Volume 20, Issue 35 - September 2, 2022

Billions in funding for bus rapid transit systems is spurring large transportation initiatives nationwide
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.

Hundreds of millions in federal funding flowed to bus rapid transit (BRT) systems last month…and there is more to come. Expanding and improving rapid transit systems in America is a high priority for members of Congress and also local government officials. The goal is to make public transportation more convenient and attractive, and the hope is that increased ridership will help relieve traffic congestion and result in cleaner air.


Although some Americans resist public transportation, it is a critical part of the country’s transportation infrastructure, and many people depend on it completely. Because of the funding, there will be upcoming contracting opportunities related to expansion, refurbishing, and redeveloping rapid bus systems for many years.  


To entice more riders, bus rapid transit system officials are working hard to enhance the ridership experience. A BRT trip will soon be faster, easier to access, less crowded, safer, and more comfortable. Opportunities similar to the ones described here are the type that can be found throughout the country.


The Regional Transportation District of Denver, Colorado plans to expand BRT lines along several arterial streets soon. City and county representatives are working together to launch new express bus routes. Denver’s rapid transit service has benefitted from a $55 million capital investment from the city and will soon enter a final design stage for the initiative. The project will include construction, technology, security, acquisition of buses, and more.


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   2023 Texas UTP reaches record $85B   

The adoption of Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) 2023 Unified Transportation Program (UTP) will advance a record $85 billion, 10-year statewide roadway construction plan. The 2023 UTP reflects an unprecedented level of projected transportation funding dedicated to improving transportation safety, addressing congestion and rural connectivity, and preserving roadways for Texas drivers. 


The UTP funds will coincide with an additional $32 billion over the life of the program for routine maintenance contracts and project development, such as planning, professional engineering, and right-of-way acquisition for more than 7,000 transportation projects and a total investment of $117 billion statewide. 


The Office of the Governor says many projects in the UTP plan are roadway segments identified on Texas’ 100 Most Congested Roadways list and critical connectivity corridors. The projects will be funded through legislative and voter-approved initiatives which allocate portions of oil and gas taxes, sales taxes, and other money to the state highway fund.  


The UTP is a planning document that authorizes highway projects for development and construction. Additionally, the UTP identifies public transportation, maritime, aviation, and rail investments. Projects are selected by TxDOT and local transportation leaders based on effectiveness in addressing criteria such as safety, pavement condition, capacity, and rural connectivity, with opportunities for public input at both the state and local levels. 

 Harris County approves $750M flood mitigation grant      

Harris County Commissioners August 31 approved an agreement for a $750 million grant from the General Land Office (GLO) for flood mitigation and to improve areas damaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. GLO is the state agency charged with distributing Hurricane Harvey relief from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  


These Community Development Block Grant - Mitigation (CDBG – MIT) funds must be spent within the next 10 years, with $600 million covering projects and the rest financing administration, IT, and general project delivery. The county, in 2021, estimated a $1.4 billion gap in funding needed to supplement the $2.5 billion flood bond approved by voters in 2018. This $750 million grant will narrow that gap down to $400 million.  


Despite not receiving CDBG - MIT funding in 2021, Harris County Flood Control District projects have been moving forward thanks to the Flood Resilience Trust the county created last year to address the funding gap. The trust is funded with Harris County Toll Road Authority revenues.   

Saluting Texas' Lone Stars

Mike Wilson

Executive Director of Aviation

City of Killeen 

Public career and education highlights: I have worked in airport management for over 42 years. I started in an entry level position at the Brownwood Regional Airport where I spent 25 years, working my way up to Airport Manager. In 2003, I was named General Aviation Airport Manager Of The Year by the Texas Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division. In 2005, I took the position of Airport Operations Manager for the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport. In 2020, I was promoted to the position of Executive Director of Aviation for the City of Killeen.


What I like best about my public service is: The opportunity to meet and serve people.


The best advice I’ve received is: Treat every person you come in contact with the way you would want to be treated if you were in their position.


My favorite way to de-stress is: Spending time with my wife of 37 years, Teresa. 


People might be surprised to know that I: I have been an Ordained Minister for almost 30 years.


One thing I wished more people knew about the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport is: How easy and convenient it is to “Fly Killeen.” Short lines at both the ticket counters and security check points, close-in parking, and great customer service!

