Transportation Association of Maryland awards St. Mary’s County for transportation efforts

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John Duklewski, TAM Executive Director, presents the award to Transportation Manager Jacqueline Fournier and STS staff. Courtesy of St. Mary’s County Public Information Office

St. Mary’s Transit System (STS) has earned the 2017 Community Engagement Award presented by the Transportation Association of Maryland (TAM).

The nomination, provided by Tri-Couny Council of Southern Maryland’s Nicky Pires, commended the county for “going above and beyond being a transit agency.”

Pires said in St. Mary’s County Press Release:

Each year in May, as a community event during National Transportation Week, STS demonstrates passenger appreciation by offering discount days for veterans, $1 a day rides and distributing STS promotional items.

Additional efforts made by STS this year:

  • Dump the Pump event
  • Stuff the Bus event
  • Donation of over 2,000 lbs dry good items, baby diapers, baby products
  • Connections with Charles and Calvert County transit systems
  • Implementation of Wheelchair securement training for the human service non-profits

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

MDOT Awards $20.4 Million For Bicycle/Pedestrian Projects

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is awarding $20.4 million in state and federal money to local governments and others to support improvements for bicycle and pedestrian safety and connectivity. Awards are made through the Maryland Bikeways Program ($2.1 million), and federal Recreational Trails Program ($478,000) and Transportation Alternatives Program ($17.8 million).

Awards made to counties include:

  • $269,834 to Montgomery for four bikeshare stations
  • $188,765 to Prince George’s for four bikeshare stations at National Harbor
  • approximately $4.95 million to Somerset to construct hiker-biker trails
  • $70,000 to Baltimore City to design 1.7 miles of separated bike lanes
  • $240,000 to Howard to design 3.3 miles of shared-use paths
  • approximately $4.7 million to Anne Arundel to construct a bridge along the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Trail
  • $737,362.50 to Prince George’s to construct Phase 1 of its County Bike Share Program
  • $257,777 to Baltimore City for Safe Routes to School at Pimlico Elementary School
  • 640,000 to Prince George’s for design of the Central Avenue Connector Trail
  • $46,840 to Montgomery for Safe Routes to School

The full list of awards is here.

The announcement comes the same day that the Task Force to Study Bicycle Safety on Maryland Highways issued a draft of its final report recommending, among other things, that MDOT:

 consider expanding and consistently funding state discretionary programs such as the Bikeways Program to better assist local jurisdictions in planning and building infrastructure that improves bike safety and increases bike mode share.

 

Preview the 2018 Session “Big Picture”

A compilation of Issue Papers previews major fiscal and policy issues facing the General Assembly in the year ahead. This resource is a handy guide to the top issues that your legislators will be tackling in the year ahead – a great preparation document for county officials in advance of meetings with their local Delegations.

Developed by the Department of Legislative Services, the 2018 Issue Papers are an annual staple for the Annapolis policy-inclined population. They are also a great resource for county officials tracking specific issues, or interested in the state budget and other top-tier topics.

Here are a few direct links to hot topics that may interest counties:

Operating Budget

Transportation Trust Fund

Pension Issues

Capital Budget and Debt

Education Aid and Maintenance of Effort

School Construction

Health Care Reform

Broadband Access

Public Safety

Environmental Issues

Aid to Local Governments

9-1-1 Funding and Modernization

Montgomery and Prince George’s Ink Purple Line Affordable Housing Deal

Leaders from Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties have signed an agreement to help preserve affordable housing and equitable economic growth along the developing purple line.

Bethesda Magazine reports:

The agreement espouses four goals for local governments and planning boards along the route: help local businesses prosper, expand the local labor force, create housing opportunities for all incomes and promote vibrant, sustainable communities.

The agreement is not legally enforceable, but the leaders said it could provide a moral guide to future leaders who will have to handle the new development and economic growth expected after the Purple Line is completed in 2022.

The article explains that the agreement was drafted by the Purple Line Corridor Coalition, a group  whose members include resident and business groups, local governments, and community organizations.

While not legally binding, the signatories pledge to work together to protect the residents and businesses. Signatories included Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, University of Maryland, College Park, President Wallace Loh and regional planers.

The agreement was developed out of concern that current long-time low income residents and small businesses will be displaced as neighborhoods lining the corridor experience economic growth. As noted in The Washington Post county leaders expressed understanding from past experiences of the need to protect those residents.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said he has heard from residents, particularly in the heavily Latino Langley Park area, who welcome the Purple Line but are concerned about being priced out.

“This agreement says, ‘We hear you,’ ” Baker said. “We’re looking at ways . . . to give them every opportunity they want to stay there.”

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said he wished the county had had a similar commitment in place to protect small businesses as downtown Silver Spring was redeveloped.

