By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.
Transit authorities throughout the country are quickly becoming big-time developers…and in more ways than one might have ever thought possible. Many citizens and contractors may not be aware of how large this trend has become…and how fast it is moving.
The mixed-use projects that transit authorities are launching include all types of development. One of the most common initiatives is to develop mixed-use retail and housing on property that once served as a parking lot for automobiles owned by riders. However, the trend is much greater and more diverse. The projects, called transit-related development initiatives (TODs) have become quite common because of an abundance of federal funding for them.
The federal government encourages the adoption of TOD planning on an even wider scale. Funding support comes from USDOT’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program. TIFIA loans can cover a large part of a major transportation project’s budget. That percentage had been capped at 33 percent up until November, but now TIFIA loans will cover up to 49 percent of a project’s cost. The loans also offer tax benefits to encourage private investment and that further accelerates the delivery of funding.
The scope of TIFIA financing was expanded to more categories of transit projects. The loans can now be awarded to efforts that will increase transit ridership services surrounding infrastructure assets, and housing. TIFIA loans are specifically reserved for projects that meet minimum cost thresholds…translated, that means projects with budgets larger than $10 million.
Another major source of funding for these development projects comes from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). In fact, this federal agency can contribute 38 percent more funding in the coming years than it did over the previous four-year cycle of funding. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated $69 million for TOD projects. During this same period, TOD efforts will also receive a combined $1 billion in additional state and metropolitan funding, which marks a 41 percent increase over funding from previous years. Funding is available for projects that meet the criteria.
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The Texas comptroller announced the transfer of $3.64 billion to be split between the State Highway Fund (SHF) and the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), known as the “Rainy Day Fund.”
These funds are to support economic recovery in the state in the face of inflation, supply chain issues, and political unrest. Investing in infrastructure is essential to attract businesses and people to Texas.
The transfer amounts are based on crude oil and natural gas production tax revenues. In 2014, voters approved allocating these funds equally to the ESF and SHF funds for use on non-toll highway construction, maintenance, and right-of-way projects.
The current ESF balance is now about $14.1 billion, not counting outstanding expenses. The balance will change as agencies spend down the remaining appropriation authority and investment earnings are realized.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is requesting Texas lawmakers approve $1.2 billion in funding to build a full-time statewide law enforcement academy with a state-of-the-art active shooter response training facility. If approved, the first funding portion of $467 million would be part of the state’s 2024-2025 budget as the start of a six-year proposal over the next three budget cycles. The DPS intends to renovate the 200-acre Williamson County DPS Tactical Training Center complex in Florence into a new law enforcement academy.
The Williamson County site opened in 2003 and currently has a track, urban street grid simulating a residential or downtown area, a firing range, and classrooms. It does not currently have a live scenario facility to be able to train for an active shooter situation. The new training facility would include dormitories, a cafeteria, and other elements.
The facility will include the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program, an active-shooter response training system developed two decades ago at Texas State University in San Marcos. ALERRT is the national standard for this type of response training. The Texas State University ALERRT center currently runs training sessions at the Williamson County complex, but a director of the program said there’s greater demand than availability for training across the state.
The proposal for the training facility comes after the Uvalde school shooting in May. Officers from several agencies took more than an hour to breach a classroom where a gunman left 19 students and two teachers dead. It is the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.
In June, state leaders transferred $50 million for bullet-resistant shields, $7 million for ALERRT training, and $3 million in travel reimbursements from surplus education funds.
It is not yet clear if DPS intends to seek federal funding for this project or if there would be a charge for law agencies outside Texas to use the facility. DPS also will need to analyze how much the annual operating costs would be after construction is complete.
City of Bastrop
Public career highlights and education:
I have worked in the public sector for over 25 years, with 19 of those in local government. I grew up in Corpus Christi on the gulf coast of Texas and attended Del Mar College and Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
I have a master’s degree in Public Administration, a Certified Public Manager (CPM) certification from the state of Texas, and a Credentialed Manager designation (ICMA-CM) from the International City/County Management Association.
What I like best about public service is: The ability to serve and to impact the lives of residents in very quick, and often meaningful ways. Often state and local government decisions can’t be “felt” immediately; local government is where the rubber meets the road and our decisions make immediate impacts, both good and bad, to everyday people. City managers, as appointed positions, are the face of government for many people, and I enjoy being able to help staff and Council be the best stewards to the residents we serve.
The best advice I’ve received is: Your family gets the best of you, not what is left of you. We work in very stressful situations, and it is easy to let that carry over to home life. I work hard to leave the office at home and ensure my family has the very best of me when I walk in the door.
