Governor Announces Plans To Widen I-270, I-495, MD 295

Today Governor Hogan announced a plan to add four new lanes to I-270, the Capital Beltway (I-495), and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD 295). The anticipated $9 billion “Traffic Relief Plan” for these three major state highways is touted to reduce congestion for millions of drivers.

The MD 295 project involves selling the road to the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA), which primarily operates toll facilities and does not generally use any gas tax revenues for its projects. Parts of MD 295 are owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Governor indicated that he has entered into talks with the Department Secretary about the transfer. Baltimore City also owns the part of MD 295 that runs through the city boundaries, and it is unclear whether MdTA would take over ownership of that portion, as well.

The state plans to widen I-495 and I-270 by entering into a public-private partnership (P3), through which the private entity would design, build, finance, operate, and maintain new lanes on I-495 between the American Legion Bridge and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and on I-270 between I-495 and I-70.  That project is also anticipated to include express toll lanes. According to the Request for Information (RFI) MDOT released today, MDOT does not intend to use Transportation Trust Fund dollars for these projects, either.

From the Governor’s release:

The first step to build new express toll lanes on MD 295 will begin with the transfer of MD 295 from the U.S. Department of the Interior to the Maryland Transportation Authority. Governor Hogan has already personally started this process during a recent meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and has directed MDOT officials to move forward with the transfer negotiations. Following the transfer, the Maryland Transportation Authority would then build, operate, and maintain the new lanes and maintain existing lanes between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. …

In making this announcement today, Governor Hogan has directed MDOT to issue the Request for Information [(RFI)] to the P3 industry and continue the transfer process with the U.S. Department of the Interior.

MDOT issued the RFI today. From the document:

In lieu of an availability payment structure, MDOT is considering offering a toll
concession to developers for added capacity the developers provide to I-495 or I-270.
Under a toll concession for additional capacity, current capacity on I-495 and on I-
270 shall remain free. Only users of the additional capacity would pay user fees. The
desire of MDOT would be that any private agreement not require a financial
contribution directly from the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund and that the
agreement would provide a concession payment to MDOT upon financial close.
Assistance through federal funding resources and programs such as the
Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) would be
supported and pursued.

Maryland Opts-in to National Public Safety Network, Counties to Help Identify Priorities

Maryland’s Governor Hogan has opted-in to FirstNet, becoming the 19th state to join, and setting the stage for quick ramp-up of public safety broadband service within the State.

 

FirstNet

From FirstNet.gov:

Governor Larry Hogan today announced Maryland will advance communications for first responders by opting in to the FirstNet and AT&T plan. This state-of-the-art plan will deliver a wireless broadband network to Maryland’s public safety community, allowing for faster, more informed and better coordinated responses. Through FirstNet’s advanced technologies, Maryland’s first responder subscribers will now have additional resources to help save lives and protect communities.

“Keeping Marylanders safe is our top priority, and our first responders need to be equipped with every tool possible to protect our citizens,” said Governor Hogan. “By adopting this plan, our first responders will now have the ability to efficiently and effectively work together not just within the state, but across the region and at the national level.”

“This innovative initiative will also spur investment into Maryland’s economy, helping to create jobs and enhance mobile broadband coverage in rural parts of the state,” the governor continued.

 

Major Ken Hasenei, Maryland’s State Interoperability Director reached out to state and county public safety partners following the announcement. From Major Hasenei:

Governor Hogan opted in early into FirstNet today.  As a result, Maryland public safety agencies will receive additional tower sites. You will be a part of identifying gaps in coverage and helping to determine the location of these towers for the calls for service and incidents that you handle.

Maryland held one of the initial consultations with the FirstNet team (see: Maryland Seeks to be First in FirstNet Public Safety Broadband), and, according to FirstNet.gov:

FirstNet and AT&T designed Maryland’s network solution with direct input from the state’s public safety community. FirstNet has been meeting with Maryland’s officials and public safety personnel for several years to address their unique communication needs. These include:   

  • Expanding coverage across the state, particularly in the western and lower Eastern Shore. 
  • Focusing on the voice and priority to voice and data across the existing nationwide AT&T LTE network. 

 

As described by Governing magazine, the strength of the FirstNet program depends in part on cooperation among states,

If a few states opt out, no big deal. But if more than a handful do, it could impact the network’s business plan. Building and running a nationwide, cutting-edge voice and data network requires nearly all of the country’s 5.4 million first responders to subscribe to it — not just to cover the operational costs, but also to generate enough revenue for further expansion into remote locations and for future technology upgrades.

For more information, see As a 9/11-Inspired Emergency Network Nears, Some States May Go Rogue from Governing and What Counties Need to Know About FirstNet from NACo.

Kent County Schools Unveils New Student Transportation Plan

Kent County Public Schools is reaching out to local contractors and plans on purchasing more than a dozen school buses in an effort to assuage widespread student transportation concerns that have marred the start of the school year.

