News & Events
Posted December 2013
Maryland Sets Aside More Funding For Harry Nice Memorial Bridge.
The Fredericksburg (VA) Free Lance-Star (12/9, Dyson) reports that the Maryland Transportation Authority told the King George Board of Supervisors in October that the state set aside $6.1 million to build a new Harry Nice Memorial Bridge. However, in November, state officials “appropriated considerably more: $56 million to be exact.” Notably, the total cost of the project is expected to be over $800.
Source: NSPE, Daily Designs
Posted November 2013
Maryland Board Approves Public-Private Partnership For Purple Line.
The AP (11/6) reports that the Maryland Board of Public works unanimously approved a plan to seek out private partners to build the $2.2 billion Purple Line light rail project across Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The AP notes that board members Gov. Martin O’Malley, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot will need to approve the final plan, which officials say could be ready in December 2014. The AP notes that state officials hope the 16-mil line with 21 stations will open in 2020. The plans calls for companies to invest between $500 million and $900 million and for the state to seek $900 million in Federal money with the state covering the rest.
The Washington Post (11/6, Shaver) reports that the agreement would be “one of the broadest public-private partnerships of any U.S. transit project and the first for a Maryland transit line.” The 35 to 40 year contract could be valued at over $6 billion. The Post explains that the state would reimburse private construction costs over five years as milestones are reached with the private sector assuming risks of delays or overruns. Maryland would them pay the private team $100 million to $200 million annually to run and maintain the line for 30 to 35 years.
The Baltimore Sun (11/6, Dresser) also covers the story.
Source: NSPE, Daily Designs
Posted October 2013
Purple Line Raises Concerns Over Large-Scale Public-Private Partnerships.
A story for the Washington Post (10/12, Shaver) on Maryland’s Purple Line light-rail almost reaches 1,500 words in its reporting on “questions about potential risks and financial impacts” regarding what will be one of the first and largest public-private partnerships in the US, especially given that the Maryland Department of Transportation is going to the state this Wednesday for approval of its 35-year plan for the Purple Line. With “a consortium of private companies” envisioned as the contributors of “$500 million to $900 million” out of the project’s $2.2 billion price tag, the article continues that this group “would be reimbursed for design, construction and equipment costs as work progressed over five years,” following which Maryland would “pay the company $100 million to $200 million annually to operate and maintain the line for 30 years.” The article then notes the reasons for and against initiating a public-private partnership to fund transit projects, versus following the traditional route of solely using government funds, but concludes with comments from the MDOT Secretary, James T. Smith. Addressing state legislators in September, Smith said, “I admit this is the maiden voyage for this idea...If we can’t get a deal that looks good for 30 years . . . we’re not going to recommend it to you.”
The Washington Post (10/13, Shaver) reports in another story on the “potential sources of construction money” for the Purple Line from MTA, which is calling the Line’s financial plan “still fluid.”
Source: NSPE, Daily Designs
Posted September 2013
Mandatory Notice to Employees Regarding Health Care Coverage Due October 1, 2013
All employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act are required to provide written notice to all their employees by October 1, 2013 about the employees’ coverage options through the new health insurance marketplaces. This includes full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees. The notice may be provided by first-class mail, or under some circumstances via electronic mail. Failure to provide the notice may result in a $100 per day penalty.
Employees hired on or after October 1, 2013, the notice must be provided at the time of hire. For 2014, the Department of Labor will consider a notice to be provided at the time of hire if it is provided within 14 days of the employee’s start date.
Content of Notice
The written notice must provide employees with information about: the existence of, and services provided by, health insurance marketplace; how to contact a health insurance marketplace for assistance; the possibility that an employee may lose the right to exclude employer and employee contributions from their federal income tax if the employee purchases a marketplace plan; inform the employee that he or she may be eligible for a premium tax credit if the employee purchases a qualified health plan through a health insurance marketplace; and the possibility the employee could lose their employer contribution to any employer-provided health plan if the employee purchases a marketplace plan.
Department of Labor Guidance Available
Two model notices are available from the U.S. Labor Department to help employers satisfy the notice requirement. To view model notices:
Also employers may find the Department’s Technical Release 2013-02 of assistance (www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/tr13-02.html).
Maryland Gubernatorial Candidates Divided Over Fracking.
The Gaithersburg (MD) Gazette (9/25, Alexander) writes that Dominion Resources’ push “to export natural gas from Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay has drilling for natural gas causing pains on both sides of the state and the political aisle.” Those who oppose the company’s proposal to export LNG from its Cove Point facility in Calvert County fear among other things that this “would lead to fracking in Maryland.” The Gazette notes how some Republican and Democratic candidates for governor are lining up on the issue: Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), Del. Ronald A. George (R-Anne Arundel), and Harford County Executive David R. Craig, a Republican, support fracking. Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), a member of the Fracking Safety Commission, and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) are more circumspect, concerned about the impact fracking could have on public health and the environment.