For more information:

Montgomery, Prince George’s Leaders Sign Agreement to Pursue Equitable Growth Along Purple Line (Bethesda Magazine)

Montgomery, Prince George’s reach deal to preserve affordable housing along Purple Line (The Washington Post)

 

 

Bicycle Task Force Issues Draft Report

The Task Force to Study Bicycle Safety on Maryland Highways has issued a draft of its final report on proposed improvements to accommodate cyclists’ safety. The report is available here.

Recommendations of particular note to local governments:

1.7 The legislature should consider legislation to allow state and local agencies to adopt lower speed limits on key roadways targeted for bike safety issues and should adopt a mechanism for state and local agencies to consider lower default speed limits. …

2.2 State and local agencies as well as regional entities should collaborate to explore new methods for collecting ridership, exposure data, and non-reported crashes. This should include consideration of automated counters, user surveys, and crowdsourced data.

2.3 MDOT should update their “Short-Trip Opportunity Area” analysis and provide data to local jurisdictions.

2.4 MDOT SHA should provide local jurisdictions with draft language for local ordinances that can help clarify maintenance responsibilities and expedite construction of bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

2.5 MDOT and local jurisdictions should explore best practices for addressing short and long-term maintenance needs on high priority separated bicycle facilities.

2.6 State and local transportation agencies should consider developing a uniform bicycle route signage system for wayfinding on state and local roads. …

2.8 State and local agencies, in coordination with regional entities, should work to create an updated inventory of trails and bicycle facilities to help identify and prioritize gaps and to assist local jurisdictions with their bike planning activities. The effort should include consideration of rail and utility rights of way, as opportunities to improve network connections. …

2.10 The State and MPOs should work with local jurisdictions to assist in the development of regional trail networks, and to develop projects that connect across jurisdictions. …

2.13 MDOT should clarify and consider adding flexibility to its process for including bike accommodation for new developments along State roads. MDOT should improve their processes for working with local jurisdictions to ensure that full consideration is given to achieving master planned elements for bicycle accommodation, including dedicated bike path rights of way. …

3.1 Local jurisdictions should be encouraged to explore a mechanism to accept a fee in lieu of improvements on the state roadway to address implementation of master planned bike elements in and around the adjacent area. …

3.4 Local jurisdictions should be encouraged to adopt complete streets policies to inform projects on their roadways.

5.2 MDOT in coordination with other state agencies, should work to develop technical assistance tools to assist local jurisdictions and other stakeholders to address the challenges of developing and implementing bike safety related projects.

5.3 MDOT should consider using the Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area (BPPA) designation as a mechanism to pilot a set of low stress and/or emerging bicycle facility types including protected bike lane projects on state roads, to clarify maintenance needs and practices for a variety of configurations, and to explore flexibility for state and local coverage of maintenance needs. …

5.5 MDOT should consider expanding and consistently funding state discretionary programs such as the Bikeways Program to better assist local jurisdictions in planning and building infrastructure that improves bike safety and increases bike mode share. Particular consideration should be given to address needs to support larger projects, and to ensure greater continuity and predictability of funding sources over time.

5.6 Local jurisdictions should explore the use of local ordinances (e.g. Adequate Public Facility Ordinances), impact fees, user fees, parking revenues, home-owners’ associations, business improvement districts, Transportation Management Zones, etc., to help fund and build bicycle infrastructure.

5.7 Local jurisdictions should be encouraged to include bicycle and pedestrian projects in their annual priority letters to MDOT to inform the process for allocating state transportation funding.

The Task Force is accepting comments on the draft report through December 6. Comments should be sent via email to BikeSafetyTaskforce@mdot.state.md.us. Please consider copying Barbara Zektick, MACo Associate Director and Chris Eatough, MACo’s Task Force representative on the email.

MACo is represented by Chris Eatough, the Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator for Howard County. Chris Eatough received a Masters in Transportation Engineering from the University of Virginia in 1998. A six-time world champion in endurance mountain biking with a successful 14-year athletic career, Chris most recently served five years as the bike and walk program manager for Arlington County, Virginia, where he helped launch the successful Capital Bikeshare program.

Anne Arundel Wins National Award for Public Utility Management

The 2017 Platinum Award for Utility Excellence recognizes Anne Arundel’s ten-year program to end reliance on Baltimore for drinking water.

The Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works (DPW), Bureau of Utility Operations (BUO) is one of only fourteen public drinking water systems in the United States to be awarded a top utility management award from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA). The 2017 Platinum Award for Utility Excellence recognizes the County’s ten-year capital improvement program to end reliance on the City of Baltimore for 25 percent of the county’s drinking water supply.

