MDOT Unveils Proposed Scorecard Model, Counties Have Questions

On Thursday, December 7 at MACo’s Winter Conference, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Pete Rahn presented the latest chapter on Chapters 36 of 2016 and 30 of 2017 – aka, the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016, “Scorecard Bill,” “Transportation Transparency Bill,” or the “Roadkill Bill,” as amended.

Secretary Rahn presented the Department’s proposed methodology for scoring major transportation projects under the amended law. MDOT must finalize the scoring system by January 1, 2018. 

This law of many names was significantly changed during the 2017 session to be non-binding and to give MDOT more flexibility in how it scores major highway and transit projects in its capital program. Read our previous coverage for the law’s history.  Since then, MDOT has developed its new scoring model.

What’s The Score?

MDOT must attach project scores to certain large-scale State projects if it will include them in its Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP). The scores will be attached to the CTP, as an appendix. However, MDOT is not required to make funding decisions based upon those scores.

MDOT need only score “Major Transportation Projects,” which are highway and transit projects that cost $5 million or more and that are designed to increase capacity or relieve congestion. All other projects, including safety and system preservation highway and transit projects, port and airport projects, and all projects under $5 million, are excluded from the scoring requirement.

The proposed Chapter 30 Scoring Model evaluates projects against nine statutory-required goals, by weights assigned under the model:

goal weights

Who’s Keeping Score?

In order for a State Transportation Project to receive a score and be eligible for inclusion in the CTP, some entity – a county, municipality or state government agency – must apply for the project’s inclusion.

Each entity may propose up to 10 projects, through the online Chapter 30 Web Application Portal, by March 1 of each year. Counties’ proposed Major Transportation Projects must also be included in that county’s priority letter. (MDOT, obviously, is excluded from the 10-project limitation.)

Proposing entities are responsible for providing some, but not all, of the data required to score the projects. From MDOT’s Draft Chapter 30 Scoring Technical Guide:

Various data elements are required to score each project through the evaluation criteria. In addition to general project information, proposing entities are responsible for completing some of the evaluation checklists used for several measures. MDOT is responsible for providing the technical and modeling data following the submittal of applications.

Applicants will have to provide data on the following:

  • Project details, including cost estimates and geographical limits
  • Bike and pedestrian demand in the area
  • Promotion of bike, pedestrian and transit use
  • Community assets
  • Community revitalization plans
  • Economic development impact on all areas, and specifically low-income areas
  • Funds available from other sources
  • Local priority of the project

MDOT will provide guidance throughout the process, and applicants are encouraged to work with the State Highway Administration and Maryland Transit Administration, as applicable, on their proposals.

In order to enable an appropriately sophisticated review, each project must have completed preliminary planning or a feasibility study. From the Draft Technical Guide:

To conduct an evaluation of projects through the Chapter 30 scoring methodology, projects need to have a clearly defined scope that identifies project alignment/area and the type of improvements that are included in the proposed project. This information is obtained through the completion of preliminary planning or a feasibility study. …. Proposing entities must either coordinate with MDOT SHA or MDOT MTA to fund preliminary planning of the project in the Development & Evaluation Program of the CTP or conduct their own feasibility study.

In addition, projects must have a reasonable and updated cost estimate. This is necessary for calculating many of the measures defined in the statute. …. Proposing entities must either coordinate with MDOT SHA or MDOT MTA to identify the cost estimate through the preliminary planning of the project or as part of the proposing entities’ own feasibility study effort establish a cost estimate as well.

Local Priority: Balancing County & Municipality Needs

To measure local priority of a project, MDOT is proposing a point system.

Each county receives 100 points to assign to its priority projects – but can lose up to 50 of these points if municipalities within its borders submit alternative priorities.

On the other hand, counties can receive bonus points if both the county and a municipality prioritize the same project.

From the draft Technical Guide:

To determine local priorities in the Chaper [sic] 30 methodology, each proposing entity has 100 points to distribute across their project applications. Proposing entities can choose to put all of their points on one project application or distribute their points across multiple projects.

Municipalities and counties should coordinate on applicable project priorities. To encourage this, any project with joint support from the county and municipality, as evidenced in a joint letter of support accompanying the project application, receives twice the number of points assigned to the project.

However, if a county and municipality(s) submit separate project applications, the points assigned to all projects submitted by the county are normalized to total 75 points (rather than 100 points) and the points assigned to all projects submitted by the municipality are normalized to total 25 points. Furthermore, if more than one municipality within a county submits a project application, the points assigned to all projects submitted by the county are normalized to total 50 points and the points assigned to all projects submitted by the municipalities in the county are normalized to together total 50 points. This approach is intended to incentivize counties and municipalities to work together to best identify priority needs.

This proposal received significant pushback from elected officials from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties at the Winter Conference session.

What Happens Next?

MDOT is currently seeking feedback and comments on the proposed scoring system, before finalizing its proposal by January 1, 2018. Any feedback may be provided by email to ProjectScore@mdot.state.md.us. If you represent a county, please consider including MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick at bzektick@mdcounties.org on any comments submitted.

MDOT must implement the scoring system in its next CTP. Therefore, counties must submit their applications for consideration by March 1, 2018.

Chapter 30, passed last year, also establishes a workgroup of primarily state legislators and the Secretary of Transportation or his designee, which is tasked with evaluating MDOT’s scoring model and general implementation of the law. It must issue its findings by January 1, 2020. Neither MDOT nor MACo staff have received any notice of any activity occurring to date.

Helpful Links