Source: NSPE, Daily Designs
On September 15, Col. (MDDF) David S. Thaler, PE, LS, F.ASCE, F.NSPE was "deeply honored" to receive the highest military honor of the State of Maryland, the Maryland Distinguished Service Cross for leadership, outstanding service, and selfless devotion to duty. Thaler has served with the 121st Maryland Engineering Regiment of the Maryland Defense Force.
Presenting the award to Thaler is Lt. General H Steven Blum former Chief of the National Guard Bureau and Deputy Commander of United States Northern Command.
Thaler is a Past President and current Awards Committee Chair of the Maryland Society of Professional Engineers.
Posted August 2013
NTSB Releases Preliminary Report On Chesapeake Bay Bridge Accident.
The AP (8/20) reports that the NTSB’s preliminary report indicated that the driver of the tractor-trailer that struck two cars, eventually sending one of them into the water “was on his first trip in the U.S. without a more experienced operator.” Citing the NTSB’s report, the article adds that the truck driver indicated that “before the accident, he had looked at the driver-side mirror,” because of sounds and lights “behind him.” According to the AP, the truck driver said that when he glanced “back to the road, traffic had stopped,” and he was not able to avoid crashing into Morgan Lake’s car, which fell into the bay.
The Washington Post (8/20, Halsey) reports that the NTSB was prompted to examine the accident after AAA raised questions about whether the “Jersey barriers” on the bridge give adequate protection in keeping vehicles from falling over the edge. According to the article, the NTSB’s report indicated that the barriers meet “performance standards.” Bruce Gartner, executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority, was quoted as saying that the NTSB’s report doesn’t “indicate any structural concerns for the barrier type used” on the bridge.
The Baltimore Sun (8/19, Wells) reports that Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski released a statement following the release of the preliminary report, praising the NTSB for “their commitment to get to the bottom of this horrific crash.” According to the article, Mikulski said that “she looked forward to” the agency issuing further bridge safety recommendations.
WUSA-TV Washington (8/20, Pettus) reports online that officials with the NTSB said that weather conditions at the time of the accident “were clear and dry, and no mechanical defects” were discovered in “any of the vehicles involved in the accident.” WUSA-TV also aired coverage of the story.
Source: NSPE, Daily Designs
Don Helm, past president of the Baltimore Chapter and former VP of MDSPE, visiting China
Don Helm, past president of the Baltimore Chapter and former VP of MDSPE, will be visiting China from mid-September to mid-October as a guest of IAEG2013 and Nanjing University. He has been invited to give a Keynote Address to the Plenary Session of the 2013 meeting of the International Association of Egineering Geology and the Environment. His presentation is entitled "Understanding Darcian Flow Leads to Understanding Aquifer Mechanics." They had his price when they offered not only a free trip to China including international airfare, but generously included his wife in the offer. Both he and Karen are both looking forward to the trip immensely.
Posted July 2013
NTSB To Investigate Issues In Chesapeake Bay Bridge Crash.
The NTSB’s decision to send two investigators to look into the July 19 crash in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge garnered a fair amount of coverage from mostly local news sources. Coverage of the NTSB was generally positive in tone, with many reports noting that officials with the Maryland Transportation Authority were welcoming the agency’s assistance.
The AP (7/25) reports that on Wednesday, the NTSB said that it will investigate a recent “accident on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in which a car that collided with a tractor-trailer went over the railing and into the water.” According to the article, the agency indicated that it was dispatching two investigators to meet with local officials about last week’s accident. Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and AAA Mid-Atlantic had called for the NTSB to review the safety of the bridge.
The Baltimore Sun (7/24, Thomson) reports that the NTSB said in a statement that its two investigators will meet with officials from the Maryland Transportation Authority to determine whether last week’s accident “exposed safety issues of national concern or identified deficiencies” in the bridge. MdTA officials said that they welcomed the NTSB’s assistance. The Baltimore Sun (7/24, Fritze) also covers the story in a separate article.
WBAL-TV Baltimore (7/25) reports online that the NTSB’s decision to investigate the accident came as calls from Sen. Mikulski and AAA “grew louder” for the agency to conduct a probe on the bridge. WBAL-TV also aired coverage of the story.
WJZ-TV Baltimore (7/24) reports online that investigators with the NTSB will examine the bridge’s “physical structure” and “traffic patterns.”
Also covering the story are WTTG-TV, WUSA-TV, the Delmarva (MD) Daily Times (7/24), and WJLA-TV Washington (7/25, Bell).
Video Capture’s Woman’s Survival After Car Goes Over Bridge. The Washington Post (7/24, Du Lac) reports that Scott Fortney, who was on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, captured footage of Morgan Lake swimming to safety after her car went over the railing and crashed into the water. The video is posted on the Post’s website.
Source: NSPE, Daily Designs
Posted June 2013
University Of Maryland Researchers Are Testing Wooden Batteries That Add Flexibility To Energy Storage.
