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.