At a January 4 meeting, Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn met with county transportation advocates to discuss potential partnerships and innovation to improve local bridge safety. “What I want to do… is find out how I can help,” the Secretary concluded following an extensive exchange.
Secreray Rahn discussed a variety of innovative approaches used to accelerate bridge repairs in other states, including a broad 800+ bridge effort he led in the state of Missouri. The group also discussed various forms of “bridge bundling” underway in nearly by states of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Each could serve in offering “lessons learned” to Maryland, should an opportunity arise for some similar approach here.
The idea of bridge bundling in Pennsylvania has included both local and state bridges – with these as their stated goals:
Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners (PWKP) will replace 558 aging bridges in just three years, completing construction by the end of 2017. The bridges are primarily crossings on smaller state highways, many in rural areas, rather than interstate bridges or large river crossings. The team’s proposal was selected based on scoring that considered cost, financial capability to carry out the project, background and experience in managing comparable projects, and understanding of the project.
John Horsley, a former NACo President and current transportation issue consultant working with NACo, helped assemble the meeting as one of several possible “pilot” states for a state/county collaborative venture. He also spoke about the potential to bring federal funds as a priority to assist with the financing elements that make many such projects challenging.
Howard County Engineer Mark Deluca, President of the County Engineers Association of Maryland, a MACo affiliate, joined Queen Anne’s County Engineer Todd Mohn in the conversation. MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson offered interest and support from county governments. Secretary Rahn included MDOT Chief of Staff Edward McDonald and Heather Murphy from the Department’s office of Planning and Capital Programming.
The attendees agreed that collaboration on bridge safety was a worthwhile priority, and each assumed responsibilities for more information gathering and exploring of nest steps to develop a mutually beneficial opportunity.