Wired UK (6/20, Warr) reported that researchers at the University of Maryland are testing batteries made from slices of wood coated in tin. “This combined with the use of tin and wood could lower the cost of production.” Wired UK explained, “The benefit of using wood is that the fibres make it flexible enough to withstand hundreds of expansions and contractions as the battery charges and discharges electrons.” According to the researchers, “the current prototype can withstand over 400 charging cycles.”
Source: NSPE, Daily Designs
Maryland Transportation Officials, Private Sector Discuss New Light-Rail Line.
The Washington Post (6/11, Shaver) reports in its “Dr. Gridlock” blog that “for the second time in a few weeks, Maryland transportation officials gathered engineering, financial and transit firms Monday to solicit ideas for ways the private sector can help the state build and pay for a new light-rail line,” discussing “plans to build a $2.6 billion Red Line through Baltimore.” Maryland “is seeking highly competitive federal aid to fund half of both” Red and Purple Line “projects, which could end up pitting the two against each other at a national level,” because “even if the Federal Transit Administration were to award money to both, the state would then need to find money to cover its share or pick one to build first.”
The Baltimore Sun (6/10) quotes Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who said, “It’s our responsibility to look at all options of financing and delivering these projects. We want to explore every option and not take anything off the table. There may come a time where we realize, hey, one project works better as a traditional procurement rather than a P3, or visa versa. We’re in steep learning mode right now.”
SOURCE: NSPE, Daily Designs
University Of Maryland University College Shuts Intellectual Property Center.
Inside Higher Ed (6/10) reports the University of Maryland University College shut down its Center for Intellectual Property. University spokesperson Bob Ludwig said, “The decision to close the Center for Intellectual Property was basically based on a process we went through to refocus our priorities and meet our budget gap we were facing for the next fiscal year.”
SOURCE: NSPE, Daily Designs
Posted March 2013
2013 Maryland State MATHCOUNTS Competition at Johns Hopkins University
On Saturday, March 16, 2013, 28 official school teams of four mathletes each and 81 official individuals (193 official mathletes total) along with 35 unofficial alternates from 61 schools across Maryland competed in the Maryland Society of Professional Engineer’s Annual Maryland State MATHCOUNTS Competition at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. These middle school students were the select top finishers from more than 750 mathletes from 111 schools who competed in February at the County level to move to the State Competition.
MATHCOUNTS is a national mathematics competition for sixth, seventh and eight grade students with the purpose of increasing enthusiasm for and enhancing achievement in middle school mathematics throughout the United States. Developed in 1983 as the first nationwide program of its kind, MATHCOUNTS combines the efforts of volunteers, educators, industry sponsors, the government and the technology community to promote math excellence among middle school students. The mission of MATHCOUNTS is to provide fun and challenging math programs for US middle school students to increase their academic and professional opportunities. A grassroots network of more than 17,000 volunteers organize MATHCOUNTS competitions nationwide. Each year over 500 local competitions and 56 "state" competitions are conducted, primarily by chapter and state societies of the National Society of Professional Engineers.
The Maryland State competition on March 16th began at 9:30 am with the Sprint Round comprised of 30 questions in a 40-minute time frame and assuming no calculators. Next came the Target round, which included four pairs of questions, each pair receiving six minutes to solve the two problems and with the use of calculators allowed. These two rounds were scored and provided the rankings for individual finishers. The score is the number of correct Sprint Round questions plus two times the number of correct Target Round questions for a maximum possible total of 46 points.
The Team Round followed with each school’s four Mathletes working together, using calculators, to solve 10 problems in 20 minutes. The average individual scores were combined with the Team Round scores to determine the top schools.
The top sixteen individual finishers (no more than four from any one school) then participated in the Countdown Round. This round places two Mathletes competing head-to-head to see who can answer correctly the most number of questions quickest. Each round consists of three questions. The questions are asked and the Mathletes have up to 45 seconds to answer. The first one to answer correctly receives one point and the Mathlete with the most correct questions moves on to the next round.
Posted January 2013
NSPE Announces New Executive Director
Mark Golden CAE, F.ASAE
Mark served as Executive Director of the National Court Reporters Association for approximately 14 years. He began his association career in government relations and held progressively responsible positions, including industry affairs, in several associations.
Mark received his Bachelor of Arts with a double major from the University of Virginia, graduating with “High Distinction;” magna cum laude in English. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives, and was awarded the Key Award, ASAE’s highest honor, in 2011 in recognition of his “exceptional qualities of leadership in his or her own association.”
Mark replaces outgoing Executive Director Larry Jacobson.
