Counties Battle Many Bridge Trolls to Build Better Infrastructure, Report Shows

The National Association of Counties brief, Investing in America’s Infrastructure: County Funding for Capital Facilities, summarizes the robust efforts of county governments to maintain America’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure, and the difficulties of increasing costs, funding cuts, and regulatory burdens.

 

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#countiesbuild

According to the National Association of Counties, building infrastructure is no fairy tale. It’s serious work, with serious challenges.

As described in the Association’s report:

  • Counties build and maintain 46 percent of public road miles and more than 38 percent of bridges throughout America
  • Counties fund most of their activities with property taxes, which represent 72 percent of county general revenues.
  • Overall, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of states are requiring counties to do more with what they already have, decreasing state funding to counties or a combination of both.

Investing in America’s Infrastructure: County Funding for Capital Facilities describes the issues facing counties and innovative county solutions, including a profile of a P3 in Montgomery County, Maryland.

“By leveraging a valuable asset, Montgomery County was able to work with a private developer to construct a new building at a low cost to the county and solve a capacity problem at the existing building.” – Mr. Timothy Firestine, Chief Administrative Officer, Montgomery County, Md.

MACo advocates for infrastructure funding for county governments, and relief from costly regulations and delays. In the 2018 Session, MACo won additional funding for county governments from the highway user revenues and supported legislation to increase the State’s school construction funding goal and allow for alternative financing of school construction projects.

For more information, including nationwide data on infrastructure, see the National Association of Counties.

Highway User Restoration Would Pave the Road to Rebuilding County Infrastructure

House Bill 807 distributes additional highway user revenues funds to all 23 counties, Baltimore City, and municipalities. MACo estimates that this will result in $60 million in highway user revenues beginning in fiscal year 2020, and begins to address a long-standing priority of county governments.

This first step towards full restoration aids locals in repairing, replacing, and maintaining county roads and bridges that have suffered or deteriorated in the last several years.

MACo submitted written testimony in support of HB 807 to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on March 28, 2018.

From MACo Testimony:

It is unquestionable that local governments – and, specifically, counties – maintain the lion’s share of the state’s roads and bridges. Unlike most other states, in Maryland, local governments own and maintain 83% of the roads. Every resident depends on local roadways.

Highway user revenues fund roads and bridges throughout our entire state, through an equitable, time-tested formula based on road mileage and vehicle registrations. This touches the roads our kids ride to school, the roads our first responders travel to keep us safe, and the roads where we all live.

HB 807 takes a step in the right direction toward bringing back transportation dollars to the 83% of roads and bridges maintained by local governments in Maryland. It brings back transportation dollars to everyone’s home. This bill offers a path to restore these desperately needed funds.”

For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Third Bay Bridge Location Remains a Challenging Decision

Baltimore Sun article (2018-03-18) provides an update on Maryland’s consideration of a third bridge span across of the Chesapeake Bay. A third span would create significant local land use and transportation planning consequences in the area where it was located. According to the article, a $5 million environmental impact study is underway and will not be concluded for several years but the topic has already generated more than 500 public comments to the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA). A new span is estimated to cost over $10 billion. Potential locations include a crossing between Baltimore and Kent counties, a third bridge next to the current two connecting Anne Arundel County with Kent Island in Queen Anne’s County, and a crossing between Calvert County and Dorchester County. MDTA also indicated in the article that it is considering the option not to construct a new span.

The article offered a variety of perspectives on a new bridge and its proposed location, a small sampling of which is presented here:

“If we do not seek solutions to alleviate congestion across and around the bridge, the heavy traffic in the region will only continue to get worse,” [Governor Larry Hogan spokesperson Shareese Deleaver-Church] said. …

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a nonprofit focused on restoring the health of the bay, has written a 10-page letter to [MDTA Executive Director Kevin] Reigrut raising concerns about the environmental impacts of a third bridge. …

Any new span will face significant opposition from the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and other conservation groups. Many oppose a new crossing, no matter where it’s built. …

AAA Mid-Atlantic supports the construction of a new bridge.

“More capacity across the bay is critically important not only for transportation and congestion-relief, but for the economic health of the Eastern Shore as well,” spokeswoman Ragina Cooper Averella said.

The article also discussed the challenge a new span would pose to Eastern Shore County officials, who want economic development and growth while preserving the rural character of their region.

 

 

FY19 Transportation Aid: County-by-county Breakdown

The General Assembly completed work on the State’s operating budget – not only leaving all money proposed for local roads, but also adding $2 million to 23 counties’ shares of highway user revenues and additional grants.

The Department of Legislative Services offers this county-by-county breakdown of the total amounts of State transportation funds counties can expect to receive in fiscal 2019. 

This breakdown does NOT include the additional $2 million to be split among all counties except Baltimore City. MACo will make that breakdown available, once it is published.

Click here for an update on the General Assembly’s efforts to provide counties additional transportation funding through 2024. 

Hyperloop Alignment: All Fast Trains Love I-295

The Boring Co. – Elon Musk’s construction firm – has proposed an alignment for its “hyperloop project.” The twin tunnels would run from New York Avenue in Washington, D.C., along Route 50, up 32 and then along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to South Paca Street in downtown Baltimore. The project is anticipated to be fully funded by private sources.

According to the company’s website, the hyperloop is:

a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour.