According to MyEasternShoreMD,

Monday night, the Kent County Board of Education authorized Superintendent Karen Couch to negotiate the cancellation of its student transportation agreement with an outside contractor and the purchase of district’s buses. The number of buses the district needs to buy has not been finalized as negotiations with previous local contractors continue.

Earlier this year, the Board of Education put the bus contract out to bid, hoping to save money on student transportation. Low bidder Reliable Transportation of Baltimore was awarded the contract, taking over the bus routes at the beginning of the current school year.

The company had a terrible start, with widespread reports of buses being late, failing to pick up students and breaking down. The situation boiled over at a Sept. 11 Board of Education meeting, during which parents and community members voiced complaints — at times shouting from the standing room-only crowd — for nearly five hours.

Superintendent Couch conceded that the contract with Reliable Transportation is no longer tenable. The district is working to ensure a smooth transition to a new student transportation plan.

District Operations Supervisor, Joe Wheeler, said the district will acquire twelve standard school buses and two special needs school buses to help streamline the new student transportation plan. The Kent County BOE is piggy-backing off a recently awarded Washington County contract, a common procurement procedure whereby a government agency utilizes a contract previously put out to bid and awarded by another jurisdiction.

At a meeting Tuesday night, the district presented their plan to the Kent County Commissioners.

“For whatever it’s worth, I know it’s been difficult times. But I think — what little I know — I think you’re on the right track. I think it’s a good move to get that taken care of. Kudos to you,” Commissioner Ron Fithian told Couch.

The district received permission from the commissioners to park some buses at the Kent County Public Works facility on Morgnec Road just outside Chestertown. The buses also will be allowed to refuel through the county’s bulk purchasing program.

Read the full article for more information.

U.S. DOT: How To Encourage Autonomous Vehicles, Safely

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have issued new voluntary guidance for autonomous vehicles, “A Vision for Safety 2.0.” Its purpose is to support key stakeholders, including local governments, with automated vehicle testing and deployment.

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Photo via @NacoTweets

From the Overview:

Ninety-four percent of serious motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. are due to dangerous choices or errors people make on the road. … Every year, more than 30,000 Americans die in motor vehicle-related crashes. Vehicle automation, in its initial stages, is already saving lives and preventing injuries. NHTSA is committed to advancing this technology due to its potential to eliminate motor vehicle-related deaths on America’s roads and to deliver additional benefits to society.

From the DOT press release:

A Vision for Safety 2.0 calls for industry, state and local governments, safety and mobility advocates and the public to lay the path for the deployment of automated vehicles and technologies.

A Vision for Safety 2.0 builds on the previous policy and incorporates feedback received through public comments and Congressional hearings. 2.0 paves the way for the safe deployment of advanced driver assistance technologies by providing voluntary guidance that encourages best practices and prioritizes safety. The document also provides technical assistance to States and best practices for policymakers.

For NACo’s coverage on this, click here. For information on Maryland activity concerning automated vehicles, visit MVA’s website. Or, read MACo’s prior coverage on automated vehicles.

Civil Engineering Pays

salarysurvey17disciplinesThe median pre-tax income of civil engineers has increased 4-5 percent since 2014, to $101,000, according to a new study by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Unsurprisingly, the study finds that increased earning potential is directly linked to attainment of advanced degrees and licensure:

• Those with a bachelor’s degree have a median salary of $93,000.
• Those with master’s degrees have a median of $101,000.
• Professional licensure increases the median salary to $108,000.
• Those with doctoral degrees earn the most on average, with a $110,000 median salary.

The “typical” survey respondent was a male in his early 40s, with a bachelor’s or advanced degree, and about 17 years of professional experience.

The study also found that a pay gap continues to persist for women and minorities. The median salary for women is $83,000, compared with $101,400 for male respondents. Hispanic and African American respondents earned median incomes of $83,600 and $87,800, respectively.

TIGER’s Back

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Infographic via U.S. DOT

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant funding, totaling $500 million.  Applications for these competitive grants, appropriated as part of the FY 2017 budget year, are due October 16.

DOT will be hosting two webinars to assist in the completion of TIGER applications.  These webinars will be held from 2:00 to 4:00 PM EDT on Wednesday, September 13 and Tuesday, September 19. To register, please visit the TIGER Webinar Series webpage. DOT says additional webinars will be held, but it has not released those dates. This new round of grant funding has updated criteria, making these webinars an important source of information and assistance.

Said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao:

The TIGER grant program is a highly competitive program whose winners will be awarded with the funding they need to rebuild the infrastructure of their communities. TIGER grants will continue to fund innovative projects that will improve the safety of America’s passengers and goods.

Useful Links

 Official U.S. DOT Press Release

U.S. DOT – TIGER Website

NACo Coverage

Prior MACo Coverage on TIGER

 

 

Governor Requests Legal Action For Noisy Planes

plane-50893_1920Governor Larry Hogan wrote Attorney General Brian Frosh a letter requesting that he sue the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Administrator Michael Huerta over new flight patterns which have resulted in a flurry of noise complaints by Maryland residents.