Volunteers Needed for MathCounts
MdBio Foundation CEO: Maryland Needs To Take Five Steps To Shore Up STEM Education
In an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun (1/22, Gaines), Brian Gaines, CEO of MdBio Foundation, writes, "Only 32 percent of Maryland eighth graders are deemed proficient in science, according to the National Assessment for Educational Progress. That means 28 other states do a better job preparing their students in science than Maryland." Gaines went on to discuss the five keys goals Maryland must pursue in STEM. "Increase business partnerships: With one of the nation's highest concentrations of technology firms, Maryland's corporate community has a big stake in how we teach the next generation of workers." Also, Gaines writes, "Cultivate minority students: We must open the door to science careers for those underrepresented in the STEM workforce: women, African-Americans and Hispanics."
Maryland Fracking Study May Not Be Done Before 2014
The Washington Post (1/18, Havard) reports Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) included $1.5 million in his FY 2014 budget proposal for fracking study. However, even if the state legislature approves the study funding, it seems "unlikely that the study would produce conclusive results this year," suggesting the state's "de-facto moratorium" will remain in effect at least until 2014. Thursday during a Delegates' Environmental Matters Committee meeting "state Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers said that while 'it's not theoretically impossible' that the study would produce conclusive findings by an August 2014 deadline, it might lead only to more studies," because during that "study we may discover more that we need to look at."
Poll Says New York Voters Narrowly Oppose Fracking
The Wall Street Journal/AP (1/18, Subscription Publication) reports a phone poll conducted by Siena Research Institute from Jan. 10-15 surveying 676 registered New York voters found 44% oppose the "Department of Environmental Conservation lifting a 4 ½-year-old ban on gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing," while 40% want the ban lifted. The margin is slightly wider in upstate New York, with 51% opposing and 38% supporting fracking. Last month's poll showed "voters statewide narrowly supported fracking, 42-36%."
Posted August 2012
Maryland, Virginia Transportation Secretaries Write LaHood Over Grout Concerns.
The Baltimore Sun (8/9, Thomson, 202K) reports, "Grout used to protect steel support cables in the Woodrow Wilson Bridge...may be contaminated with an excessive level of chloride, a corroding substance known to accelerate rusting." Twenty one states were warned by the Federal Highway Administration "that as many as three dozen bridges were built with possibly defective grout manufactured in Ohio between November 2002 and March 2010." The leaders of the respective transportation departments in Maryland and Virginia wrote US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the issue and "expressed concern that the problem could develop so early in the bridge's life span: 'After struggling so long collectively to plan, design, fund and build the WWB, we need to ensure its integrity.'"
Posted July 2012
GOVERNOR O’MALLEY, GOOGLE ANNOUNCE FREE WEBSITES FOR MARYLAND BUSINESSES
Google Launches Maryland Get Your Business Online Program
ANNAPOLIS, MD (July 5, 2012) – Governor Martin O’Malley and Google today announced the launch of Maryland Get Your Business Online – a program designed to support Maryland businesses by providing the tools and resources to establish a website, find new customers, and grow their business. Increasing the number of small businesses online is one of the best ways to expand the Maryland economy.
Maryland Get Your Business Online is an easy and fast way for Maryland businesses to gain an online presence. Over the next year, participating Maryland businesses can go to www.MarylandGetOnline.com to get a free website as well as free tools, training and resources to help their business succeed online. Google is partnering with Intuit to provide its popular Intuit Websites offerings for free including an easy-to-build website, a customized domain name and web-hosting for one year.
In addition, business owners from across Maryland are invited to the kickoff event at the Legg Mason Tower, 100 International Drive in Baltimore on July 17th from 8:30am-3:00pm. Participants will learn how to build their own website, as well as attend sessions devoted to growing and promoting their business online.
Businesses simply limit their exposure to customers if they don’t have a website. Small businesses need to be online because that’s where their customers are. While 97% of Americans look online for local products and services, 53% of Maryland small businesses do not have a website or online presence. In America today, no matter the size of the business, having a website is as vital as having a phone.
“Maryland is a recognized leader in giving entrepreneurs and small business owners the tools and resources they need to serve their vital role as the lifeblood of our economy,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Getting every Maryland small business online is one more critical step we can take together to stay competitive and expand opportunity in this rapidly-changing, 21st century economy.”
“The perception that getting online is complex, costly and time-consuming has prevented many Maryland small businesses from taking the first step,” said Scott Levitan, Director of Small Business Engagement at Google. “This program makes it fast, easy and free for businesses to get online."
“As a leading provider of small business solutions, we have witnessed the growth small businesses have seen from getting online,” said Jennifer Creager, Product Manager at Intuit. “We are excited to offer Intuit Websites for free to all the wonderful small businesses in Maryland and to help them create a customized presence that represents their unique brands.”
Both the website and event registration are currently available. For further information, please visit www.MarylandGetOnline.com.
Posted March 2012
Maryland PEs Seek to Protect Licensing Board Funds
The Maryland Society of Professional Engineers is supporting legislation that would protect designated funding for the Maryland State Board for Professional Engineers and other professional design licensing boards from being redirected into the state’s general fund.