Hunt County mulls over future date for new criminal justice center

The Hunt County Commissioners Court on August 23 approved architectural and engineering services for a new criminal justice center. These are the first steps toward asking voters again to approve this public safety facility. Voters defeated the previous measure by a narrow margin in November 2021. The plan was to build the facility on acreage large enough to allow for future expansion and the addition of offices. 


The current county jail was built in 2003 and over the years has lost its structural integrity. Numerous walls have had to be braced to keep them from crumbling. 


The county filed lawsuits against several companies and individuals and was eventually awarded $6 million in settlements. This funding paid contractors that were hired to fix the structural issues.  


The building still needs work to be done on water leaks, sewage backups, cracks in the ceilings, inoperable cell doors, and broken sensors. 


In addition, the county judge said a courts building would be attached to the new criminal justice center. The county also needs more courtroom space, and the Hunt County Courthouse’s status as an official historical building does not permit it to be expanded. 


Plans are still in place to ask voters to support a new criminal justice center. County commissioners have not decided when the next request will be put in front of voters. 

Corpus Christi consolidates North Beach flooding studies into final presentation

On September 6, The Corpus Christi City Council will receive a presentation from an architectural firm on how to fix the North Beach flooding. The area is known to be flooded for days following heavy rain conditions. The firm looked at all the studies the city has done on North Beach flooding over the years. The city says it has spent $830,000 to study the problem. 


The current estimate to mitigate the flooding is $43 million. A new plan may include some linear canals that can not only be used for drainage, but by tourists and residents. 


Other flood mitigation solutions include sand dunes behind beaches, tidal gates and valves, elevated buildings and infrastructure, a seawall, sediment monitoring and cleaning, and a storm pumping system.  


The city can’t move forward with the project until the current Harbor Bridge is demolished and replaced with an updated structure.  


The architect recommended moving forward with a priority solution which includes elevating Beach Avenue and Gulfspray Avenue as well as elevation of beach access parking and improving pedestrian access to the beach with funding from Bond 2018 funds. 


The city has secured $10 million toward the project pending council approval in the next couple of weeks.   

City of Dallas chooses nominees for EDC Board

In January, the city of Dallas agreed to form an independent organization to lead the city’s business attraction and marketing, business retention and expansion, and entrepreneurial and small business development efforts. On August 24 the city selected its nominees for the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Board.  


The creation of this EDC is highlighted in a briefing paper on establishing a new economic development entity.  


The city’s economic development committee has been working on the project since it was first briefed on November 1, 2021. In March 2022, the city opened a public call for nominees, asking for candidates with twenty specific areas of expertise that match the city’s priorities, such as affordable housing, diversity, equity and inclusion, education, innovation, real estate, and economic development. Over 100 candidates applied to the fifteen-member board.


The following individuals were selected: Alan Dorantes, Ardo Fuentes, Chris Bradshaw, Cynthia Figueroa, Debra Hunter Johnson, Dania Duncan Moreno, Gilbert Gerst, Holly Reed, Jimmy Tran, John Stephens, Johnnie King, Kim Noltemy, Linda McMahon, Michon Fulgham, and Walter "Alan" Walne.  

El Paso targeting $500M in future grants

The El Paso Mobility Coalition and its partners are working to obtain more than $500 million in funding requests from the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to support strategic investments and leverage local resources.  


The El Paso Mobility Coalition includes representatives from the city of El Paso, El Paso County, El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization, Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority, Texas Department of Transportation, El Paso Chamber, and others. Some of the funding requests include the following: 


  • National Infrastructure Project Assistance Program/Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (MEGA/Infra) 2023 – for more than $500 million for design and construction of I-10 modernization including the Downtown Deck Plaza by the city of El Paso. 
  • Railroad Elimination Program 2023 – for design/construction for the elimination of the at-grade railroad crossing to improve student safety at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. 
  • Reconnecting Communities 2022 – for the design and engineering of additional recreational hike/bike trails across El Paso County by the Paso del Norte Community Foundation. 
  • Chrissy 2022 – for the future removal of at-grade crossings at Zaragoza and Copia crossings by the city of El Paso. 
  • Safe Streets for All 2022 – for up to $1 million in planning funds to create a Vision Zero planning document with the goal of identifying and mitigating traffic fatalities by the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization. 
  • Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) 2023 – planning for a potential streetcar connection from Downtown to the Medical Center of the Americas by the city of El Paso. 


