Volume 21, Issue 1 - January 6, 2023

Well-funded mobility projects in 2023 will include massive amounts of technology
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.

Mobility is now a major focus of local infrastructure planning. It is a critical component of almost everything public officials want and need to accomplish. Many of the objectives cannot be accomplished, however, without the inclusion of new technology designed to deliver efficiency, safety, equity and sustainability. 

Mobility projects currently in development have many common components including bus rapid transit, light rail and active transportation. New forms of technology are recurring features in multimodal mobility planning documents. On-demand transit software, assistive technologies for trip planning, intelligent transportation systems and enhanced intersection signalization are components that are included in upcoming projects.

Federal money has been programmed to usher in a new vision of transportation in America. An annual sum of $100 million will be awarded through the federal government’s Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) program to pilot smart technologies. That funding is scheduled to last through 2026 and the program will begin allocating funding for projects in 2023 within the coming weeks. 

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Congress approves $744.7M in Texas community funding projects

More than 200 Community Funding Projects in Texas received approximately $744.7 million from the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. Below are some of the larger funding amounts approved through the U.S. House Committee of Appropriations.

The Sabine-Neches Navigation District Channel Improvement Program (CIP) will use $167.4 million in federal funding and a local state match of $400 million to deepen the Sabine-Neches waterway. Plans call for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the channel by 6 feet to maximize the capacity of the nation’s leading energy port.

Port Freeport is receiving $90.6 million to continue work to deepen the Freeport Harbor Channel. The current channel size creates disruptions when unloading cargo, and a deeper channel will reduce safety risks and provide for more efficient transit.

Fort Hood will use $19 million to update and expand the barracks that are over capacity and outdated.

Harris County will receive $12 million to expand its Institute of Forensic Sciences building. Officials said the current facility size limits important medical examiner and crime laboratory services.

(Photo: Sabine-Neches waterway. Courtesy of the Sabine-Neches Navigation District.)

Hutto ISD planning committee backs $482M bond package

The Hutto ISD long-range facilities planning committee recommended to its board of trustees that the district call for a $482 million bond election.

The recommended bond package allocates funding for the following:  

  • $63 million to construct an eighth elementary school.  
  • $70 million to build a ninth elementary school.  
  • $68 million for Hutto High School renovations and additions.  
  • $14 million for adding classrooms to existing middle schools.  
  • $180 million for building out the Ninth Grade Center to a comprehensive high school.  
  • $32 million for land acquisition.  
  • $24 million for deferred maintenance projects.  
  • $10 million for buses and satellite operations.  
  • $21 million for technology.  

The board has until Feb. 17 to decide whether to accept the committee’s recommendation. If accepted, the bond package will appear on the May 6 election ballot.

(Photo: Hutto Elementary School. Courtesy of www.hipponation.org.)

Nueces County supports a second bridge to Padre Island

Nueces County Commissioners on Jan. 4 passed a resolution supporting the construction of a proposed $1 billion bridge. The county would need funding assistance from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to build this second bridge leading to Padre Island. It is unknown at this time where the placement of the bridge would occur.  

The planned second bridge would connect the county to Padre Island. Officials said the additional bridge would provide drivers and pedestrians another access point in the event of an emergency or if the current bridge, JFK Causeway, became unusable.

The Corpus Christi Metropolitan Planning Organization currently has the Regional Parkway Project on its 25-year plan, which recommends constructing new roadways and bridges as an alternative to the JFK Causeway. The county’s goal is to receive funding assistance from the Texas Department of Transportation through the agency's 10-year plan. 

County leaders have said that funding will take a strong delegation from areas who would benefit from the bridge, including the city of Corpus Christi, city of Port Aransas, Nueces County, San Patricio County and Kleberg. 

(Photo: Entrance to South Padre Island. Courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Saluting Texas' Lone Stars

Carrie Latimer

Financial Director

Gulf Coast Authority

Public career highlights and education: With more than 27 years of accounting and 11 of those in the public sector, I serve as the financial director for the Gulf Coast Authority. I am a native of the Gulf Coast region of Houston and attended Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos (now, Texas State.) I have a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Accounting and hold a certification as a Development Finance Certified Professional (DFCP) from the Council of Development Finance Agencies. 

What I like best about my public service is: I love the connection to people and the common bond of the community! Working in public service provides the opportunity to serve others while continuing my growth and development in the financial sector.

The best advice I’ve received is: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin. 

People might be interested to know that: I love baseball! Of course, being from the Houston area, I support the Houston Astros. My family and I attend baseball games regularly. Go ‘Stros!