The bill (S.B. 619), introduced in February, would amend the Maryland constitution to prohibit the transfer of specific dedicated funds for occupational and professional licensing design boards to the state’s general fund, except under specified conditions. The designated funds could be redirected for general use if the governor declared an emergency or if the Maryland General Assembly passed a law to alter how the dedicated funds could be used. If passed by the assembly, the amendment would be placed on the ballot for voters to approve or reject.
The Maryland Society testified to the Senate Committee on Budget and Tax to express concern about the security of the design boards’ fund, which is generated by fees paid by licensed design professionals. MSPE favors a constitutional amendment because of past failures to protect the fund.
The legislature established the special fund in 2003, when design professionals became dissatisfied with the poor service of the licensing boards due to insufficient staffing. MSPE and other design professionals lobbied to establish a fee system that would increase revenues to allow the boards to pay for more staff and provide essential services.
When the state began to feel the effects of the economic downturn in 2008, the Office of Management and Budget began to apply the same spending restrictions on the design boards that were placed on agencies and boards supported by the state’s general fund. The design boards were instructed not to fill staff vacancies, even if the funds were available. Eventually, legislators began looking at the special fund’s surplus as a source of revenue for the general fund.
In 2009, the Society received assurance from Thomas Perez, the Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, that the special funds wouldn’t be redirected into the general fund. However, $300,000 was transferred from the design board fund to help close the state’s budget gap in 2010. This transfer of funds resulted in more additional fees for design professionals in order to replace the revenue.
Posted December 2011
MDSPE Approved Provider For Land Surveyors’ Continuing Education
BALTIMORE: December 29, 2011 –The Maryland Society of Professional Engineers (MDSPE) has been approved as a provider of continuing education credits for Maryland Professional Land Surveyors, enabling these surveyors to receive continuing education credits through courses provided through MDSPE. After being requested by some licensed land surveyors to do so, MDSPE recently submitted an application to the Continuing Professional Competency (CPC) Standards Committee to make MDSPE a provider for land surveyors in Maryland to receive continuing education credits. MDSPE is already an approved provider for professional engineers’ continuing education credits. On December 22, 2011, MDSPE received the official approval letter from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) stating that MDSPE is now an approved provider for land surveyors.
All Maryland licensed Professional Land Surveyors are required to obtain 24 Continuing Professional Competency (CPC) credits to renew their licenses. A land surveyor’s job is to find and measure certain locations on land. They record specific information and provide detailed land maps that can be used by many professionals in the engineering field. Becoming an approved provider for Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors enables MDSPE to create and maintain a connection between the intertwining professions. MDSPE is proud to assist professionals in their specified fields to achieve the necessary requirements needed to maintain their credentials.
Posted November 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MDSPE Holds Inaugural Conference
BALTIMORE: October 26, 2011 – The Engineers Club was filled with the chatter and buzz of professional engineers on Wednesday, October 26, 2011. Why might you ask? The Maryland Society of Professional Engineers (MDSPE) held their inaugural conference at the historical Mt. Vernon estate. This all day conference started with breakfast at 8:00am and ended with a keynote speaker and reception around 6:00pm. This conference was the first for MDSPE and provided informative concurrent morning and afternoon sessions that were either on the professional or technical track. Registrants could choose if they wanted to attend the full conference, morning sessions only, or afternoon sessions only. They also had the opportunity to preselect what sessions they wanted to attend to gain continuing education credits.
“Since this was the first Maryland Engineers Conference, the challenge was to create everything from scratch. Though working with MDSPE leaders who have the passion, experience, and altruistic devotion turned this challenge into an exciting endeavor,” said Amanda Lee, MDSPE Executive Director.
In light of recent Maryland regulations that now require continuing professional competency (CPC) for a licensee as a condition of PE license renewal, offering opportunities to fulfill credits is now of utmost importance for MDSPE. Karen Moran, Vice President of Education for MDPSE, sat in on all the professional track sessions which included, PE Code of Ethics and the New Maryland PE Laws for Continuing Education. Ms. Moran explained that a conference such as this one is a valuable benefit for professional engineers because “it provides attendees with some worthwhile opportunities for obtaining continuing education credits at a reasonable cost”. The attendees will receive certificates denoting their participation and the number of credits they have received.
The overall satisfaction and success of this inaugural conference was evident throughout the day. Ms. Lee explained, “now that the framework and foundation of a MDSPE conference is established, we can shape the content around what the attendees want most out of a future conference. “We would like to see a diversification of offerings so engineers in many disciplines would be interested in attending in the future,” said Ms. Moran.
MDSPE President Ed Hubner explains that “we at the state level work to protect the engineering profession and inspire the next generation of engineers through a multitude of activities hosted by our Society”.
MDSPE is the Maryland Chapter of the National Society of Professional Engineers. Through education, advocacy, leadership training, multi-disciplinary networking, and outreach, MDSPE enhances the image of its members and their ability to ethically and professionally practice engineering.
