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Legislature delays Md. transportation project-scoring regulations

Legislature delays Md. transportation project-scoring regulations

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A legislative committee has placed a hold on proposed regulations for a program requiring the scoring and ranking of state-funded local transportation projects.

The Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review placed the hold on the two-pages of regulations Dec. 6 following a hearing in mid-November.

During that hearing, Democratic lawmakers expressed concerns that Gov. Larry Hogan and Department of Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn intentionally drafted the regulations poorly to push all state funding to projects in urbanized counties in an effort to make the issue political rather than one about transparency regarding how nearly $1 billion in state money is allocated and spent annually.

The regulations establish a nine-category scoring system that considers safety, the environment, economic effects, return on investment and local priorities. The total score — 900 is the maximum for any one project — is then weighted based on the total population in the jurisdiction where the project is located. More populous areas that make up a larger percentage of state’s population would result in a heavier weighting of the raw score.

The weighting system added by the state Department of Transportation, however, mirrors a legislative proposal that was opposed by the Maryland Association of Counties and was ultimately removed from the final bill by the state Senate.

Rahn told legislators the bad regulations were the natural outcome of a bad bill and called for a repeal.

The legislative hold is just a delay tactic unless Hogan and Rahn withdrawn the proposed rules and resubmit new ones, something Rahn said Wednesday is unlikely.

Ultimately the committee cannot stop the implementation of the regulations, which could happen as early as Feb. 10 while the legislature is in session, when lawmakers have the ability act on any proposed regulations.

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