Baltimore City Council Advances “Complete Streets” Legislation

The Baltimore City Council on Monday gave preliminary approval to “complete streets” legislation aimed at improving safety and accessibility on roadways for pedestrians and cyclists.

According to The Baltimore Sun:

In a city where one in three households lacks access to a car, the legislation states that the Baltimore City Department of Transportation must “to the greatest extent possible, promote walking, biking, and public transit” and “ensure equity by actively pursuing the elimination of health, economic, and access disparities.”

The legislation would create a “Complete Streets Coordinating Council” to oversee the bill’s mandates. It also requires the city to track whether officials are adequately addressing the transportation needs of Baltimoreans of all races and income levels.

The bill still needs final approval before being sent to the desk of Mayor Catherine Pugh.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, The General Assembly earlier this year approved legislation to create a competitive grant program making Transportation Trust Fund dollars available to local governments for the planning and design of Complete Streets projects.

Local governments own and maintain 83 percent of the roads in the State of Maryland, making them the best catalyst for incorporating Complete Streets principles into Maryland’s transportation network. However, with the decimation of highway user revenues resulting in over $3 billion diverted from local roads funding, counties struggle to accomplish meaningful preventive maintenance on their roads, much less dedicate resources to redesigning streets with all users in mind.

Given this reality, it will take a significant dedication of funding to local roads to transform our state’s transportation network into one which prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists, and transit passengers as highly as it prioritizes cars. MACo supported the bill because it provides a step in the right direction toward that end.

Useful Links

Read the full article from The Baltimore Sun

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Complete Streets Funding Brings Roads Up to Speed

Maryland-Israel Conference Highlights Water Reuse and Security Issues

The Maryland-Israel Sister State Committee and the Maryland Department of the Environment hosted a conference on water reuse and security on October 10, 2018, in College Park, Maryland. The conference focused on: (1) the current status of water security and reuse issues in Maryland and nationally; (2) State and local plans to increase water reuse and security; and (3) opportunities to partner with Israeli businesses to leverage their methods and technologies locally.

From L to R: Israel-Colorado Innovation Fund General Partner Gili Elkin, Fluence Corp. CMO Erik Arfalk, Rudy Chow, Chris Phipps, Keith Tyson, and Kando CEO Ari Goldfarb

Several presenters discussed national concerns for water security and reuse. From a security perspective, four key vulnerabilities were noted: (1) resiliency to natural or man-made disasters; (2) protection against intentional contamination and attacks; (3) protection against unintentional contamination/accidents; and (4) capacity to handle new and emerging contaminants, such as prescription medications. The presenters also stressed the importance of a water reuse strategy for Maryland. While Maryland is generally thought of as a water “rich” state, some areas already suffer from water shortages and water supplies will be further stressed in the future due to climate change and population growth.

A panel of county department of public works (DPW) directors discussed their efforts and challenges to address water security and reuse, including Baltimore City DPW Director Rudy Chow, Anne Arundel County DPW Director Chris Phipps, and WSSC Engineering/Environmental Services Manager Keith Tyson.

From L to R: Mark Belton, Ben Grumbles, Hans Schmidt, and Roy McGrath

A state panel included Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton, Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles, Maryland Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Hans Schmidt, and Maryland Environmental Services (MES) Director/CEO and Chairman Roy McGrath. Belton focused on water security issues while Grumbles stressed the importance of working with Israeli technology and local governments to move forward with water quality and affordability. Schmidt commented on the diverse water needs of Maryland’s farmers while McGrath discussed the role of MES in providing water services.

Action items generated at the Conference included: (1) funding for water security infrastructure; (2) regulatory flexibility; (3) public education; (3) regulations for use of “greywater”; (4) grants to encourage water reuse; (5) identification of common needs and the sharing of research; (6) approaching the issues from a holistic perspective; and (7) not “reinventing the wheel.”

The Conference was possible because of the Sister State relationship shared between Maryland and Negev, Israel. The University of Maryland and CONSERVE: A Center of Excellence at the Nexus of Sustainable Water Reuse, Food & Health co-hosted the Conference. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp joined various county elected officials and public works personnel in attending the Conference.

Useful Links

Maryland Sister States Program Webpage

Don’t Get Cut By China’s “National Sword” Recycling Policy

Sustainable City Network article (2018-10-08) highlighted a new recycling report prepared by the National League of Cities discussing how local governments can respond to the loss of China as a recycling processor. As previously reported on Conduit Street, China was previously one of the largest recycling processors in the world but has now strictly limited the import of recycling materials under its new “National Sword” policy. The closure of China is causing a recycling crisis throughout the United States as local governments no longer have a market for their collected recycled materials.

The article described China’s policy as well as its effect on United States recycling programs:

Historically, Chinese demand for materials to feed its manufacturing led it to purchase recyclables from all over the world, driving healthy commodity markets in paper, plastics and more. The rest of the industry relied on these sales, not taxes or fees, to fund their collection operations. But China’s new policy, National Sword, is upending this approach. Phase one, which took effect earlier this year, institutes a ban on the two most common U.S. commodity mixes, mixed paper and plastics.