MWAA Approves Financing Deal For Phase 2 Of Dulles Rail
The Washington Post (11/17, Hedgpeth) reports the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority approved an agreement Wednesday for the second phase financing of the $6 billion Metrorail extension to Loudoun County. The MWAA "also approved a 'project labor agreement' to build the nearly 12 miles of rail line, which will run from Reston to Dulles and terminate at Ryan Road in Loudoun."
The Washington Times (11/17, Sherfinski) reports the MWAA and Virginia "have reached a tentative agreement on a labor pact that had threatened to quash a deal in which the state would contribute additional money to the Dulles Metrorail project. Any project labor agreement on the second phase of the project cannot force job applicants to join a union as a condition of employment, and nonunion contractors and subcontractors cannot be discriminated against when seeking work, under language approved Wednesday by the agency's board of directors."
The Washington (DC) Examiner (11/17) recalls when Secretary LaHood agreed to give the MWAA up to $250 million in loans. Of that, MWAA's Dulles Committee Chairwoman Mame Reiley said, "Clearly, LaHood pulled something out of his hat. We're grateful he found money we were all told didn't exist." The $250 million, authority members said, "is not enough to ensure that tolls won't have to be raised significantly on the Dulles Toll Road to help pay for the rail line, which will run from Falls Church through Tysons Corner and out to Washington Dulles International Airport."
Hearing On Fort Meade Project Scheduled For Thursday
The Hometown Annapolis (MD) (11/17) reports state and federal officials "will hold a public hearing Thursday to discuss a project on Route 198 that would improve access to Fort George G. Meade." The goal "is to improve traffic capacity along the roadway and increase motor vehicle and bicycle safety, while supporting development in the area.. ... Officials from the county, the State Highway Administration, Fort Meade, the US Army Corps of Engineers-Baltimore District and the Federal Highway Administration will be there to discuss the project."
Posted August 2011
Baltimore County to begin revision to land-use regulations
By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun
6:06 p.m. EDT, August 28, 2011
An east-side Baltimore County Council member expects the owners of a sprawling old warplane factory to seek rezoning of their property. A Towson lawyer will try for a third time for new zoning allowing a small office building. North county activists plan to study maps looking for environmentally sensitive areas that might need protection from development.
The time has come to redraw the zoning map of a county that stretches from the Pennsylvania line to the Chesapeake Bay, 612 square miles of suburbia, urban centers, town main streets, farms and waterfront. With property use and values at stake, the process, carried out every four years, will unfold over the next 14 months in public hearings, official review, County Council votes and, finally, new maps to be published in November 2012.
Tom Quirk Council members and planning officials say the process is shaping up quietly, perhaps suggesting a less intense cycle than 2008. In that round, the council ultimately decided 579 requests on 14,034 acres, two-thirds of which was in the mostly rural northern county.
"We have not gotten the level of inquiries we normally would have had" at this time, said Jeff Mayhew, deputy director of community development and a 21-year veteran of the Planning Department. He said the slow economy may have something to do with that, but also he said that many zoning issues in the council district with the most land, the northern 3rd District, have been resolved during the past two cycles.
For the public, businesses and community associations, the period for filing zoning requests — and paying fees that range from $125 to $2,325 per request — runs from Sept. 1 through Oct. 14. The Planning Board and planning director have the month of October to file their requests, then members of the County Council can file through the end of November.
Members of the public can submit requests in person at the Planning Department office in Towson, but county officials say the technology for filing applications online has been improved, and they hope more people choose that option. The applicant for rezoning does not have to own the property to ask for rezoning.
None of the seven County Council members reported a noticeable rush of interest in the weeks before the filing period begins. Two members, Tom Quirk of Catonsville and Cathy Bevins of Middle River, wondered if the planned unit development process hasn't to some degree taken the place of rezoning. The PUD process allows the developer to exceed the limits of existing zoning in exchange for some community benefit.
District 3 Councilman Todd Huff, of Lutherville said, "Four years ago at this time they were inundated" with questions about rezoning in his district. Now, he said, "we've had less than a handful of inquiries."
Huff said he figures that so many zoning changes were made in the past two cycles under his predecessor, T. Bryan McIntire, that it's possible there aren't many pressing issues remaining.
McIntire, who served 16 years and lost to Huff in the Republican primary last year, is distinguished for helping to set aside tens of thousands of acres in his district for less intensive development. The move is known as "downzoning," as opposed to "upzoning" for more intense use or greater density that can potentially make land more valuable.
"Yes, I think he probably downzoned more property than any councilman in the country," said Teresa Moore, executive director of the Valleys Planning Council, an organization devoted to preserving open space in a 130-square-mile northwestern section of the county. "I think that was really the mark of his tenure as a councilman."
