or developers to facilitate open and proactive communication from the very beginning of each project. …

Action Plans for Upcoming 6 Months:

The following tables are a summary of the customer priorities and action steps SHA will take to address those priorities in the next six months.  The first major action step will be a joint Customer Experience Training developed in collaboration with Anne Arundel Community College (AACO) for district office staff who work directly with access permit customers.  The training will last a full day and will take place at the SHA Hanover Complex on Tuesday, December 8th. …


Customer Priority Action Plan / Outcome SHA Responsible Party Timing Estimate
Ensure the existing Access Management database and online tools contain accurate contact information for all SHA, consultants, engineers, and developers. Review and correct the existing database of contact information; assign responsibility for regularly updating the data Office of Highway Development By Thanksgiving 2015
Investigate “Practical Design”, and incorporate it into SHA access management. Investigate the concept, how it could be incorporated into access management policies, and how to align access management culture toward it. District 4 By March 2016
Clearly define criteria for Type 1, 2, and 3 projects.  Use criteria to determine which SHA divisions will be asked for comments on submittals. Commit existing knowledge of Project Type criteria to paper.  Develop recommendations for which SHA divisions should see all, some, or none of the submittals received. Districts 6 and 7 By March 2016
Clearly communicate SHA’s position when writing letters.  Do not hedge or be vague.  Write clear, easy-to-understand language.  If the answer is ‘no’ be sure to also tell us how to get to ‘yes’.  Do not send letters with contradictory comments. Investigate the manner in which the letters are written.  Identify the cause(s) of the hedging, lack of clarity, self-contradictions, etc.  Determine how they can be significantly reduced or eliminated. Districts 2 and 5 By March 2016

Next Steps:

The action plans in the tables above are considered short-term, meaning SHA will complete them within 6 months or less.  There were numerous priorities and issues identified at the forum which will require more time to address.  These “parking lot issues” will be addressed on a longer timeline and will likely be on the agenda at the next forum in early summer 2016 during which participants will review progress in executing the action plans above and identify new issues which require attention.  Many of the parking lot issues will require new laws and/or regulations to be written and passed, or collaboration and cooperation amongst multiple local, state, and federal government entities.  The final report on the forum will include “Action Plan / Outcome”, “SHA Responsible Party”, and “Timing Estimate” information for those long-term action plans as well as a summary of “parking lot issues” i.e. those which will require more research and definition before action plans are developed.

SHA Access Management Post-Forum Report Executive Summary

 MACo acknowledged the positive response from SHA in addressing permit issues in its letter to the Regulatory Reform Commission on October 13 and urged for a continuation of the reform process.

For further information about SHA’s actions, please contact Clayton Fischer at