The second phase, which will take effect in 2020, will be a total ban on all solid waste imports. This change could potentially diminish markets, cause market fluctuations and reversals, and lower revenues.

The article noted that in 2016 the United States exported 16 million tons of recycled material to China worth $5.2 billion.

The report lists a series of short-term actions and long-term recommendations for local recycling programs. Short-term actions included:

  1. Slower processing to clean up contamination;
  2. New and unconventional markets;
  3. Stockpiling;
  4. Landfilling;
  5. Waste-to-Energy;
  6. Education;
  7. Contamination fees and fines;
  8. Rate increases and hauling surcharges;
  9. Contract modifications to share risks; and
  10. Rethinking streams.

Long-term recommendations included:

  1. Conduct an economic analysis of your current waste management operations;
  2. Work with contractors;
  3. Ensure fees and rates reflect current costs;
  4. Evaluate local policies and economic incentives;
  5. Explore local and unconventional markets;
  6. Consider your streams; and
  7. Examine asset ownership and consider infrastructure investments.

The report also profiled how several cities are responding to the crisis, including Washington DC.

Useful Links

Rethinking Recycling National League of Cities Report

National League of Cities Website

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of China Recycling Ban

Congress Approves Bipartisan Water Infrastructure Bill

Package includes new programs to strengthen Maryland’s stormwater, wastewater, and clean drinking water treatment capabilities.

Congress this week gave final approval to S. 3021, “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018”, which includes bipartisan elements of bills passed by several Congressional committees, including the Secure Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act, the Drinking Water System Improvement Act, and other elements related to water infrastructure.

If signed by President Donald Trump, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 would authorize more than $6 billion in spending over 10 years for projects nationwide. The bill allocates more than $4 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which provides money to states and utilities to improve drinking water infrastructure.

According to United States Senator Ben Cardin:

“The Senate’s passage of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act includes several measures that will mean major improvements for Maryland. It will help Maryland counties meet state storm water requirements, ensure that clean drinking water reaches Marylanders’ homes, protect our drinking water from the effects of climate change, and keep kids safer from lead contamination. It will allow the Army Corps to better maintain federal channels in Maryland, replenish our beaches, and restore and expand islands in the Chesapeake Bay that protect Maryland communities and improve habitats for fish and wildlife.

The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 99-1 on October 10, it was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives on September 13.

Useful Links

S.2800 – America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018

The Bridges of Maryland’s Counties: Sun Paper Analyzes Infrastructure Conditions

The Baltimore Sun‘s “Data and Statistics” desk releases a detailed analysis of Maryland bridges, finding a number to be in “poor” condition

How safe are Maryland’s bridges? That’s the headline of the Baltimore Sun‘s article, analyzing bridges maintained by state and local governments in Maryland. Relying mainly on federal data from the Federal Highway Administration, the Sun details the classification of bridges in the metro area, finding that over 5% of the state’s bridges listed in the federal inventory are graded as being in “poor” condition.

An interactive map showing the location of the “poor” bridges is available online, and embedded on the newspaper article website.

For context, the Sun clarifies:

To be clear, “poor” condition doesn’t mean a bridge is unsafe — officials and experts emphasize that a bridge found to be structurally unsound would be closed. Still, such bridges can be a nuisance, damaging to cars, particularly tires. And the costs for repairing long-deteriorating bridges increase with every year.

The Sun also acknowledges the important impact of funding losses — most notably the lost share of Highway User Revenues traditionally sent to local governments for road and bridge maintenance, but redirected to state use for nearly the last decade.

Some jurisdictions blame the backlog of bridges in need of repair on cuts to local governments’ share of state highway user revenues — gas and motor vehicle fees collected by the state and shared between the state and local governments.

“Local counties are now carrying about 90 percent of bridge and road maintenance costs,” said Cynthia Mumby, a spokeswoman for the Harford County government.

Restoring these local funds has been a top priority for MACo and county governments for years. 2018 marked a step forward, but not a solution to the longstanding problem.

The full analysis is available online through the paper’s GitHub site.

The interactive map of bridges from the study is available online.

Feds Reauthorize Funding for Hagerstown Regional Airport

Photo courtesy of Washington County Government

United States Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with Congressman John K. Delaney, last week announced that Hagerstown Regional Airport (HGR) received an extension of its Essential Air Services (EAS) funding through March 2019. This program allows for air service between rural areas to major hubs.

According to a press release:

As part of this program, HGR continues to offer daily flights using Southern Airways Express that travel from HGR to BWI and Pittsburgh International Airport. These connections help grow area businesses and support economic growth.

The EAS program, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation, provided nearly $1.5 million to HGR in supporting commercial flights during fiscal year 2017.

“The airport is grateful to receive the extension of Essential Air Service funding through March 2019. This waiver ensures passengers commuting to BWI and Pittsburgh International, will continue receiving this valuable service ,” said HGR Airport Director Phil Ridenour. “We thank The Department of Transportation, Senators Cardin and Van Hollen along with Congressman Delaney for their continued support of this vital funding program.”

Read the full press release for more information.