Indeed, rezoning is where council members wield their greatest power, as their word will almost always prevail on zoning matters in their own districts. Under the practice of "councilmanic courtesy," members tend to back zoning changes their colleagues want in their own districts.
Kirsten Burger, president of the north county Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council, said members of her group in the next few weeks will be examining a database of maps and information about natural resources, looking for places where environmentally sensitive land might need protection from development.
"That's the kind of property we've looked at in the past," said Burger, adding that it was too early to say what requests the group might make.
Charles Brooks, a lawyer with an office in a converted home on Bosley Avenue and West Joppa Road in Towson, had no doubt that he'll be asking once more to have the zoning changed for six properties, one of which he owns.
"Absolutely," said Brooks, who tried in vain in 2004 and in 2008 to change the zoning to allow taller buildings, which would allow him to put up an office building about three stories high. There's a 31/2-story building right behind his and he's near busy Bosley Avenue, so he doesn't see why an office building on his property would be out of place.
"It doesn't make any sense to me," said Brooks.
The owners of the enormous depot/warehouse that used to be a World War II bomber factory on 50 acres on Eastern Boulevard in Middle River are also looking for new zoning, said District 6 Councilwoman Bevins, who represents that area.
"That's definitely a property I know they'll be coming in looking for a change," said Bevins, who has met with representatives of the people who bought the property at auction in 2006 for $37.5 million. She said the current zoning — Manufacturing Heavy Industrial Major — would not allow for the sort of mixed use that the owners have discussed.
She said she thought a combination of professional buildings that could bring jobs to the area, perhaps senior housing and a "nice mix of retail" would well suit the spot not far from Interstate 95 and Route 43.
The property, which had been used as a distribution center by the U.S. General Services Administration, "has great potential," she said.
Source: The Baltimore Sun
Quake Rattles Nerves But Infrastructure Holds Up.
The AP (8/24, Subscription Publication) reports on Tuesday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake that affected areas along the East Coast. According to the report, "the North Anna nuclear power station, located in the same county as the quake's epicenter" in Virginia "shut its twin reactors." The article said that "twelve other nuclear sites from Michigan to North Carolina declared what regulators call 'unusual events,' without any reported damage." Additionally, it notes that "the Tennessee Valley Authority was inspecting 15 dams for damage."
Source: NSPE Daily Designs
Twelve Nuclear Plants Under Increased Scrutiny Following East Coast Earthquake.
The AP (8/24, Daly) reports, "Nuclear plants from North Carolina to Michigan are under increased scrutiny after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the East Coast." Twelve plants "declared an 'unusual event,' the lowest level of emergency, after Tuesday's earthquake," according to the NRC. "Virginia's North Anna Power Station, about 13 miles from the epicenter, issued an alert, the next highest emergency level." Besides "Surry, the other plants declaring an unusual event were the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Maryland; Peach Bottom, Three Mile Island, Susquehanna and Limerick plants in Pennsylvania; Salem, Hope Creek and Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Shearon Harris in North Carolina; and D.C. Cook and Palisades in Michigan."
In a different wire article, the AP (8/24) reports the "quake was felt as far north as Toronto, as far west as Indiana and Kentucky and as far south as Atlanta and Savannah, Ga. It was also felt on Martha's Vineyard off Massachusetts, where President Barack Obama, who is vacationing there, was getting ready to tee off in a round of golf." The "White House said there were no reports of major damage to the nation's infrastructure, including airports and nuclear facilities."
Bloomberg News (8/24, Deprez, Selway) reports, "In the Philadelphia area, where windows rattled and tall buildings swayed, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent inspectors to power plants and declared an 'unusual event,' the lowest of NRC emergency classifications, said Diane Screnci, an agency spokeswoman in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania."
Reuters (8/24, O'Grady) reported that a spokeswoman with the NRC's region 1 office said plants in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland were not affected by the 5.9 magnitude earthquake. Though 26 reactors units in the region declared NOUEs, the spokeswoman said, no significant damage was reported. The Detroit Free Press (8/24) and the Chicago Tribune /Los Angeles Times (8/24, Mason, Simon, Susman), also covered the earthquake.
Four Exelon Plants Declare Unusual Events Following Quake. According to Dow Jones Newswires (8/24, Sweet), Exelon said four of its nuclear plants had declared 'unusual events' following the earthquake in northern Virginia. According to Exelon spokeswoman April Schilpp, plant operators at Limerick station near Philadelphia, Oyster Creek near Toms River, New Jersey, Peach Bottom near Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Three Mile Island Unit 1 plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, are inspecting their facilities and equipment for any damage or impacts.
Source: NSPE Daily Designs
Maryland Researcher Develops Wireless Sensors For Bridges
WTOP-FM Washington (DC) Washington, DC (8/1, Tuss) reported on University of Maryland researcher Mehdi Kalantari's work on wireless sensors to provide warnings of problems with bridges to prevent a catastrophic collapse. "Kalantari has been working on this bridge sensor technology for about five years, and says it is ready to be mass produced." He said, "We are going to go to the US Department of Transportation to pitch this technology for 12 percent or 70,000 bridges across the US that have structural deficiencies."