One thing I wished more people knew about the Gulf Coast Authority is: In addition to GCA’s authority to own and operate regional industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plants, water systems, and solid waste facilities statewide, we also are committed to providing financial services through bond financing programs that support public and private governmental financing services.

DFW International Airport provides Buying Plan for 2023

The Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport has laid out its project forecast for the fiscal year 2023, which began in October. The Buying Plan includes a list of projected contracts for all DFW airport departments and a forecast of opportunities to help businesses plan responses. 

Some of the projects include: 

  • Supply of electrical power will become available in the third quarter of the year at a cost of $270 million. This will be a 2-year contract with three 1-year renewal options. 
  • Custodial services should be posted in the second quarter of the year at a cost of $11 million. This will be a 3-year contract with a couple of 1-year renewal options. 
  • Cloverleafs and ramps at North Airfield Drive Bridge will be up for bids in the third quarter of the year at a cost of $24 million.  
  • International Parkway Flyover Bridge replacement will become available in the third quarter of the year at a cost of $86 million.  
  • IT service management tool will be solicited in the fourth quarter of the year at a cost of $1.2 million. This will be a 3-year contract with a couple of 1-year renewal options.

(Photo: Terminal D. Courtesy of www.dfwairport.com.)

Frisco hires consulting firm for performing arts center

Frisco City Council authorized a $99,300 agreement with a consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning and design services to take steps toward a new performing arts center. 

Beginning work in January, the firm will develop a utilization strategy, management approach and business plan for three different types of venues: a 350-seat community venue, a 1,500-seat flexible venue and a 2,000- seat venue with a proscenium stage.  

Other tasks include establishing a dedicated “hotline” to encourage stakeholder participation via email and phone, determining the viability of proposed venues and developing community engagement.  

Two consultants will travel to Frisco three times, culminating with a final presentation in mid-April. City officials will then develop an action plan for the next steps.  

These plans are based on a 2021 development agreement the city entered into with public entities and a developer. The agreement covered plans to construct a $66 million performing arts center with at least 1,250 seats in a main performance hall and at least 250 seats in a community venue.  

The city has since parted ways with Frisco ISD, which plans to build an estimated $43 million performing arts center on school district property.

The city of Frisco will continue pursuing options in partnership with the developer.  

TxDOT seeks feedback on draft EIS for I-35 expansion project

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) released its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) in late December, a 500-page document outlining its expansion plans along Interstate 35 in Austin through the downtown corridor. 

The EIS draft outlines TxDOT’s modified build alternative three as the preferred version of the project. Some features from the selected design include two lowered high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, boulevard-like frontage road sections and the removal of I-35’s upper decks along an 8-mile stretch of the interstate. This version would also shift both frontage roads to the east side of the interstate between Dean Keeton Street and 15th Street and then to the west side of the highway from 15th Street to Cesar Chavez. 

Feedback is requested through March 7 after reviewing the documents on the proposed changes. TxDOT plans to make a final decision on project design and scope in August with construction starting in either 2024 or 2025. 

TxDOT will host an in-person and virtual public hearing on the draft proposal from 5-7 p.m. on Feb. 9. 

City of Gatesville looks to 2023 for project improvements

The city of Gatesville has an extensive list of projects planned for 2023 with state and federal funds supporting many of them. The city received a Brownfield Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and plans to apply that toward the demolition of the rotunda nursing home. Once the structure is down and the lot is cleared, the design phase will begin on a new police station for that location. The current police department is in a building that once housed a gas company.  

Another project involves building a new city park. With funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the city will move the skate park and fitness stations to that location.

City officials said City Hall is 85 years old and in need of renovations. The city has an option to consider moving its operational headquarters to an old bank building at the corner of Main and Eighth streets, though an asbestos abatement would need to be done first.  

Other projects on the city’s list include replacing and upgrading water lines on Lovers Lane from Business Highway 36 to Lowrey Drive. This will upgrade lines from 6-inch cast iron to 10-inch PVC. Also on the list involves replacing water lines in the area of Mill, Barnes and Mary streets on the north side of the Gatesville Housing Authority. 

El Paso cancels arena, will use bonds to renovate city facilities

The El Paso City Council voted to abandon a decade-old plan to build a downtown performing arts and entertainment arena. At the same time, the council voted to not demolish or condemn buildings within the proposed arena site. The $155 million in bond funds that would have gone toward the arena project will be reallocated to renovating and upgrading city facilities. 

The site where the arena was proposed to be built contains buildings that may be eligible for historic preservation. A presentation of “pre-final” feasibility study findings was heard by the City Council prior to their vote. The findings estimated it would cost $30 million to renovate the historic buildings within the site.