People might be surprised to know that: I am quite handy with power tools and can build just about anything!
One thing I wish more people knew about the City of Bastrop is:
We welcome visitors with open arms! We are a beautiful and engaged city working hard to maintain our roots, culture, and small town feel that brings visitors back each year.
With over 40 years of extensive leadership experience, Neal Tomblyn will contribute his innovative skills within the Aerospace and Defense industry to the SPI team and to the clients they serve. As an innovative leader, Neal has spent his career transforming and creating growth as well as identifying and implementing advanced technology-based solutions with start-ups and Fortune 50 companies both domestically and internationally.
Neal most recently served as Vice President of Business Development and Capture for SAIC’s National Space and Security Sector’s AFDoDAC Business Unit. That group serves the U.S. Air Force, DoD Agencies, the Pentagon, and 13 Combatant Commands with a focus on Joint Command, Enterprise IT as a Service, C5ISR, Light Weight Flight Simulators (LWS), and drone solutions. Neil was involved in redesigning the growth organizational structure.
After taking early retirement, Neil began working to create growth environments and opportunities for early-stage disruptive technology and solutions. He focused on digital transformation in the Aerospace and Defense sectors.
Neal is a former Director of Strategy and Business Development at a large defense contractor in their Rotary and Mission Systems Division where he focused on providing sustainment, logistics, and training solutions for the global military market. He was responsible for strategic direction, business development, capture, proposal, and IRAD expanding global business opportunities in 52 countries as well as identifying next-generation technologies, applications, and solutions. He also held executive-level positions at numerous federally focused contracting firms.
Neal holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Kentucky University and has completed numerous advanced educational courses and degrees in business management, marketing, and technology. He currently holds a DoD Top Secret Security Clearance. He will be providing consulting services to SPI clients interested in federal opportunities as well as other jurisdictions throughout the country.
Experienced superintendent Roger Ellis joins the SPI Team, bringing with him a wealth of education knowledge.
Roger has worked in education for the past 30 years, moving up a career path from principal to superintendent. Throughout his career he demonstrated administrative skills including, but not limited to, staff development, educational leadership, teacher training, and community engagement.
With a deep knowledge gained from working within numerous school districts — Tom Bean, Gold-Burg, and Rio Hondo ISDs just to name a few — Roger brings unique expertise to the SPI Team and clients. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics, Finance and Business Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas, and a Master of Education from Texas Woman’s University.
Denton County’s voter-approved $650 million bond package includes more than 100 projects across 30 municipalities. A significant portion of the work will be within Denton city limits. These projects are not fully planned, so they could start within a few years to a decade from now.
An overview of the area, scope of work, and cost for these projects can be found here. Some of the projects include:
Elm and Locust Streets reconstruction: Reconstruction of these state-owned streets is estimated to cost $21 million. The cost of the project will be shared between the county, city, and Texas Department of Transportation. The city will move utilities currently under the streets before the improvements can be made. After the improvements are finished, the city will take over ownership of the roads.
Ryan Road: The $10.4 million project will widen the road to three lanes, add sidewalks and lighting, and provide drainage improvements. The project is expected to begin in 2024 or 2025.
Bonnie Brae Street: Two phases of the multi-phased widening of Bonnie Brae Street are included in this bond package, phase 4B at $11.2 million and phase 5 at $10.1 million. These two phases will widen the portion of the road between Interstate 35E and U.S. Highway 380 to reduce traffic congestion. The street widening will include work on drainage systems, water lines, sewage, and street lighting.
Westgate Drive, Windsor Drive, and Bronco Way: The $8.2 million project will widen Windsor Drive, reconstruct Westgate Drive, and connect Bronco Way to Westgate Drive. The project will improve connectivity around Denton ISD’s new high school campus and provide relief for a future Interstate 35 widening project.
The Sherman Independent School District Long Range Facilities Planning Committee presented a list of potential bond proposals to the district Board of Trustees.
The bond proposal is valued at $540 million. The school district hopes that the city’s growth will provide funds without increasing the tax rate.
Listed items include renovations and additions, including a new elementary school and replacing two outdated elementary schools. The planning committee is preparing for the city’s projected growth. Sherman ISD has schools that are already operating at capacity.
Other projects proposed include safety updates, renovating the Bearcat Stadium, and building a new stadium near Sherman High School.
The presentation with full bond proposals and recommendations for the Sherman ISD 10-year master plan can be found here.
