U.S. Infrastructure Gets “D+”; 24% of MD Roads In Poor Condition

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has graded the U.S.’s infrastructure with a D+, estimating that it would take an additional $2 trillion by 2025 to bring that grade to a B. The Infrastructure Report Card is one of the most frequently cited reports on the condition of infrastructure in the country. The U.S. has either received a D or D+ in every Report Card issued since 1998.

Information on Infrastructure in Maryland is available here. Key facts include:

  • 5.80% (308) of the bridges are structurally deficient
  • 82 high hazard dams
  • $6.9 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years
  • $9.92 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs over the next 20 years
  • 154,507,328 annual unlinked passenger trips via transit systems including bus, transit, and commuter trains
  • 32,037 miles of public roads, with 24% in poor condition
  • $550 per motorist per year in costs from driving on roads in need of repair

The ASCE Maryland Chapter also issues a Report Card for Maryland’s Infrastructure, last updated in 2011.

From Governing: 

But it’s not all bad news: Some types of infrastructure have somewhat improved.

Rail, for example, went from a “C+” to a “B,” the highest grade for any type of infrastructure. That largely reflects the health of private freight railroads, which spent $27.1 billion to improve their infrastructure in 2015 alone, according to ASCE.

Other areas that showed progress in the report were hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, schools and wastewater.

Meanwhile, transit systems earned the lowest mark in the report card, falling to a “D-” from its previous “D” grade. “Despite increasing demand, the nation’s transit systems have been chronically underfunded, resulting in aging infrastructure and a $90 billion rehabilitation backlog,” the group noted. Several systems — particularly those in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco — are struggling with increased rider demand, long-neglected infrastructure and uncertain funding.

Solid waste infrastructure, along with parks and other recreational facilities, also got worse. …

“In many parts of the country,” the group wrote, “recycling and composting are not occurring due to a lack of market need for recyclable materials, many Americans’ lack of desire to sort and separate waste, and the cost associated with sorting out recyclables at collection facilities.”

MACo has prioritized investment in local infrastructure as one of its core initiatives this session. Learn more about the initiative here and on Conduit Street at Local Infrastructure Fast Track (LIFT4MD).

To support local infrastructure investment in Maryland, Let your senators know you support SB 586 – Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland Act, and
let your delegates know you support HB 1322 – Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland Act!

U.S. House Transportation Chair on Infrastructure Funding: Get Shovels to the Ground, Fast

The U.S. House Transportation Committee Chair recently suggested that states that can move projects ahead quickly will have an advantage when it comes to benefiting from any federal infrastructure funds in the coming months.

According the the Route Fifty article,

If a major infrastructure package takes shape, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said a message for states would be: “you’ve got to get those dollars to shovels in the ground, fast.”

President Trump has called for a $1 trillion plan to direct public and private investment toward upgrading infrastructure assets around the U.S., such as roads, railways and airports.

Responding to a question about how to get money for new infrastructure investment distributed swiftly to help spur job growth—a priority for Trump—he replied: “Part of that mechanism we have to put in place is to reward states that are going to move very quickly.”

“We’ve got to get something done before next spring,” Shuster added, “whether it’s taxes, Obamacare, or health care reform, or infrastructure spending. Because the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate, they’re going to be on the line.”

Shuster said his hope is to have an infrastructure bill by this fall.

MACo Backs Compromise on Transportation Scorecard

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified in favor of the amended Administration bill (SB 307) which would repeal the controversial transportation scorecard law passed last year. This bill passed unanimously out of the Senate and was heard by the House Appropriations and Environment and Transportation committees on March 23.

Governor Hogan’s Administration introduced and supported the bill.

MACo’s testimony states,

This amended bill substantially reframes the 2016 legislation creating a “scorecard” for major transportation projects. The amended bill clarifies that the use of scoring from the statutory system will be purely advisory for a two-year period, while a designated work group convenes to consider refinements to its elements and effects. By eliminating the uncertainty regarding the potential immediate effect on project funding, SB 307 addresses the chief county concerns with the current law. Counties welcome an opportunity to help inform the ongoing work group efforts proposed in the amended bill.

Useful Links

Senate Bill 307

MACo’s testimony

Transportation Scorecard Compromise Passes Senate Unanimously

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

House on Unpaid Water Bills: No Liens For 1Yr, As We Study Tax Sales

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Revenues (who has jurisdiction over tax collection processes such as tax sales) has advanced two bills targeting the collection of unpaid water bills. The two amended bills, as passed, would impose a moratorium on using tax sales to collect water and sewer liens, and would require a multi-party study of tax sale processes to be completed this year.

The two bills being moved are:
HB 453: Bill Information | MACo testimony
HB 659: Bill Information | MACo did not take a position

In previous Conduit Street coverage (“Should ‘Good Actors’ Subsidize Bad Actions?”), MACo had raised concerns with laws limiting collection of overdue fines and charges – citing unfairness to those who have made their timely payments:

Water systems are usually set up by governments as “enterprise funds,” meaning they cover their own costs. This “user pays” principle is widely embraced for similar public services.

