State transportation department spends $36,000 to rebrand, unify agencies

The Maryland Department of Transportation has spent more than $36,000 on a rebranding, part of an effort to centralize operations and unify the state’s transportation agencies under Secretary Pete Rahn’s office.

Rahn, appointed to Gov. Larry Hogan’s Cabinet in 2015 after leading transportation agencies in New Mexico and Missouri, said he arrived in Maryland to find transportation agencies that didn’t coordinate with one another and operated independently of the secretary’s office.

His answer: rebranding to create a new identity and requiring the heads of the Maryland Transit, State Highway, Maryland Aviation, Maryland Port and Motor Vehicle administrations and the Maryland Transportation Authority to meet at his Hanover headquarters each Monday morning to discuss how they can better collaborate.

“It goes back to culture,” he said. “They have to understand they have to support each other.”

The department’s new logo, a Maryland-flag-colored “MDOT” that replaced a 1970s-era design, cost the state $4,700 and came from an online contest on the site 99designs in a process that Rahn said saved taxpayers from paying far more for a logo.

“There were a lot of suggestions, and most of them were way off the mark,” he said. “As soon as we saw it, everybody goes, ‘That’s it. That’s it.’ ”

The overhaul and the weekly administrator meeting drew grumbles initially, Rahn acknowledged. But he said the various agencies — and Maryland residents who use their services — have seen results.

Moves like combining the MDTA and MTA police academies, which had operated separately, and eliminating other redundancies between agencies eventually could save the department as much as $1 billion, Rahn said. Others, such as having State Highway Administration crews plow MVA parking lots so facilities can open promptly after snowstorms, are designed to make the agencies more customer-friendly, he said.

“The opportunity for the savings are huge,” Rahn said. “There are many multiples of millions of dollars if we can function as one organization and find those synergies. Compared to what the benefits can be, this is a very small expense.”

The rebranded logo is being phased in across the agencies mostly as outdated equipment is replaced, Rahn said. Most of the costs obtained in a request by The Baltimore Sun — about $31,000 — involved office decorations at the secretary’s headquarters.

:

  • $14,680 for a large logo sign on the facade of the MDOT headquarters
  • $7,210 for front wall signage at the Harry Hughes bridge
  • $1,843 for interior glass lettering and directional signs
  • $1,671.90 for tablecloths and table runners
  • $769.56 for prototype MDOT flags
  • $1,888.00 for signage in the secretary’s suite
  • $1,444.48 for signage in the fourth-floor lobby and secretary’s suite
  • $1,888 for secretary’s suite reception area logo

Jim White, the CEO of the Maryland Port Administration, initially groused at having to attend a weekly synergy meeting. New agreements made in those meetings with the SHA and MDTA, though, have allowed the port to expand trucking hours around holidays and dramatically reduce permitting wait times for truckers — which had major effects on the port’s business, he said.

“I think government meets too much,” he said. “But I’m the first to raise my hand and say this has helped us.”

The campaign is designed to bring all the agencies under one MDOT umbrella and make sure they’re operating as efficiently as possible, Rahn said.

“We’re all pointed in the right direction,” he said.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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