It is not yet known when the city staff will return with recommendations to change the proposed project. 

Sam Houston State University expanding its College of Health Sciences to Conroe

Texas State University approved a $65 million project to expand Sam Houston State University’s College of Health Sciences from its main Huntsville campus to Conroe.  

The new 85,000-square-foot building is meant to house new and existing programs, skills labs, team huddle rooms and a fitness center. It will also include student success and support resources such as counseling, physical health, disability, testing services and made-to-order food.  

The new building’s construction, adjacent to the College of Osteopathic Medicine, will begin in 2024 once a coinciding parking structure is complete. The garage will provide approximately 1,000 spaces for both colleges and is set to be complete in February 2024. 

Gains appointed Addison city manager

The Addison City Council selected David Gains as its next city manager. His tenure began in January.

He succeeds Wes Pierson, who accepted the city manager position of the city of Frisco.

Gaines previously served for two years as the deputy city manager of Denton. He has 15 years of municipal experience.

TxDOT issues $250M for alternative transportation

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has $250 million in federal funding available to cities for transportation alternatives projects.

The funding, which is available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, can be used for sidewalks, bike lanes and shared-use paths to enhance walking and biking transportation across the state. 

The number of pedestrians and cyclists killed on Texas roads has been rising over the past several years with pedestrian fatalities increasing by 15% and cyclist fatalities by 14% in 2021. TxDOT officials aim for this funding to reduce those fatalities and other incidents through walking and biking infrastructure.

Cities can apply for the projects here. The first application deadline is Jan. 27. 

City of Beaumont selects two assistant managers

The city of Beaumont in November selected two assistant city managers to assist the newly hired City Manager Kenneth Williams with changes taking place in 2023. June Ellis, who was a manager in Haskell, began his role as assistant city manager of administration on Jan. 3.   

Chris Boone, who served the city of Beaumont, began serving as assistant city manager of development services in November. 

Boone had served as interim city manager and director of planning and community development in Beaumont, and as public works director for the city of West Orange.

Bonn and Kneese take on new city roles

The city of Fredericksburg has approved Garret Bonn to be the new assistant city manager. Bonn has been with the city since 2015, starting his career with the city Engineering Division as the assistant city engineer. He was also assigned the role of floodplain administrator and recently stepped in as interim director of development services.  

Kris Kneese, who has served as interim public works director, will now fill the role permanently. Kneese has been with the city since 2013, when he began his career in the Engineering Division as assistant city engineer before becoming the assistant director of public works and utilities in 2015. 

Allen joins Midway ISD as superintendent

Midway ISD trustees on Jan. 3 chose Chris Allen as the lone finalist for superintendent. Plans are to finalize the hire later this month after a state-mandated waiting period of 21 days. Prior to this announcement, Allen had been serving as superintendent of Marble Falls ISD since 2015. 

Allen served as Midway High School principal from 2008 to 2011, then took the newly created role of assistant superintendent for administrative services and served as interim superintendent before the appointment of George Kazanas in 2012. 

Leander ISD considers bond election

The Leader ISD’s bond steering committee heard recommendations from advisory groups to determine priorities for 2023. The LISD board of trustees will use these recommendations to determine whether a bond election should be called in May.  

Projects included HVAC upgrades for several schools, road and traffic safety installations, roof repairs, and athletic turf and safety window installations. A new elementary school, estimated to cost $71 million, was also proposed as well as a new campus for LISD’s Skills for Enhancing Lifelong Fulfillment program, estimated at $22.2 million.  

The board is expected to make a decision following several meetings in January. 

$17.9M approved for Texas water projects

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) announced funding available for water projects in Harris and Hays counties.

TWDB will grant $10.5 million to Harris County for a flood mitigation project from the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF). Harris County will make channel improvements and increase the storage capability of an existing detention basin to reduce risk of flooding along Sims Bayou. The project will remove 567 homes from the floodplain in Harris and Fort Bend counties.

In Hays County, the TWDB approved $7.4 million in FIF financial assistance to the city of San Marcos for drainage improvement projects. The funding will be used to mitigate flooding and reduce erosion in the Castle Forest subdivision and Wallace Addison neighborhood.


Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from Dec. 30 through Jan. 5:

OneStar Foundation

Marlene S. McMichael - Georgetown

Criminal District Court No. 2 - Dallas County

Justin J. "J.J." Koch - Dallas

Trinity River Authority Board of Directors

Fred Tate - Colleyville

Criminal District Court No. 3 - Tarrant County

Douglas A. Allen - Fort Worth

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