El Paso recently received $12 million from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant to make pedestrian improvements at the Ysleta Port of Entry. An additional $7.68 million also was received for the design and construction of 5.6 miles of the Paso del Norte Trail from Ysleta to Socorro. Lastly, the city of El Paso's Mass Transit Department, Sun Metro, was granted $8.8 million from the USDOT’s Federal Transit Administration to purchase 50 zero-emission paratransit vehicles and 25 charging stations to replace older models.  

DFW Public Sector Executive event hosted by VMware

What is digital transformation and how do we achieve it without disrupting our business? Join VMware thought leaders Joel Neeb and Herb Thompson on September 14, 2022, for a discussion on how to enable a digital solution to deliver any app, on any cloud, to any device.


This in-person event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Texas Live! in Arlington. Lunch will be provided. Find more information and register here.

Texas Water Development Board approves $13.7M for water projects

The Texas Water Development Board has approved $13.7 million in financial assistance for water, wastewater, and flood projects.  


The city of Alice received $7 million to construct two brackish groundwater wells as part of a project that includes a reverse osmosis treatment plant to be funded through a public-private partnership to create a new potable water source. 


The city of China will receive $6 million to construct a new 0.3-million-gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant at the site of its existing plant, implementing various construction improvements, and installing a new emergency power backup generator.   


The city of Kingsville is getting $700,000 to modify the detention pond outfall, improve stormwater sewer and ditches, and replace pavement for better surface water drainage. These improvements will meet the needs for a 10-year storm event and relieve the existing drainage issues during a heavy storm event. 

City to expand Quinta Mazatlan Center for Urban Ecology

The city of McAllen and the Friends of Quinta Mazatlan want to expand an urban sanctuary that provides entertainment for its visitors. The Quinta Mazatlan Expansion Project consists of multiple elements including a themed entrance walkway and welcome center, a riverwalk that reveals the history of the area, a two-story learning and tourist center housing an events center with approximately 15,000 square feet, an administrative office complex, visitors center and gift store, educational training center and science labs, and a Transit Park-n-Ride. 


A request for qualifications (RFQ) for a construction-manager-at-risk (CMAR) is being sought by the city for the Quinta Mazatlan Center for Urban Ecology. The CMAR will provide preconstruction and construction services including value engineering, scheduling, construction phasing, oversite of project site, management of vendors and subcontractors, and act as the main point of communication for the project team. 


Though the project is still in its preliminary stages, the city anticipates an estimated completion date in January 2025 and a budget of $29 million.  


The due date for this RFQ is September 22, 2022, at 4 p.m. CDT.  

Fort Worth Botanic Garden develops master plan for expansion

As the Fort Worth Botanic Garden approaches its 50th anniversary next year, it is currently receiving community input on a master plan that is developing into a possible $265 million project. Support will come from a public-private partnership.  


Plans include a 2-acre family garden with water features, interactive spaces, and possibly some animals. Other features consist of a culinary garden, education hub, children’s garden, new Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) wing, a parking garage, maintenance facilities, volunteer facilities, guest experience and circulation, interpretation and wayfinding, connectivity, and plant collections.  


The consultant team on August 31, presented a final draft of the proposed design for the next 20 years of site development on the 120-acre campus. Having been approved by the Master Plan Committee at the meeting, the final draft of the plan will now be presented for approval to the BRIT Board, Fort Worth Parks & Recreation Board, and the Fort Worth City Council before the end of 2022.


The garden is one of the city’s top attractions, with nearly 250,000 people visiting in 2021. 

Texas to begin plugging orphaned oil and gas wells

Texas received an initial $25 million grant from the Department of the Interior to begin plugging a portion of the roughly 7,400 abandoned oil and gas wells across the state. Starting September 1, these Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds will cover costs to plug and clean up pollution from approximately 800 wells. To plug and clean all 7,400 documented wells would cost the state an estimated $482 million. 


Abandoned oil and gas wells leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is the second-largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. According to scientists, cutting methane emissions is one of the most effective short-term approaches to reduce the effects of climate change. If not properly plugged, wells can also leach toxic water and chemicals in the surrounding areas.  


Texas' $25 million grant is part of an initial award of $560 million across 24 states in order to address remediation needs for up to 10,000 high-priority well sites. 