But if the prospect of losing service… or the potential to see your property face tax sale… is off the table, surely compliance will drop. The state’s largest water system in Baltimore City estimates that without the lien process available they could face some $7 million in reduced payments, as non-payers would no longer be eventually compelled to cover their own share of system costs.

Both bills should be reported out from the full committee and on the House floor in the days ahead, likely passing to the Senate by the Monday “crossover” procedural deadline.

Transportation Scorecard Compromise Passes Senate Unanimously

SB 307, the Administration bill to repeal the controversial transportation scorecard law passed last year, has passed out of the full Senate in an amended form. The final floor vote was unanimous, after discussions and additional amendments yesterday described the revised bill as a compromise acceptable to the Administration.

The third reader bill, including all amendments is available online.

MACo had testified on the original “repeal” bill urging the legislature to either repeal or refine the current law, to address multiple issues with the bill and its related implementing regulations.

The House has not yet acted on its cross-filed version of the same proposal.

Senate Subcommittee Pares Back Highway User Revenues

The Senate Budget and Taxation Public Safety, Transportation and Environment Subcommittee voted to reduce the Governor’s proposal to provide transportation capital grants to counties and Baltimore City. Counties’ share was reduced from $27.4 million to $12.8 million.  This includes $4 million of capital grants which counties have received since fiscal 2016. Baltimore City’s share was reduced from $5.5 million to $3.7 million, and municipalities’ share remained at $20.1 million.

The Governor’s budget included $53 million in capital grants for counties, municipalities and Baltimore City, to be distributed above the formulaic appropriation of highway user revenues. This includes $5.5 million to Baltimore City and $27.4 million to counties, distributed according to the same formula used to distribute highway user revenues, based on road mileage and vehicle registrations. This in effect increases the highway user split by 0.3 percent for Baltimore City and 1.5 percent for all other counties.

The Department of Legislative Services (DLS), in its budget analysis, recommended that the Budget Committees flat-fund the capital grants which local governments received the prior two years, in the amounts of $4 million to counties, $2 million to Baltimore City and $19 million to municipalities. They further recommended using the Governor’s proposed additional capital grant money to backfill a proposed cut to traditional/statutory formulaic highway user revenues to counties, and diverting those funds to fill gaps in the General Fund supporting the Maryland State Police.

The House voted down the DLS recommendation and instead fully supported the Governor’s proposal to provide $53 million in capital grants to local governments.

The Senate subcommittee also voted down the DLS recommendation for the fund swap. However, they reduced the funds as proposed by the Governor and voted by the House, as indicated above and in the chart below.

hur fy17
Local transportation aid in the budget: capital grants and highway user revenues (HUR)

 

Once the full Senate votes on the budget, the Senate and House will both send members to Conference Committee to reconcile the terms of both chambers’ budgets which differ, include these provisions for local transportation aid. The Conference Committee will decide how much money to provide in capital grants – and they can decide to accept the Governor’s and House proposal, the Senate proposal, or determine their own portions.

Last year, both houses agreed to the Governor’s proposal to provide capital grants of $53.6 million to local governments over and above the traditional highway user formula, including an additional $23.7 million to counties above the $4 million received the prior year. In Conference Committee, however, the grants were reduced to flat fund the “hold harmless” amounts received the prior year.

Helpful Links:

Highway User Revenues – What’s On The Table?

Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland (#LIFT4MD)

Counties Call For a Local Infrastructure Fast Track 

Infrastructure Matters. Call for a #LIFT4MD & Tweet Today!

 

Senate Compromise on Transportation Scorecard Bill Advances

The Budget and Taxation Committee has passed an amended version of the Administration’s bill to repeal the controversial transportation scorecard law. The amended version would delay full implementation of the scoring process as a guide for project funding for two years, and empower a work group to study possible changes to the law.

From coverage in the Baltimore Sun:

The law, passed over Hogan’s veto last year, requires officials to study local transportation projects, rank them and offer an explanation if any project receives state funding over one that is ranked higher.

Hogan argues the law forces him to eliminate state funding for almost every project in Maryland and could mire projects in litigation. General Assembly Democrats and the Maryland attorney general’s office disagree, saying the scoring system is only advisory.

The new legislation, which has the backing of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, amends a bill proposed by Hogan to repeal the scoring law. It would create a panel of legislators and administration officials that would study the new scoring system for two years.

In the meantime, Hogan would be allowed to assign transportation funding under the old rules, which did not require the governor to create a scoring system or explain why he chose to fund one project over another.

For previous coverage of the Senate compromise amendment, see Conduit Street coverage of the original bill hearing.

During Senate floor discussions on Tuesday, President Miller indicated “we’re working with the second floor [the Administration] on this,” and suggested that Administration-supported amendments could be forthcoming during floor debate on Wednesday.

