MACo Comments On MDOT Scorecard Proposal

MACo has submitted comments to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) expressing concerns about its proposed methodology for implementing a scoring model for major transportation projects.

Specifically, MACo raised concerns about the provisions in the proposal which penalize counties for failing to support proposals made by municipalities.

From the letter:

If allowed to stand as currently proposed, a variety of potentially unintended outcomes could result. A county with a relatively small municipal population could see its top priority project downgraded merely because it does not directly serve an incorporated area. In addition, providing each county – regardless of size or population – with the same fixed point value does not necessarily align with project capacity needs. A large county facing widespread congestion would have to “split” its points across multiple priority projects, but a smaller jurisdiction with only one capacity-related need would not.

Read the full letter here.

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 Unveils New “Scorecard” Draft at #MACoCon Workshop

Following last year’s political firestorm over how the State should prioritize transportation spending, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has new plans for scoring major projects in its Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) – and MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn will unveil that draft plan and solicit input from county officials first at the MACo Winter Conference. 

County elected officials and transportation professionals surely remember the story well. The Maryland General Assembly entertained legislation officially called the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016, which requires the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to score its major capital projects according to a predefined set of goals and measures and rate them accordingly in its CTP. MACo opposed the bill, citing concerns that it may marginalize local input, overlook variations in transportation needs, and undervalue safety in project approval. The bill passed, with some amendments offered by MACo. The Governor vetoed it, and the General Assembly overrode the veto.

series of letters sent over the 2016 summer sought to transfer responsibility for the law’s implementation to the counties. The Attorney General’s Office issued a letter advising that the new law does not authorize this. MACo sent MDOT a letter offering support on developing a collaborative approach to implementing the law and drafting the regulations required by it.

MDOT published draft regulations implementing the law in September 2016 – regulations that MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn himself called “bad.” MACo offered detailed recommendations on how the Administration could instead interpret the law in a manner that is fairer to all Maryland counties.

Governor Hogan made it his top legislative priority last session to repeal what he called “The Roadkill Bill.” Reiterating concerns about the original scorecard legislation, MACo supported House Bill 402/Senate Bill 307, the Governor’s “Road Kill Bill Repeal” – advocating for either its full-on repeal, or its refinement. The General Assembly passed the legislation in an amended form that clarifies that the use of scoring from the statutory system will be purely advisory, while a designated work group convenes to consider refinements to its elements and effects. It also loosened requirements for the scoring system.

Since then, MDOT has been working hard to develop a new scoring model, which is due under the new law on January 1, 2018. MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn will unveil the draft model at MACO’s Winter Conference at a special workshop designed to solicit county officials’ input. This not-to-miss session presented by the County Engineers of Maryland offers county personnel the first opportunity to weigh in on the next chapter for Chapter 36.

Title: Workshop: An Overview of the New Transportation Scoring Law

Description: This past session, the General Assembly passed significant changes to the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016, aka the “Scorecard Bill,” “Chapter 36,” “Transportation Transparency Bill,” or the “Roadkill Bill.” This law of many names was significantly changed to be non-binding and to give MDOT more flexibility in how it scores major highway and transit projects in its capital program. Since then, MDOT has been working hard to develop a new scoring model and invites conference attendees to actively participate in the process.

Speaker: Pete Rahn, Transportation Secretary

Moderator: John Barr, MACo Past President, Washington County Commissioner

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:

2017 End of Session Wrap-Up: Highway User Revenues

Below is a brief overview of MACo’s work to restore county roads funding that was cut during the Great Recession.  

Follow links for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Database

Highway User Revenues

The General Assembly maintained an additional $8.8 million in additional local transportation aid to be allocated among 23 counties. For more than forty years, local governments have received at least 30 percent of these revenues to fund local roads and bridges – 83 percent of the public road mileage in Maryland. In 2010, the State reduced highway user revenues by 90 percent for most jurisdictions – and local governments have advocated for restored highway user revenues ever since.

Push Icons-WONThe General Assembly’s action this year to provide counties some relief connotes a small step, but marked improvement over prior years. See MACo’s coverage, including a County-by-County Breakdown of Additional Local Transportation Aid

 

This year, as in years past, MACo continued to support legislation that would fully restore highway user revenues to their previous levels. As in recent years, however, the General Assembly did not advance these bills.

Push Icons-NOT IDEALSenate Bill 586/House Bill 1322 “Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland Act,” a MACo initiative for the legislative session, did not pass out of committee in either chamber. Bill Information | MACo Coverage

 

 

Push Icons-NOT IDEALHouse Bill 552, a bill to restore highway user revenues to local governments, ensure that new gas tax revenues resulting from Chapter 429 of 2013 are shared equitably with local governments, and amend the Maryland Constitution to prevent depletion of highway user revenues from local governments in the future did not move out of committee. Bill Information | MACo Testimony

Push Icons-NOT IDEALSenate Bill 161, a bill to phase in restoration of highway user revenues to counties over seven years did not move out of committee. Introducing the bill, its sponsor Senator Steve Waugh expressed the need to “find an affordability trigger” to move the restoration forward – an element that has not been present in other similar proposals in recent years. Bill Information | MACo Coverage

Transportation Funding Decisions

The subject of transportation funding decisions has become a contentious debate between the Governor’s Administration and the General Assembly. MACo tracks this issue as it relates to local roads funding and advocates for the decision process that supports county government efficiency and effectiveness.

Push Icons-WONVoicing concerns about the scorecard legislation passed in 2016, MACo supported House Bill 402/Senate Bill 307 the Governor’s “Road Kill Bill Repeal” – advocating for either repeal or replacement. The General Assembly passed the legislation in an amended form that clarifies that the use of scoring from the statutory system will be purely advisory, while a designated work group convenes to consider refinements to its elements and effects.  Bill Information | MACo Coverage

Click here for a round up of the wrap-ups for all policy areas

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.

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 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.

Miller Offers “Grand Bargain” on Transportation Scorecard Bill

At the high profile hearing for SB 307, Governor Hogan’s proposal to repeal the transportation scorecard legislation enacted last year, Senate President Miller testified in support of a proposed “compromise” that would delay the scoring system’s effect for two years while a select work group would be empaneled to work through the system. The Administration and Department officials testifying in support of the repeal legislation expressed an initial reluctance, but indicated appreciation for the movement on the sticky issue.

From coverage in the Baltimore Sun:

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan‘s administration is refusing to compromise with Democrats on a controversial transportation scoring law, demanding its full repeal before they entertain anything else.

“We can’t salvage this law,” Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Wednesday. Hogan’s chief legislative officer, Christopher Shank, said if the administration discusses a compromise, “that conversation has to begin with repeal.”

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified in support of Senate Bill 307, indicating that MACo would support either a “repeal” or “replace” path forward. He indicated he was “heartened” by the proposed movement from the Senate President, who had reaffirmed that “we’re not going to pass a repeal,” but distributed amendment language to Committee members.

Sanderson outlined several areas for any workgroup to focus on — including specifying the Department’s ability to score projects differently based on region or mode, to specify the intended analytical responsibilities between the Department and counties, and to clarify the “advisory” nature of the legislation. He also urged local input into any review going forward.

Background

The bill as introduced repeals the 2016 legislation creating a “scorecard” for major transportation projects. That bill, with its many prescriptive elements, and the subsequent implementing regulations, have left counties deeply concerned about the process for selecting major transportation projects. MACo urges the General Assembly to remedy the current two-part scheme of legislative and regulatory interpretation that collectively place projects in jeopardy, and may overwhelm county transportation planning staff.

During the 2016 legislative session, MACo raised concerns with HB 1013, the legislation targeted by this year’s SB 307. In testimony, MACo raised concerns about respecting county input into project selection, overburdening county public works departments, and the potential for unfairness in the legislated scoring system. Many of these points were addressed, in whole or in part, through both House and Senate amendments.

During the interim, MACo was again alarmed by exchanges with the Maryland Department of Transportation, suggesting that a failure of counties to rapidly provide dramatically expanded information to defend proposed projects would result in them being “de-funded.” And finally, after the implementation of last year’s act was delayed pending adoption of regulations, MACo again expressed concern with the proposed Departmental regulations that failed to implement flexibility that we believe the legislation afforded. Taken together, counties fear the law and regulations’ scoring system will prove counterproductive and cumbersome.

From MACo testimony:

Imperfect scores undermine the entire system. An ideal scorecard system could advance the public’s ability to understand the State’s project selection process. Counties fear that the status quo, as a combined result of legislation and regulations, will substantially miss this mark. The Maryland public would not be well served if the Department were obliged to routinely offer a multitude of “rational basis” letters to assert an exception for a wide range of projects in order to retain funding, despite their project scores. Even though this process is spelled out in the law, a system that creates an unreasonable number of exceptions loses its utility.

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

Maryland Reporter Muses On Scorecard Bill, Solutions

In a commentary piece timed with the beginning of session, veteran Annapolis reporter hogan-road-kill-charts-1170x781Len Lazarick of the news site MarylandReporter.com bemoans the role of “facts” in political debate, and eventually focuses his attention on the high-profile “transportation scorecard” legislation passed last year and still causing a furor.

Governor Larry Hogan has made it clear that his top priority this session is to repeal the transportation scoring legislation passed overwhelmingly last session, which the Governor vetoed and the General Assembly overrided. Lazarick categorizes the history:

Why some road or highway or transit projects are funded and others are not is often a mystery. There is never enough money for everything, particularly after the Great Recession, so some projects win and some project lose.

The legislature wanted to make that decision process “more transparent” by creating a complicated scoring system with nine goals and 23 measures. Some projects would score higher than others, justifying funding.

The principal problem with the law is that its goals and measures are blatantly biased in favor of mass transit. On top of that, once the scores are arrived at, they are then weighted by population, putting a thumb on the scales for the largest counties.

Hogan’s veto of a measure that seems to restrict his authority to fund projects was understandable.

MACo testified, in opposition to the bill, at both hearings — arguing that the bill’s detailed provisions could marginalize local input, overlook regional or demographic variations in transportation needs, and under-value safety as a driving factor in project approval. Both the House and Senate accepted substantial amendments to the bill, many of which were drafted to address county concerns. The amendments made several changes to the bill, including directing the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to develop the final “percentage” weightings in the various components of the scoring system and adding an additional scoring component, “Local Priorities and Planning.” Amendments also ensured the bill would not affect the county priority letter process and MDOT’s visit to each county to discuss transportation priorities.

Lazarick states that the Governor “denied that there were escape clauses in the law,” and points out:

…in fact there are two. One allows the administration to fund a project, despite a low score, by writing a letter giving a “rational basis” for the decision. The other says the law should not prohibit the funding of any project.

Lazarick also calls attention to MDOT’s regulations drafted to implement the bill, which “provide little leeway on scoring.” MACo testified at a hearing held on the regulations on November 18, and provided formal comments on how to the regulations could be amended to provide more leeway.

Lazarick closes by opining on what comes next:

With bad regs due to take effect in February to implement a flawed bill, legislators seem prepared to tackle a rewrite of the scoring system. “Repeal and replace,” is how Democratic Del. Sandy Rosenberg phrased it, as he co-chaired the hearing on the regulations Nov. 18, echoing the Republican phrasing on Obamacare.

That could be a model for “repeal” of the “road kill bill” — repeal the bad bill, but create a new, more flexible “advisory” scoring system that Hogan could live with.

One note of potential optimism on the issue popped up as the Governor addressed the Senate Chamber in its initial session today. Senate President Mike Miller followed the Governor’s comments by noting multiple areas of potential collaboration, and added, “We’re also going to look at a road bill, Governor… we’re going to look to you for some ideas to make it more palatable for you and your Administration.”

Click here to see MACo’s ample coverage on this issue.

Transportation “Scorecard” Bill Still Sparking Back-and-Forth

2016 legislation variously known as the “Scorecard Bill,” the “Road Kill Bill,” or the “Transportation Transparency Bill” continues to stir up emotions in the State capital, as the legislative session approaches. The content of the bill itself, the process for its legislative consideration, and larger funding issues with the Department of Transportation are all in the crosshairs for this still-raging debate.

Department of Legislative Services (DLS) Executive Director Warren Deschenaux has weighed in on HB 1013 – the bill requiring scoring for major transportation projects – disputing the claim that it actually kills roads. In a letter sent to the Maryland General Assembly leadership, the head of the legislature’s nonpartisan staff agency points out that the Administration retains authority to override the scoring system and fund any project it favors and seeks to fund. Deschenaux also specified that 31 of the 71 projects being claimed as “killed” were not previously programmed in the draft Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP).

Deschenaux instead draws attention to a $1 billion shortfall in expected transportation revenue as a likely “road killer.” The Baltimore Sun quotes from the letter:

In his letter, Deschenaux said the most important current threat to transportation spending was a shortfall in expected transportation revenue that has forced the department to decrease capital spending by “nearly $1 billion.”

“Based on this analysis, it would appear that fiscal realities are likely to have a much bigger impact on MDOT’s ability to include projects in the [six-year plan] than the requirement under the act that projects be scored,” Deschenaux wrote.

Deschenaux points to $761 million placed in reserve by Governor Hogan to provide transportation funds to counties and municipalities for local roads and bridges – funds that the General Assembly could instead reserve for state projects.

Governor Hogan’s chief spokesperson, Doug Mayer, called Deschenaux’s view on the law “preposterous,” stating that the Administration does not believe the law provides the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) legal authority to move forward with lower-scoring projects.  “There is no way the session ends without a major change to this law,” stated Mayer.

Read the article in  The Baltimore Sun.

The exchange has reignited a firestorm of social media attention from various sources. Some individuals and organizations are weighing in with memes and comments protesting that the bills the Governor says would be killed were never slated to be funded to begin with. Others take issue with the legislature and how HB 1013 was passed – there has been some disagreement over the hearings the cross-filed bill received.

On the issue over whether the Act had hearings in both chambers: it did, just in varying forms.  The Daily Record (available to subscribers only) sums it up well:

The governor is right in the fact that the legislature “rushed the bill through.” He’s wrong when he says the bill received no hearings or no public input.

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill [(House Bill 1013 and cross-file Senate Bill 908, respectively)] received hearings in their respective chambers on Feb. 17 and March 2, respectively. Both hearings are available on video, and state Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn testified against the bill at both.

The House completed its work on House Bill 1013 on March 19 and sent it to the Senate. ….

By tradition, bills that are cross-filed in the House and Senate receive a full hearing in their original chamber and a sponsor-only hearing when they are sent to the opposite chamber.

What should have been a sponsor-only hearing for House Bill 1013 was scheduled for March 29 in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. That hearing never happened. Instead, the bill legislators said is supposed to promote transparency was amended and voted out of committee session March 28. That session does not appear on any calendar.

The unusual procedural skip-ahead by Kasemeyer and the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee made it possible to fast-track the legislation and get it on the Hogan’s desk by April 1 — forcing governor to sign or veto the bill during session and allowing the General Assembly to take up a veto override.

Read more Conduit Street coverage on the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016 by clicking here or searching for the tag, “scorecard.”

The Department of Legislative Services letter is available here.