Machuca to serve on Aerospace and Aviation Advisory Committee

Arturo Machuca has been appointed to serve on the Aerospace and Aviation Advisory Committee. Machuca, director of Ellington Airport and the Houston Spaceport for the Houston Airport System, will assist in the state’s economic development efforts to recruit and retain aerospace and aviation jobs and investments in Texas. 


Under the Texas statute, members of the advisory committee, which is within the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office, will make specific recommendations to the Texas Legislature and the governor for the growth of both industries. The committee will also determine the appropriate level of funding for the spaceport trust fund and will partner with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to strengthen higher education programs that support aerospace activities. 

Ramsey sole finalist for new superintendent

Fort Worth Independent School District Board of Trustees selected Angelica Ramsey August 30 as the sole finalist for superintendent. Ramsey will replace outgoing Superintendent Kent Scribner, who vacated the position on September 1.


Ramsey has served as the superintendent of Midland ISD since 2021. Before Midland ISD, Ramsey was the superintendent of schools for the Pleasant Valley School District in California.


Texas law requires districts to wait 21 days after naming a finalist before officially hiring a new superintendent. Deputy Superintendent Karen Molinar is serving as the interim leader now that Scribner has vacated the role.

New Dallas permitting office to become "one-stop shop"

Dallas is officially moving its permitting office to a newly-purchased tower at 7800 North Stemmons. Renovations are scheduled to begin in October with the full transition anticipated to be complete by spring of 2023. The new building and renovations are intended to contribute to a larger strategy to streamline the permitting process. 


Long permitting delays have been a persistent problem that City Manager T.C. Broadnax pledged to address in his 100-day plan announced in July 2022. While the plan outlines a number of strategies to create permitting efficiencies, most immediately, development services has been moving to increase staff capacity with 39 new employee hires and plans to hire 15 more. These positions are filling roles that have the greatest need, such as plan examiners, permit technicians, call center agents, and inspectors. New positions also will be open on their expedited plan review and affordable housing teams.  


Additional changes include newly-budgeted permit center positions, extra training for employees, and updated technology.

Third-party developers can grow business at McAllen airport

The city of McAllen has an interest in third parties developing a facility that would serve as or support aeronautical activities on the designated site at the McAllen International Airport (MFE). Preferred aeronautical facilities include, but are not limited to, owner-occupied aircraft storage hangars, aircraft maintenance facilities, aeronautical manufacturing facilities, specialized aviation service operators, or other related uses that are compliant with all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and support the growth of the aviation industry in McAllen.  


Proposers must be capable of funding, designing, and constructing the proposed facility. The successful proposer must commence construction within six to nine months from the date of execution of the contract. 


The lease shall be for a base term of 20 years from the occupancy date. In addition to the base term, the lessee may request up to two additional 10-year option terms. 


The proposer’s business plan should address use of the facility, economic impact, aeronautical impact, how the business supports key industries, and facility occupancy. 


The due date has been amended from August 25 to a new date of September 27, 2022, at 4 p.m. CDT. 

Plainview ISD plans construction of two new facilities 

Plainview Independent School District is in the early stages of planning two new facilities: a career and technical education (CTE) building and an events center.  


The $9 million, 25,000-square-foot CTE facility is intended to house vocational programs focused on electric vehicles and renewable energies. The school district has identified the Plainview-Hale County Business Park as a potential site for the new CTE center and is starting to look for grant money to fund the development. At present, the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance has committed $1.5 million to the project. 


The proposed event center is intended to be a multi-functional facility with a 3,000-to-3,500-person capacity. Initial plans include basketball and volleyball courts, space for concerts and events like graduation, as well as locker rooms, a food prep facility, and a loading and unloading dock.


The school can currently fund three-quarters of the event center project. The district hopes to find a corporate sponsor to cover the remaining costs. A lot near a pond at 29th and Ennis streets is being evaluated as a potential site for the project. Design renderings for the event center may be reviewed as early as spring 2023.  

GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENTS

Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from August 26-September 1:


Texas Medical Board District Four Review Committee

Bobby Marek, M.D. - Brenham

Shirlene Samuel, D.O.- Austin

Walton "Boyd" Bush, Ed.D. - Bee Cave (reappointed)


249th Judicial District Court

Tiffany Strother - Godley


Board of Pardons and Paroles

Elodia Brito - Amarillo

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