MDP Highlights Pending Land Use Challenges for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

MDP logoA Maryland Planning Blog article (2018-10-03) discussed how Maryland is preparing for connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) and the land use challenges this emergent technology may pose. The article noted that many vehicles already on the road have some level of autonomous control (such as traction control, lane changing, maintaining distance from other vehicles, and parking), full self-driving vehicles are likely to appear in the near future. The article noted the work that the Maryland Department of Transportation has done through its CAV Working Group and CAV Strategic Action Plan.

The article focused on the potential land use implications, noting that the full effects of CAVs are not yet known. From the article:

The land use impacts of CAVs are not yet known or understood. As the technology draws nearer, local comprehensive plans will need to address the changes CAVs may have on street design and parking, zoning codes, as well as on other modes of transportation, including transit, bicycles, and pedestrian facilities.  Several metropolitan planning organizations (MPO), states and local governments are considering these changes in their comprehensive or transportation plans.

The article noted that the Wilmington Area Planning Council for Cecil County, Maryland and New Castle County, Delaware has included CAV language in its Long-Range Transportation Plan and that the District of Columbia is also considering CAV language in its comprehensive plan. The article also referenced several American Planning Association reports:

 

  • The American Planning Association has completed several recent reports on the topic.  These include:
  • “Autonomous Vehicles: Planning for Impacts on Cities and Regions,” a general overview on how CAVs may affect cities and regions;
  • “Preparing Communities for Autonomous Vehicles,” a detailed review of CAV effects including design;
  • “Principles for Autonomous Vehicle Policy,” an overview of CAV policy principles; and
  • “Planning for Autonomous Mobility (PAS 592), Executive Summary,” a new report that provides basic knowledge and policy recommendations in planning for CAVs.

The article also stated that CAVs were frequently raised during the first round of the Maryland Department of Planning’s listening sessions for the new State Development Plan, A Better Maryland.

Useful Links

CAV News Webpage (through Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration)

Wilmington Area Planning Council Website

American Planning Association Website 

Public Comment Period Open For 2040 Maryland Transportation Plan

The public comment period is now open for the 2040 Maryland Transportation Plan (MTP). The MTP is a statewide transportation plan that outlines how Maryland will develop and maintain its transportation network for the next 20 years. and guides all transportation projects and investments. The MTP is updated every 5 years.

The draft 2040 MPT outlines seven goals and numerous recommendations on how to achieve those goals. From the 2040 MTP’s webpage:

[MDOT] held an internal MDOT engagement session and has conducted external surveys, including an interactive online survey for Maryland residents to learn about and provide input on their transportation priorities in Maryland. All of these interactions, along with our mission statement and existing plans and programs have helped to shape the development of the draft 2040 MTP goals and objectives.

A goal is a broad statement with a desired result that reflects the overall MDOT mission statement. The objectives are more targeted outcomes within the goal area. Within the goals and objectives, associated performance measures are being developed to evaluate how well we annually achieve the 2040 MTP goals. An advisory committee is working with us to provide recommendations on these performance measures.

Source: Maryland Department of Transportation

Public comments may be to MDOT via email at 2019MTP@mdot.state.md.us. Public comments are due by November 14.

Useful Links

2040 MTP Draft Plan

2040 MTP Public Survey Results

MTP Technical Memorandum Conditions, Trends, and Challenges (published February, 2018)

2040 MTP Timeline

 

 

MTA Ticketing Goes Mobile With ‘Charm Pass’

A new mobile app launched by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) brings ticketing into the modern age by allowing transit riders to purchase them through their cell phones.

The app has been billed as a way to help improve the rider experience by removing the need for cash in an increasingly cashless society and easing the boarding and transfer processes between transit services. From The Baltimore Sun:

The app sells local bus, light rail and metro subway one-way, one-day, seven-day and 31-day passes; MARC train one-way, five-day, seven-day and 31-day tickets; and one-way and 31-day passes for all Commuter Bus routes. It is available on Apple and Android phones and accepts payments via credit or debit cards and PayPal.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

Space Limited for Free Drone Symposium

A free all-day symposium for state and local government representatives will share ideas and solutions for local transportation and public works unmanned aerial systems (UAS) applications.

UAS have potential utility for county transportation and public works departments in Maryland.

drone
An upcoming symposium on UAS is aimed at a county government audience.

MACo and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council are coordinating a symposium to further explore this topic.

This event will bring together GIS, public works, transportation, and procurement staff from all sectors to discuss UAS and the way they can enhance local and state government operations. Topics will include how to set up a UAS program, local and state government projects utilizing UAS, and transportation applications.

This event is being hosted by Baltimore Metropolitan Council in collaboration with the Maryland Association of Counties, with generous funding support from sponsors Maryland State GIS Committee (MSGIC) and KCI.

Registration for the UAS Information Exchange Forum is now open.

Details about the symposium:

  • EVENT: Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Information Exchange Forum
  • DATE: December 4, 2018
  • PLACE: The Wilde Lake Interfaith Center in Columbia, MD
  • TIME: 9 am – 4:30 pm

If you have any questions, contact Robin Eilenberg at MACo.