Galveston public school trustees voted to approve schematic designs for a new $189 million Ball High School. The board will have to approve any future changes made to designs.
Demolition of the high school may take place around fall 2023. The estimated cost of demolishing the existing school is $3 million. The school, built in 1953, suffers from leaking pipes and roofs and an outdated electrical system.
The new high school will be built on or near the current building which will be constructed to honor the architecture of the original high school to protect the historical style but also refresh the campus. The design concept will split the school into two buildings separated by Avenue O. For safety purposes, there will be a connection via a sky wing so students don’t have to cross the street.
The plans were approved, and the architecture firm contracted by the school board will begin developing permitting, bidding, and construction documents. Construction is expected to begin in 2023.
Voters this year approved a $315 million bond package to provide Galveston ISD with new academic and athletic facilities.
(Photo: Rendering of new Ball High School. Courtesy of Galveston ISD.)
The City of Austin has released a draft of the Zilker Metropolitan Park Vision Plan to the public. The draft will be open for comment until January 8.
The 351-acre park’s vision plan features four main pieces: a land bridge connecting the north and south sides of Barton Springs Road; 91 acres of ecological uplift to heal damaged areas of the park; improved mobility within and to the park; and a welcome plaza that repurposes historic buildings to serve as visitor hubs.
Broken down into five geographic areas, the major improvements proposed include:
- Construction of a parking garage on the east side of MoPac.
- Realigning Stratford Drive east of MoPac and potentially adding a sound wall.
- Changing the existing landfill area to restore woodland and meadow.
- Land bridge over Barton Springs Road to stitch together the north and south sides of the park with an underground parking garage.
- Sports area with several active recreation fields for various activities.
- Zilker Hillside Theater near the north end of land bridge.
- Picnic area with concessions and restroom near Great Lawn.
- New bike and pedestrian bridge along Toomey Road.
- Turning Lou Neff Road into pedestrian- and bike-only trail.
- Year-round access to Barton Springs Pool with new playscapes during large events.
- Rehabilitation of Barton Creek with controlled water access and erosion treatments.
- New nature trail at southern part of Columbus Drive.
- Turning Andrew Zilker Road into pedestrian and bike only trails.
- Continuing nature trail from Barton Creek Greenbelt to Lady Bird Lake.
- Pedestrian bridge on west side of Barton Springs Pool to increase connectivity across Barton Creek.
The community will be able to comment on and complete a survey on the plan as well as participate in a virtual community meeting on December 7 and an in-person open house on December 10.
(Photo: Zilker Park lawn. Courtesy of Austin Parks Foundation.)
The Texas A&M University (TAMU) System Board of Regents approved the $71.2 million request to fund the construction of the Health Sciences Education and Research Center and an expansion of the Western Hemispheric Trade Center.
Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) will use $71.2 million in approved funding to address Laredo’s shortage of medical personnel by constructing the Health and Sciences Education and Research Center. The new facility will support the currently underserved surrounding community. This project is part of $328 million in construction projects across the state approved by the board.
The new education and research facility will allow the university to expand and add new health science programs. TAMIU has a request for the next legislative session to add programs for clinical lab studies and occupational therapy. The new building will allow for the expansion of public clinics and easier access to treatment for communication disorders, counseling, and kinesiology research.
The 57,000-square-foot building is in the planning phase. Construction is expected to begin in 2023. Part of the funding approved by the board will be used to expand the Western Hemispheric Trade Center by 25,200 square feet, home to the A.R. Sanchez Jr. School of Business.
(Photo: Texas A&M campus. Courtesy of Texas A&M University.)
The Texas State University System Board of Regents appointed Dr. Carlos Hernandez president of Sul Ross State University by a unanimous vote. Hernandez has served as interim president since June 4.
Previously, Hernandez served as chief financial officer and senior vice president for operations at Sam Houston State University. He has more than 34 years’ of experience in public higher education experience.
Hernandez is succeeding Pete Gallego who held the position since 2020.
The Kyle Planning and Zoning Commission has revealed the proposed downtown master plan. An architecture firm hired by the city in 2021 has conducted workshops and surveyed residents to draft the proposal.
The goals of the plan are to make downtown more accessible, expand infrastructure to support businesses, and provide more residential options. The proposal will build off existing structures like a building the city is renovating into a combined restaurant or retail, office space, and event space.
Kyle has made additional efforts to revitalize the downtown area. Mary Kyle Hartson City Square Park was renovated last year, and power lines were moved underground. Residential and retail support downtown is not expected for at least another five years when the second phase of the plan will be enacted.