MACo Advocates for Local Infrastructure Funding

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson joined several local elected officials, public works officials and county engineers in support of its initiative bill, House Bill 1322, “Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland Act” in the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

MACo’s panels included:

  • Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy
  • Anne Arundel County Council Member Jerry Walker
  • Frederick County Government Affairs and Policy Director Roger Wilson
  • Prince George’s County Deputy Director of Transportation and Public Works Martin Harris
  • Baltimore City Department of Transportation Legislative Director Patrick Fleming
  • Caroline County’s Director of Information Technology Jim McCormick
  • Calvert County’s Director of Public Works Rai Sharma

From MACo’s testimony:

MACo also strongly supports efforts to study the State of Local Infrastructure in Maryland. Local governments are responsible for a number of infrastructure modes in addition to roads and bridges which require reliable investment moving forward. Maryland local jurisdictions oversee 469 community water systems that serve from 25 to 1.8 million customers each … [and] are eager to update their 9-1-1 call centers via “Next Generation 9-1-1” so that they can process voice, text and video calls from any communications device via Internet Protocol-based networks …

Moreover, the Board of Public Works and General Assembly continue to express trepidation over the state of school maintenance year after year, and an inventory into the state of affairs could shed light on how to address these shared costs moving forward. Inventorying all of these issues objectively at a high level would allow for insight into how to prioritize a wide range of important needs for infrastructure investment moving forward.

The cross-file to this bill, Senate Bill 586, was heard by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on March 7, 2017. Click here for previous Conduit Street coverage.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

Senate Chair Provides Encouragement At #LIFT4MD Hearing

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick joined several local elected officials, public works officials and county engineers in support of its initiative bill, Senate Bill 586, Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

At the conclusion of the hearing, regarding restoration of highway user revenues, Chair Edward Kasemeyer provided encouragement. He stated that “we understand your plight.” Regardless of what funding solution they determined, he said, “we need to put something into play that is consistent,” and that “feels good.” 

MACo’s panels included:

  • Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy
  • Anne Arundel County Councilmember Jerry Walker
  • Prince George’s County Councilmember Todd Turner
  • Frederick County Government Affairs and Policy Director Roger Wilson
  • Prince George’s County Deputy Director of Transportation and Public Works Martin Harris
  • County Engineers Association of MD 1st Vice President, Queen Anne’s Public Works Director Todd Mohn
  • Baltimore City Department of Transportation Legislative Director Patrick Fleming
  • Jim McCormick, Director of Information Technology, Caroline County

Martin Harris testified:

The good thing about this bill is that it is truly a lift. We have all suffered from the cuts to these funds, and we should all benefit from their restoration.

County Executive McCarthy testified that

Cecil County received less than $700,000 in highway user revenues this year. That is not even enough money to pave three of our 600 miles of roads.

Todd Mohn testified that his county:

…received $4.7 million in HUR in FY 2009. This amount was reduced to less than $0.5 million beginning in FY 2010. The County was forced to use prior year fund balance (one-time money) to fund Roads Operating costs in FY 2010 ($4.8 million). The bond rating agencies reacted by lowering the county’s rating to “negative outlook.”

The County then instituted furloughs, a reduction in force and downsized the entire County government through an early retirement program in FY 2011. The Commissioners raised the property tax rate by 8 cents and raised our piggy-back tax rate to the maximum 3.2-percent.

Jim McCormick testified to the important component of the bill which requests a study of state of local infrastructure, stressing the importance of ensuring all of Caroline County has broadband access.

From MACo’s testimony:

MACo also strongly supports efforts to study the State of Local Infrastructure in Maryland. Local governments are responsible for a number of infrastructure modes in addition to roads and bridges which require reliable investment moving forward. Maryland local jurisdictions oversee 469 community water systems that serve from 25 to 1.8 million customers each … [and] are eager to update their 9-1-1 call centers via “Next Generation 9-1-1” so that they can process voice, text and video calls from any communications device via Internet Protocol-based networks …

Moreover, the Board of Public Works and General Assembly continue to express trepidation over the state of school maintenance year after year, and an inventory into the state of affairs could shed light on how to address these shared costs moving forward. Inventorying all of these issues objectively at a high level would allow for insight into how to prioritize a wide range of important needs for infrastructure investment moving forward.

Port Processes More Cargo Than Ever

The Port of Baltimore saw a record amount of container traffic in January, processing 37,694 containers  – a 20 percent increase. Cargo as a whole increased 14 percent with a record-high 923,030 tons. From the Baltimore Sun

In a statement, Gov. Larry Hogan attributed the growth to the huge container ships from Asia that can now reach the East Coast through the expanded Panama Canal, which opened last year. Baltimore welcomed its first “post-Panamax” container ship last summer.

“As one of only four East Coast ports that have the infrastructure to handle the new mega-ships, the Port continues to demonstrate that Maryland is indeed Open for Business,” the governor said.