Source: NSPE Daily Designs
Posted July 2011
Washington Airports Authority Approves Plan To Cut Dulles Rail Costs
The Washington Post (7/21, Marimow) reports, "Washington's airports authority Wednesday abandoned plans to build an underground Metro station at Dulles International Airport," and instead "voted 11 to 1...to endorse the framework of a deal brokered by US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood." Afterwards, "Local political leaders...and commuter advocates praised the board's decision as a victory for toll road users." FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff was at the meeting and said, "I know you're underwhelmed by the secretary's commitment, but I've never seen him spend so much time or pull out so much hair," adding, "This comes down to whether people want to work cooperatively toward a productive end."
The Washington Times (7/21, Sherfinski) adds, "The approval came with some conditions, including provisions that Virginia designate an additional $150 million to the project, that Fairfax and Loudoun counties pay for parking garages to be built at stations in those counties and that Fairfax assume responsibility for funding the proposed Route 28 station."
Source: NSPE Daily Designs
Posted June 2011
Polymer Self-Heals Under Ultraviolet Light
Bloomberg News (4/21, Doss) reports, "Scientists at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Fribourg University in Switzerland, and the US Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, have made a polymer that absorbs ultraviolet light and converts it into localized heat, which allows material made from the molecules to flow into small scratches and dings to repair them, according to a report today in the journal Nature." The polymer, made from unspecified but reportedly commonplace ingredients, is "initially rigid" but "becomes liquid-like when ultraviolet light of a certain intensity hits it." The researchers say the work "may one day lead to longer lifetimes in materials used in transportation, packaging and construction."
According to Popular Science (4/21, Dillow), "The key was finding polymers that are really small that can be coaxed into pretending like they're really big through molecular interactions." The "metallo-supramolecular polymers" the researchers developed "behave in many ways just like normal polymers. But under intense ultraviolet light that molecular glue comes undone, allowing the material to flow like a liquid and fill in a scratch or tear."
Posted May, 2011
Engineering firm opens Baltimore office
By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun
4:31 PM EDT, May 11, 2011
A Virginia-based electrical engineering firm is opening a 43-employee office in Baltimore with plans to expand in the next few years.
M.C. Dean Inc. said it will have a grand-opening event next week at its new facility, a former warehouse on Ostend Street in the city's Sharp-Leadenhall neighborhood. The company expects to increase its employment there to as many as 75 jobs in the next two years.
Posted April, 2011
Daily Record: O’Malley pushes business leaders to help find ‘consensus’ on transportation funding
Posted: 8:42 pm Wed, May 4, 2011
By Nicholas Sohr , Daily Record Business Writer
In a somber speech devoid of applause lines, Gov. Martin O’Malley sought support from business leaders Wednesday evening in finding the money to address the state’s growing transportation needs.
O’Malley, in a speech to the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, did not commit to any specific measures to increase revenue for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. Instead, he spoke broadly of the “big challenge that we, together, have ahead of us when it comes to forging and putting together that precious consensus necessary to address our state’s transportation needs.”
Transportation funding has emerged as a top issue as lawmakers and state officials look toward a special redistricting session in the fall and the regular session to follow in 2012. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding, which O’Malley met with last week, estimates the state needs $800 million more to keep pace with the state’s needs.
O’Malley said the recession swallowed $2 billion of the state’s six-year, $10.6 billion transportation plan.
“In Maryland, we’re doing better than other states, but better is not good enough,” the governor said.
“Other nations, like China, are investing about 10 percent of their gross domestic product every year, on infrastructure,” O’Malley said. “India invests 5 percent of its GDP on infrastructure. Nationally, the United States of America, two [percent].”
O’Malley urged business leaders to engage in the debate over how to increase transportation spending in the state, and to support efforts to do so in the State House. The chamber and the Greater Baltimore Committee, two of the most prominent business organizations in the state, have long supported an increase to the state’s gasoline levy to help boost spending on roads and rail.
By putting that spending off, O’Malley said, “we pay in lost productivity. We pay by sitting in traffic on some sections of 495 that are more parking lot than highway. We pay in an underemployed workforce.”
He alluded to the increased burden on state residents that will come with finding more transportation dollars.
“I’d also like to tell you that if we’d just think more creatively and engage in more public/private partnerships that we will be able to build a $90 million bridge for $10 million… but it’s not true,” O’Malley said, adding later: “These things cost money.”
The governor also defended his increased focus on mass transit projects, saying the Baltimore and Washington regions are underserved.
“That’s why we’re promoting the Purple Line. That’s why we’re promoting the Red Line,” O’Malley said, referring to the planned rail projects in the state’s pipeline.
The transportation funding commission has laid a menu of r