The Next Generation Air Transportation System is a $35 billion system implemented at airports across the country, intended to cut down on delays and carbon emissions, reports The Baltimore Sun. The initiative has resulted in a number of changes at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and at nearby Reagan National Airport.

But the new system has resulted in planes flying much closer to the ground near residential neighborhoods, according to a number of complaints raised by elected officials, community groups, and others.

The Anne Arundel County Council passed Resolution 31-17 last week urging FAA to modify flight paths and elevations imposed by the new system to where they were before, and to place warnings in the Automated Terminal Information System to ensure pilots comply.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the Attorney General has not yet indicated whether he will bring the lawsuit.  The paper quotes the Governor’s letter:

We have heard from countless Marylanders, including many community leaders and elected officials, about this continuing problem. This program has made many Maryland families miserable in their own homes with louder and more frequent flights which now rattle windows and doors…. As elected leaders of this state, we cannot allow this situation to stand.

 

Feds Leave Room For Locals On Automated Vehicles

On September 6, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously voted to approve the “SELF DRIVE Act,” which allows automakers to release up to 25,000 self-driving vehicles onto public roads without meeting existing auto safety standards within the first year, and gradually allows a total of 100,000 vehicles within three years.

The ease in federal regulation has pleased state and local officials, reports Government Technology:

With that support, officials say they hope the federal government leaves ample room for state and local governments to regulate planning, licensing and revenue generation related to autonomous vehicles.

Automakers must still demonstrate to the federal government that self-driving vehicles are just as safe as human-operated vehicles, but states maintain oversight of licensing, registration, safety inspections, insurance requirements, and traffic laws.

Nineteen states have passed legislation related to autonomous vehicles, and four governors have passed executive orders creating workgroups to look at how their states should proceed. Maryland is not one of those states, despite state transportation officials taking organized efforts to examine the impact autonomous vehicles will have in Maryland.

Last session, the Maryland Department of Transportation had Senate Bill 9 introduced to authorize the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to adopt regulations governing autonomous vehicles – but that bill died in committee. Over the last two years, Senator Serafini and Delegate Beidle have introduced legislation to create a task force to study the use of self-driving vehicles, which also either died in their respective committees or were withdrawn.

Regardless, in 2015, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn established the Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV) Working Group as the central point of coordination for the development and deployment of emerging CAV technologies in Maryland.  The Working Group handles strategic planning for MDOT concerning connected and automated vehicles. MACo and the County Engineers Association of Maryland are both represented on the Working Group.

For information on Maryland activity concerning automated vehicles, visit MVA’s website. For MACo’s prior coverage on automated vehicles in Maryland, click here.

MOST Center Offers Free Local Stormwater Courses & Resources

 

The Municipal Online Stormwater Training (MOST) Center has announced a new course on urban stormwater best management practices (BMPs) for the Chesapeake Bay, a new “Case Stories From the Chesapeake” resource, and two new video series on public-private partnerships and innovative local stormwater projects. The MOST Center was established in 2015 and provides virtual courses and resources on local stormwater management programs, including administrative, budget, and technical information. All resources are free and the self-paced courses are available 24/7. From a recent MOST email notice (2017-09-11):

Exciting things are happening at the MOST Center!

Last week, the MOST Team released our latest course A User’s Guide to Urban BMPs in the Chesapeake Bay, developed in partnership with the Chesapeake Stormwater Network. Be sure to check it out, along with others in our course catalog.

And there’s more! 

Later this month, we will be unveiling a brand new resource, Case Stories from the Chesapeake, developed in partnership with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and the Choose Clean Water Coalition. This interactive map highlights 50 projects throughout Maryland where communities and local governments worked together to solve polluted runoff problems. These stories model how clean water funds are being used to keep our waterways healthy, beautiful, and economically viable.

We are also looking forward to debuting two new video series! The first features conversations with experts on Public-Private Partnerships, followed by a second series that highlights local leaders championing stormwater-related innovation.

Useful Links

MOST Center Website 

Register For MAFSM 13th Annual Conference On Flooding & Stormwater

The Maryland Association of Floodplain and Stormwater Managers (MAFSM) is holding its 13th Annual Conference on Thursday, October 12, 2017, at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. From MAFSM’s conference webpage:

MAFSM draws attendees from local, state, and federal government as well as the private sector from throughout Maryland, attracting over 150 engineers, planners, water resource professionals and NFIP Coordinators, annually. The conference will features a keynote session, vendor exhibits, a networking event and over 30 technical presentations.

The cost for a regular attendee is $120. Please note that included in registration is a year-long membership with MAFSM.

CEC credits will be awarded for attending the conference.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Donald Boesch from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. On-site check in begins at 7:30 AM and the conference concludes at 5:00 PM. Lunch is included.

Useful Links

MAFSM 13th Annual Conference Agenda

MAFSM 13th Annual Conference Registration

MAFSM Website