Earlier this week MACo submitted comments to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) on its draft regulations, COMAR 11.01.18.01 and 11.01.18.02, which are required by the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016. MACo recommended changes to the regulations that would improve their effectiveness and flexibility. MACo suggested that MDOT could implement the law more reasonably by offering flexibility in determining the population to be served by a project and by offering a scoring regime based upon differing project conditions and local government input.
The law tasks MDOT with defining the “area served by the project” as a component of a population factor for project scoring. The resulting number dramatically affects a project’s final score. The draft regulations define this as “the county or counties in which a major transportation project is located.” From MACo’s comments:
Regulations should allow for determining a project’s ʺarea servedʺ in a
manner that recognizes the nature, size, and location of the project. Counties
should have an opportunity to assert that their priority projects benefit a greater
population than just their own residents.
MACo also commented on the one-size-fits-all nature of MDOT’s scoring system, which does not take into account the varying size, location, nature, and scope of each project.
The draft regulations provide one set of weights for the nine goals and 23 required measures, when nothing in the law prohibits MDOT from applying differing weights to the goals and measures based upon varying categories of projects. MACo recommends at least six categories of project types and different weights for each, as more specifically described on the enclosed attachment. However, we welcome alternative approaches, such as variation by geographical region, similar to the State of Virginia’s Smart Scale program. In either case, we support the goal of making the eventual project scores as sensible and credible as can be effected through this law.
MACo also commented that while counties are willing to provide some of the information required to score projects that they prioritize, MDOT should continue to serve as the primary agent for most inputs and analyses and provide other information required to carry out this law.
Finally, MACo requested that MDOT include language in the regulations clarifying how it would interpret some terms and conditions required under the law.
MACo concluded the recommendations by reiterating counties’ willingness to partner with MDOT on developing a workable scoring process:
Counties offer the above recommendations in the spirit of cooperation. At the AELR hearing on the subject regulations, MACo affirmatively committed to working with MDOT, and potentially other stakeholders, on developing a scoring process that works, and if necessary working with the Maryland General Assembly to modify the law to accommodate a more pragmatic approach. We stand by that commitment and hope to work with you in the near future toward an implementation of this law that maximizes its effectiveness and flexibility.