The 2021 legislative session was a busy one, hampered by COVID restrictions but productive nonetheless. Below are the transportation related bills WABA and other bike advocates from around the State, including BikeMD, followed and worked to pass. We will renew the fight for the ones that did not pass next January in the 2022 session and also make a concerted effort to significantly increase the level of State funds for all active transportation projects.
HB 118/SB 293 – Vehicle Laws -Injury or Death of Vulnerable Individual -Penalties – text here. This was the main focus of efforts by the BikeMD advocates and will become effective law on October 1, 2021. The new Vulnerable Road User law will save lives by encouraging safer driving with stronger penalties for those who hurt or kill pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, wheelchair users and other vulnerable road users lawfully using or crossing our roads.The law mandates a court appearance by any motor vehicle driver who causes a crash with a vulnerable road user who is killed or seriously injured. In the past, such drivers usually were issued a traffic citation or ticket. Now, such drivers must appear in court and face stiffer penalties including higher fines, a driver safety program, community service and license suspension for up to six months. This will provide greater support to victims and friends of crash victims knowing the driver involved will face a greater penalty. The law helps fill a gap between traffic citations and higher offenses such as criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle.
HB 562 – Montgomery County –Speed Limits –Establishment – text here. Montgomery County and any local jurisdiction in the County can now decrease the speed limit on a street down to 15 mph after performing an engineering and traffic study. This seems to include State Highways ( such as Georgia Avenue/MD-97) as long as the change is approved by MD State Highway Administration. This bill will be effective October 1, 2021.
PEPCO Trail paving funded – more detail here. $10 Million was appropriated to Montgomery Parks to pave 7 miles of an existing 13 mile natural surface trail that runs along an electric powerline right of way from South Germantown to Cabin John Regional Park. The trail goes along a electric powerline right-of-way.
Passed but Vetoed by Governor Hogan
HB 114 – Maryland Transit Administration – Funding and MARC Rails Extension Study – establishes and funds a Purple Line Grant program for businesses along the light rail corridor and funds a study on extending MARC service to West Virginia. It is likely the veto will be overridden by the legislature in 2022.
Proposed but Not Passed
HB 564 – Montgomery County –Automated Traffic Enforcement – the bill would have allowed Montgomery County to transfer the automated traffic enforcement program (Speed and red light cameras) from the police (MCPD) to the transportation agency (MCDOT), thus placing this program with the agency primarily responsible for Vision Zero and any redesign of the roads. In addition, removing this program from police responsibility could be an initial step towards removing armed police from traffic enforcement overall and thus reducing friction (often racially motivated) between the police and drivers. This bill passed the House of Delegates, but failed to get a floor vote in the Senate.
HB 0067 – Maryland Department of Transportation Promises Act – bill would have placed restrictions on public-private partnerships and aimed to hold the Maryland Department of Transportation and Hogan Administration to many of the promises made during highway expansion planning. The bill would prohibit the Board of Public Works from approving a phase public-private partnership agreement for the I-495 and I-270 Public-Private Partnership Program unless the payment of the toll revenue is transferred to a certain special fund; it also would authorize a public-private partnership agreement for the Program to require a bidder to agree to initiate a community benefit agreement. This bill did not pass either house.