According to a press release:

The coordinated efforts of the Bureau of Utilities and Bureau of Engineering enabled the County to complete vital capital projects within the strategic plan providing the infrastructure needed to produce enough water to serve areas of the County previously served by the City of Baltimore.  These capital projects were completed in September of 2017 and enabled the County to become an independent and self sufficient water system.  These efforts have saved the County $8.5 million over the last 10 years and will result in an annual savings of $1.5 million.

“We are proud of this award and all the members of our DPW team for their great work,” said County Executive Steve Schuh. “These efforts will ensure the sustainability of our system, reduce operating costs, and control the quality of water the citizens of Anne Arundel County receive for decades to come.”

“Our 2017 management award winners are a credit to their communities, and we salute their formidable accomplishments,” said AMWA President Scott Potter.

Read the full press release for more information.

Tax Reform Provokes State To Expedite Purple Line Bond Sale

The State plans to expedite its bond sale for the Purple Line, securing a year’s worth of funding for the public-private partnership (P3) before the end of December. Why? Because the House-passed tax reform package would end private activity bonds (PABs) – the preferred tool for funding the P3.

Reports The Baltimore Sun:

The sweeping tax legislation approved by the House this month would end the so-called private activity bonds, a tool local governments have used for transportation projects, affordable housing and student loans. Supporters say the financing mechanism reduces costs, but critics view it as a subsidy to private businesses.

PABs allow tax-free borrowing by private entities for public purpose projects, like the Purple Line, private school construction, and affordable housing. They are a key tool for facilitating P3s and private investment in public services.

The Senate tax reform proposal does not call for termination of the bonds.

Learn more about how the State seeks to fund major capital transportation projects at the Winter Conference session, Workshop: An Overview of the New Transportation Scoring LawThe MACo Winter Conference will be held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “The Power of Partnership.”

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference:

Cecil Residents Concerned Over Mandatory Water & Sewer Connections

Cecil Guardian article (2017-11-16) reported that some Cecil residents expressed concern at a November 14 public hearing over mandatory hookups to the County’s public water and sewer system. The County is looking at expanding its sewer within the county’s growth corridor and has proposed connection rules based on “economic growth considerations” instead of just public health issues. Subject to certain narrow exceptions, Maryland law requires properties next to water and sewer lines to connect. The article noted that the Cecil County Director of Public Works Scott Flanigan oversaw the public hearing. Flanigan was joined by the county Director of Administration Al Wein and Health Department Director of Environmental Services Fred von Staden. From the article:

If the area has public health concerns about septic tank failures, connections to public utilities would be have to be made by homeowners quickly. But in the case of economic development pipelines, people could possibly take 20 years or more to connect. For those who have to connect and are short on finances, the county is working out a finance plan for the major facilities fee of $6,000. This fee is the cost to connect into county sewer lines. It does not cover the actual work which could approach $20,000 for running lines into the house and breaking up the existing septic tank and filling the void with stone. …

People wanted to know why the county would charge any interest where connections were forced. They also believed that fixed rate loans should be made available for homeowners as well as business people planning apartment complexes.

There were questions about a list of triggering events that would force the connection to public sewers. This includes major additions to a house, sale of the house and failure of the septic systems. While the county administration officials appeared to say that minor repairs of septic systems, such as a cracked lid, would be okay, von Staden said the health department could not permit any work on a septic system if it is on a property under the state mandate to connect to public sewage.

The article noted that the current proposed sewer expansion would affect less than 50 homeowners but that other residents who could be affected by future expansions also attended the hearing.

Ellicott City Perseveres Post-Flood, County Prepares for Future

A little over a year after a flood devastated Ellicott City, Howard County officials continue to build upon what they’ve learned and plan for the future disasters.

The Baltimore Sun reports on the process the county is taking and progress they are making, including updating the Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan to prepare for future floods:

[Mark] DeLuca [chief of the Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Environmental Services] updated residents on the four projects currently underway to build retention facilities and conveyance improvements in the watershed. The projects are the first wave of 18 project recommendations from the county’s hydrology and hydraulic study, completed this spring.

County officials are also updating emergency operations and community recovery plans, and implementing recommendations for improvement.

While the emergency operations plan is the county’s strategy for utilizing its resources immediately following a disaster like the 2016 flood, [Ryan] Miller [Director of Emergency Management] said the recovery plan picks up where the emergency plan leaves off, and includes strategies for bringing the community back to a “normal” state.

The article notes that officials plan to have the emergency plan finalized in the next few months and the recovery plan by the end of the year. Both plans include about 700 improvements for future responses.

Read The Baltimore Sun for more information.

Learn more about the Ellicott City post-flood recovery efforts at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference session, We’ve Got Your Back: Counties Collaborate

The MACo Winter Conference will be held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “The Power of Partnership.”

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference: