GOV. HOGAN’S PRIORITY OF REPEALING LAW TO REVIEW TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS AN AFFRONT TO GOOD GOVERNMENT
For Immediate Release
Contacts: Dru Schmidt-Perkins, 1000 Friends of Maryland, 410-258-8601 (cell)
Brian O’Malley, CMTA, 410-332-1723, Ext. 122
ANNAPOLIS, Feb. 2, 2017 – Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to make his top priority repealing a law to help guide the spending of transportation construction dollars is an affront to all Marylanders who care about transparency in government and best practices, say corporate and civic leaders.
The statute, known as the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016 (House Bill 1013), was enacted last year when the General Assembly overrode a veto by the governor.
“The governor is misrepresenting this law and ignoring evidence from other states that this process really works. It can ensure that Maryland moves forward with better transportation projects and in a more transparent way,” said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, the president of 1000 Friends of Maryland, a smart growth advocacy group.
The state of Maryland spends more than $2 billion every year on capital transportation projects. Historically, a governor could select projects for funding without regard to the state’s overall transportation goals. The 2016 law requires the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to develop a scoring system to rank and prioritize highway, bridge and public transit proposals. Supporters say the scoring system will make the state more accountable for how it spends its tax dollars by giving the public an understanding of Maryland’s greatest needs and overall priorities.
While providing MDOT with great latitude, the law requires the agency to develop a project scoring system using 23 different measures. The scoring process is modeled after a similar system in Virginia known as “Smart Scale,” which enjoys broad bipartisan support in that state. Other planning and scoring systems have been implemented in Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Washington and by the Federal Highway Administration, among others.
“Construction dollars are scarce so we all should want our dollars to flow to the projects that best achieve goals like connecting people to jobs,” observed Brian O’Malley, the president and CEO of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance. “This law provides MDOT with the latitude to set up a scoring system that works. The agency has yet to do that, even though there are many examples of best practices from other states that could be applied here. And the law certainly does not require the cancelation of any pending projects.”
Let’s keep in mind the bigger picture,” added Schmidt-Perkins. “The decisions on how we spend our transportation dollars have an impact on the everyday lives of all Marylanders: how they get to work, how they get to school, where they choose to live, how food gets to their grocery store, whether they can open a new business, how clean is the air they breathe. It is imperative that MDOT develop a real scoring system.”
Two months ago, 1000 Friends and the Transportation Alliance released a report (link to report click here or go to www.friendsofmd.org.) that detailed how the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act could be successfully implemented by highlighting how other states and the federal government had addressed eight of the 23 measures required for the scoring system.
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1000 Friends of Maryland is a smart growth advocacy group founded in 1994.
The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance was formed in 2007 as a diverse coalition of corporate and civic leaders uniting business, philanthropic and institutional sectors around a common agenda: improving and expanding transportation options for the citizens and businesses of central Maryland.
March 2, 2016
Contact: Dru Schmidt-Perkins, 1000 Friends of Maryland, 410-258-8601
Brian O’Malley, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, 410-419-5374
Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth, 703-599-6437
MDOT CHARTS SERIOUSLY MISLEAD ON IMPACT OF TRANSPORTATION BILL
It is concerning the HB1013/SB908 Open Transportation Investment Decision Act is being mischaracterized by the Maryland Department of Transportation. Too much attention is being payed to the politics surrounding this issue and not the good transparent and open government merits of the bill.
MDOT released an “analysis” of the bill that has limited to no relation to the bill under discussion. According to Secretary Rahn and his team of planners, they spent a large amount of time scoring each project included in the 2016 CTP and concluded that all of the money would be redirected to just two regions: Montgomery and Baltimore.
This calculation is inaccurate and is being used to scare people away from a positive, good government proposal that will provide taxpayers in Maryland greater confidence in how their limited transportation dollars are being spent. MDOT's statements are false in the following ways:
Calculation does not assess projects
• MDOT made grand assumptions and did not use the objective measures included in the bill to come to its conclusions. Rather, they made huge leaps of faith that specific programs (i.e. rural projects) would not score well under the proposed process, and then connected these assumptions to projects receiving funding. This approach has no basis in reality and is a sad statement from a public agency trusted with billions of hard earned taxpayer dollars.
Uses scare tactics to alarm rural and suburban Maryland transportation users
• Using false assumptions as mentioned above, the Hogan Administration ran press releases announcing that specific projects in rural and suburban Maryland are in jeopardy of losing their funding, which is 100 percent not factual.
• Rural and suburban projects would score well when considering the cost-benefit of each project as directed in this bill. Simply put, it costs more to complete infrastructure projects where denser populations reside. By measuring each dollar's investment in all projects, rural and suburban projects have a greater likelihood to score well in the cost-benefit analysis and be recommended for funding. Look no further than our neighbor, Virginia. In their bipartisan transportation project ranking system, the highest ranking project was in the small town of Altavista—population 3,400— and not Northern Virginia or Hampton Roads.
Claims projects to maintain state of good repair wouldn't receive funds, which is flat out wrong
• Maintenance and preservation of our current system in a state of good repair is one of the best investments we can make, and this bill recognizes this fact by not including state of good repair projects in the ranking process. MDOT has misconstrued this fact, as well as many others.
Current robust public input process is seriously lacking actual public input
• The current process provides MDOT sole discretion over Maryland's more than $2 billion annual capital transportation budget. Maryland taxpayers are currently provided a thinly veiled appearance of public input. The aptly named Road Shows provide very little opportunity for citizen input and are rather a performance by MDOT on what projects have been selected. Many are held in small conference rooms and are not well advertised. This is not a robust public process.
• The additional information provided by scoring each project on the eight transportation goals would do nothing but strengthen the outreach process, creating more informed discussions and provide communities with the necessary feedback on their projects to improve them.
• How is a local community to better improve their chances of getting their priority transportation project complete if MDOT doesn't provide measures to improve their chances? The current system has local governments waiting decades to have their project prioritized in the Consolidated Transportation Plan.
An objective scoring system will provide Maryland’s local governments with a better understanding for how they can improve their chances of receiving scarce state transportation dollars.
It is time Maryland joined the growing number of states that are bringing transportation funding out of the dark, byzantine maze and into the daylight. The result will be a better understanding of what is funded and why and hopefully better transportation results economically, socially and environmentally.