The Maglev project, a different privately orchestrated project proposing really fast public transit, also contemplates using I-295 right-of-way.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The project is different than the proposed MAGLEV project. Two routes for that high-speed train linking Baltimore and Washington have also been proposed; both routes also more or less track the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

 

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Courtesy www.boringcompany.com 

Metro’s Budget: No Fare Hikes or Service Cuts

WMATA riders will get a reprieve next year, with no new fare hikes or service cuts. The Metro Board gave its final approval for the authority’s $3.2 billion operating and capital budgets last week. While relying on cost-saving measures from last year’s service changes, the budget does take into account significant capital projects which may well lead to service disruptions.

Visit WTOP to read more.

BGE Brings Baltimore City Electric Buses

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Image of Proterra 40′ Catalyst E2 Bus, provided by Proterra

Baltimore Gas and Electric, a MACo Gold Corporate Partner, will become the first Baltimore City company to have an electric bus vehicle fleet. It will also break national ground for becoming the first utility to incorporate electric shuttle buses into its fleet of vehicles.

BGE

The new buses, 40′ Proterra Catalyst® E2 Shuttles, will transport employees between BGE’s Baltimore headquarters and its Spring Garden’s campus. The first bus was unveiled March 15, with the second bus arriving in April.

BGE’s Press Release Shares its CEO’s thoughts about the project:

Zero-emissions electric buses address so many needs, from furthering our understanding of the electric vehicle technologies our customers are using, to reducing the demand on downtown parking, to minimizing our impact on the environment. We are always looking for better ways to serve our customers, and this clean, efficient and practical transportation solution is just another example of our commitment to identifying innovative new approaches.

– Calvin G. Butler, BGE CEO

Proterra shares the excitement in its Press Release about the partnership:

Utility support of innovative electric vehicle programs and grid transformation is critical as more consumers and transit providers opt for EVs, presenting both system wide opportunities and challenges along the way. We’re grateful to partner with BGE, a utility that is thinking big about the future of electrification, and supporting BGE through this technological transition as well as optimizing around an interconnected, distributed energy future.

Ryan Popple, Proterra CEO

Proterra’s buses have zero emissions, unlike other buses their size which use 11,000 gallons of diesel fuel and produce more than 480,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every year. These buses achieve 22 MPGe while diesel buses average 3.86
MPG.

The Maryland Public Service Commision is currently reviewing a proposal to install 24,000 chargers thus making Maryland the second largest electric vehicle fleet in the nation.

Know Your Roads: They’re Likely Maintained By Locals

MACo has continuously testified that local governments own and maintain 77 percent of the lane miles in Maryland – and 83 percent of the miles. The State, in comparison, maintains 23 percent of the lane miles in Maryland.

So, if a constituent has a complaint about a pothole or snow plowing, it more than likely should be directed to the county or municipality.

In order to help people determine who maintains their roads, the Maryland Department of Transportation has released a new tool to guide them:  and they call it “Know Your Roads.” On the new website, residents can search by address, legislative district number or local government name to figure who is responsible for which paths of pavement.

The site puts it as clear as it can be. If you do not see a sign with a number on the road:

You probably do NOT live on a state-maintained road … please contact your county or municipality directly to get your road plowed, a pothole fixed or another road issued addressed.

The Road Ahead Looks Clear For County Transportation Funding

The Senate Budget & Taxation Committee has voted to pass Senate Bill 516 with amendments to reflect its cross file, House Bill 807 – paving the way for counties to receive twice as much in highway user revenues as they did in fiscal 2018, for the next six years. The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

The House passed HB 807 with amendments which ensure that counties receive 3.2 percent of highway user revenues for fiscal years 2020 through 2024 – about twice as much as the 1.5 percent they received in fiscal 2018 (independently of the capital grants).

The full Senate passed the budget bill on Thursday morning, without cutting any funds to counties for highway user revenues and capital grants. The budget includes $178.1 million in highway user revenues, in addition to $53.7 million in additional local transportation grants. This is approximately 8 percent more than last year, which included $175.5 million in highway user revenues and $38.4 million in additional grants.

Last year, 23 counties ultimately received $12.8 million in grant money, after the legislature cut counties’ portion from the Governor’s proposed $27.4 million. This year, the Governor is proposing $27.8 million to those counties – and the full Senate has approved all of those funds.

In addition, the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee decided to recommend full funding of the grants – a good sign. The full committee will make decisions on the budget on Friday. Then, the budget will go to the Conference Committee, which makes final decisions on fiscal 2019 funding.

Complete Streets Funding Brings Roads Up to Speed

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified on the sponsor panel before the Senate Finance Committee in support of Senate Bill 407, “Transportation – Complete Streets Program – Establishment”, on March 14, 2018. This bill creates a competitive grant program making Transportation Trust Fund dollars available to local governments for the planning and design of Complete Streets projects.

Complete Streets strives to establish roads and through-ways that accommodate many forms of transportation and continue working to innovate and rebuild many of our State’s roads. Because local governments maintain 83% of the State’s roadways, allowing counties to drive changes and upgrades to our roads is critically important. This grant funding would aid an issue area that experienced significant losses in revenue through the loss of highway user funding.

From MACo Testimony:

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 supports this bill because it provides a step in the right direction toward that end.”

For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.