Phase one of the plan includes relocating the Veterans of Foreign Wars building, street and sidewalk improvements, and building renovations. The city will test ways to attract people downtown like decorating a public space near City Hall with lights, a mural, and seating. This phase is expected to take three to five years to complete.
Residents of Kyle expressed they would like to see downtown expanded with restaurants, bakery, boutiques, bars, and entertainment. The City Council will hold a public hearing on December 6 and is expected to vote on the proposed master plan on December 20.
(Photo: Downtown Kyle. Photo courtesy of City of Kyle.)
The Lewisville City Council approved a feasibility study to explore expansion opportunities for the Lewisville Grand Theater. The study will evaluate whether an expansion should add onto the existing facility or be a stand-alone structure. It will also address potential demand for visitor access and parking related to an expansion.
Other objectives include evaluating the potential for regional audience development in Lewisville, conducting a competitive analysis within the North Texas market, and researching the potential to attract touring programs.
The Old Town Lewisville theater opened in 2011 and draws an average of more than 35,000 visitors per year. It often operates at maximum capacity pushing long-time clients to move to larger venues. They have also had to turn away potential business because of the theater’s current size and schedule capacity.
In preparation for an expansion, which could occur within the next five to 10 years, city officials have already made two purchases adjacent to the theater.
They expect the study to be complete by February 15. If the results are positive, they will be submitted to the Blue Ribbon committee for consideration. The group will then develop its recommendations for a possible bond election next November.
(Photo: Lewisville Grand Theater auditorium. Photo courtesy of the Lewisville Grand Theater.)
As a part of the “Internet for all” initiative, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled an updated version of its map showing broadband availability in communities throughout the United States.
Funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the $45 billion investment aims to bring high-speed internet to every American by decade’s end.
The greatest share of the funds will be distributed through the Broadband Equity, Access and Development (BEAD) Program. Each state will receive at least $100 million with additional funds being granted based off the number of “underserved” locations.
Now that the new map has been published, the FCC will accept challenges to its data with a deadline of January 13.
The NTIA is required to use the FCC’s map to identify unserved locations and the new updated version only leaves states under two months to ask for corrections that could affect their portion of funding.
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents announced Dr. Tomikia P. LeGrande as the sole finalist to be president of Prairie View A&M University. Under state law, the Board of Regents names a finalist for at least 21 days before making the appointment at a subsequent meeting.
LeGrande currently serves as vice president for strategy, enrollment management, and student success at Virginia Commonwealth University where she has worked since 2018. She will assume her new role after the close of the 2022-23 academic year.
LeGrande succeeds Dr. Ruth Simmons who will become president emerita and will hold a university professorship.
The Texas governor announced new leadership at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
Kezeli “Kez” Wold will take over as interim DFPS commissioner, effective immediately. Wold currently serves as DFPS’ associate commissioner for adult protective services.
Stephanie Muth will assume the role of commissioner on January 2. Muth will lead DFPS and guide the agency as it continues Community-Based Care (CBC) services and furthers the agency’s compliance with remedial orders in foster care litigation. She has worked in Texas government for more than 20 years.
Anne Heiligenstein will return to DFPS in a senior advisor role to supervise key projects. Heiligenstein is currently a consultant at a national foster care and child welfare foundation.
James Mauldin was named vice chancellor and chief financial officer (CFO) of the Texas Tech University System (TTU System). Mauldin will begin his new role on January 2. Mauldin previously served since 2019 as vice president of treasury management for the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
Mauldin will coordinate the university system’s $2.65 billion operating budget and oversee multiple offices and functions including investments, accounting and reporting, risk management, and information technology.
He will succeed Gary Barnes who announced his retirement this year after serving the TTU System in this position for more than five years.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from November 17 through December 1:
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Governing Board
Holland Harper - Paris
475th District Court
Taylor Heaton - Tyler
483rd District Court
Tanner Neidhardt - Dripping Springs
The Third Administration Judicial Region
Dib Waldrip - New Braunfels
Sixth Court of Appeals
Jeff Rambin - Henderson
State Board of Dental Examiners
Ricky Garcia - Pasadena
Statewide Health Coordinating Council
Quincy Moore III, Ph.D. - Cypress
Cheletta Watkins, M.D.- Forney
Rehabilitation Council of Texas
Daniel Solcher - Allen
Peggy Schmidt - Lucas
Karen Stanfill - Houston (reappointed)
Texas Industrial Building Code Council
Devin Duke - Burleson
Texas Early Learning Council
Tori Lee - Oak Cliff
Marisela Nava - Brownsville