The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) makes every effort to ensure the transparency and accessibility of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) as part of our customer service focused model.
The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) makes every effort to ensure the transparency and accessibility of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) as part of our customer service focused model. The program is administered by MDOT SHA and as such has a web page within the MDOT SHA website. This page includes detailed information about the RTP, the application process and general grant management requirements. There are links to the online application portal, Program Manual and frequently asked questions for grant submission. As part of MDOT SHA, we are included in the Bike/Ped Committee listserv, which we use to alert constituents to program updates.
Prior to each application cycle, we host training seminars in each of Maryland’s four regions in order to provide details about the program, application process and evaluation criteria. We also provide an opportunity for potential sponsors to meet with us individually to discuss their projects. This seminar is also hosted online, and the webinar is recorded and posted on the RTP web page. In our information sharing formats we stress that a priority in the RTP evaluation criteria is that a project is shovel ready. Finally, our project selections are announced via press release by the Secretary’s Office with our data submitted to American Trails.
Maryland is unique in that it is one of only a few RTPs administered directly by the Department of Transportation. As such we have a high level of expertise in transportation project delivery, regulations and financial accountability. We have strict financial processes with multiple levels of approval to ensure accountability. We provide technical assistance to all sponsors to ensure that procurement and financial regulations are followed. We provide routine field inspections to verify that all work is completed to specifications prior to contractor payment. Our documentation standards for reimbursement are stringent, requiring submission of invoices, payroll records, verification of payment and timesheets. As a result of our process, our reimbursement rate for RTP projects is very high rarely requiring the denial of reimbursements.
The customer service focused approach of RTP demands that we work closely with all project sponsors through every step of a project workflow. Relationship-building is an important part of that. Our MOUs are limited to three years with extensions requiring an executed MOU amendment with staff justification. We also provide coordination to assist sponsors with obtaining NEPA and right-of-way certifications. Seventy-five percent of our 2016 and 2017 projects are completed with the remaining projects actively moving toward completion.
Due to the complexities of the procurement process, which in Maryland is more rigorous than the Federal requirements, there is a close review and approval process prior to advertisement. This results in a higher rate of successful procurement of contracts and services. It also makes the project completion process more successful and moves the project forward at a timely pace.
We have tight fiscal controls and timelines assisting sponsors with cash flow concerns. We require semiannual progress reports and when projects are moving into construction or active maintenance, field inspections assist with keeping projects moving forward.
As an RTP administered through the Department of Transportation, we can eliminate a number of complications often found in the obligation process. The RTP manager routinely works with the Federal Aid Programming department throughout the authorization/obligation process. With our close relationship with each sponsor we are able to facilitate the MOU and NEPA process so frequently we are able to obligate our funds in the first half of the award year. We have raised both the minimum and maximum project award amounts, which has resulted in fewer projects that are of higher quality. The result is a higher rate of obligation each year. We have been able to close out unsuccessful legacy projects and reobligate these funds to high quality projects. We currently have a limited amount of unobligated funds and limited risk of inactivity.
MDOT SHA ensures equal opportunity through our solicitation process by including application cycle information on the RTP web page where we post the application webinar and frequently asked questions. We also utilize the MDOT SHA Bike/Ped Committee listserv to announce application timelines. We offer pre-submission reviews and technical assistance to all applicants. Our advisory committee is made up of representatives from numerous State agencies as well as community members to ensure fair representation in the process. We announce our annual awards via a press release from the Secretary’s Office. Finally, we offer debrief meetings to all sponsors who do not receive an award and technical assistance to improve their project’s future competitiveness.
2013: West Virginia