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Gov. Hogan seeks repeal of transportation scoring bill

Maryland   ·   Public Transportation   ·   The Star Democrat

CAMBRIDGE -- A controversial transportation scoring system bill passed in the last Maryland General Assembly could face a repeal in the upcoming legislative session.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday, Dec. 14, he will submit legislation in the upcoming Maryland General Assembly session to fully repeal the Maryland Open Transpor tation Investment Decision Act of 2016, a bill county officials and Republicans have been concerned will kill road projects in Maryland in favor of mass transit projects.

 "It will wreak havoc on the entire state transportation system and usurp important authority away from local governments and away from the executive branch of state government, giving authority instead to lobbyists and special interest groups," Hogan said. "The repercussions of this law are quite simply disastrous for our state, and I can assure you that on behalf of our citizens, I will not stop fighting until this catastrophic bill is repealed," the governor continued."

 Votes on the transportation scoring bill were split between political parties last legislative session.

 It requires the Maryland Department of Transportation to score any State Highway Administration or Maryland Transit Administration transportation project over $5 million, taking into account and weighing factors such as how many people it would benefit, increases in highway or transit capacity and environmental benefits and safety. The law has not yet been implemented.

 Republicans were very much against the bill, saying that it would adversely affect rural areas and their transportation projects, because roadway projects wouldn't be able to get a high enough score to top mass transit projects in urban areas. They said it would only serve to benefit larger counties with higher populations.

 Advocates for the bill said the system improves the transparency of how Maryland picks its transportation projects. Democrats were accused of pushing the bill through to make a political statement to Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, who defunded the Baltimore Red Line rail project in 2015.

 Last session, Hogan vetoed the legislation once it passed both the House of Delegates and the Senate, but his veto was overridden in both houses in the last remaining days of the 2016 legislative session.

 In a November meeting between state transportation officials and Talbot County staff and elected officials, Deputy Transportation Secretary Jim Ports said state transportation officials have been hearing from county officials throughout the state about concern for the scoring system. Their worries are rooted in what Republicans argued last session, that urban mass transit projects might get funded over rural road projects due to the way the scoring system is set up.

 According to the Hogan administration, the scoring system would fully cancel 66 out of 73 transportation projects slated for the state, including a plan to widen U.S. Route 50 from Route 301 to Route 404 in Queen Anne's County.

 Under the scoring system, the governor would still have the power to choose one transportation project over another. It would just have to be put down in writing why the administration chose a lower scoring project over a higher scoring project.

 House Speaker Michael Busch, D-30A-Anne Arundel, said Friday, Dec. 9, at a Maryland Association of Counties legislative preview event that the House of Delegates would likely not initiate a repeal of the scoring system, but that the governor would have to offer an alternative.

 "We passed feasible legislation. If he doesn't like it, he's got to get engaged in the initiative and make a decision," Busch said Friday.

 Hogan said Wednesday that any discussion of an alternative system would have to begin with the full repeal of the scoring system.

 There is talk of tweaking the scoring system to divide the state up into regions where projects are scored differently, like the way Virginia ranks transportation projects, which is something Sen. J.B. Jennings, the Republican Minority Leader in the Senate, on Friday said might be an initiative next legislative session.

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