Volume 7, Issue 32 - November 11, 2015
|Call up driverless car, hop in - this is the future!|
|Mary Scott Nabers, President/CEO, Strategic Partnerships, Inc.|
Just a few years ago, the notion of autonomous vehicles would have caused people to chuckle. Not so anymore! Driverless cars are the future.
Google and Lexus have already released prototypes and the competition between manufacturers is keen. In fact, seven companies have announced plans for autonomous vehicles. The market is moving so rapidly that California has awarded permits to test self-driving cars to Mercedes-Benz, Delphi Labs, Tesla and Audi.
Northeast Corridor rail planning progresses slowly
Environmental impact report looks to future of rail travel to 2040 The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) this week released a draft environmental report of potential upgrades to the nation's busiest rail line between now and 2040. The Northeast Corridor is a 457-mile stretch between Washington, D.C., and Boston.
The environmental impact report compared mere maintenance of the existing rail service to three alternatives of varying scope. It determined the impact to the environment of large-scale change would be outweighed by the benefits those changes would bring in terms of an eventual decrease in energy use and greenhouse gas production, as well as an increase in economic activity and mobility.
The study noted that to take no action and simply maintain the status quo would cost about $20 billion over the 25 years. The alternatives include a plan that would open new markets (as far west as Harrisburg, Penn., and as far north as Albany, N.Y.) and increase the population from which the region's rail service would draw riders. This plan would shift as many as 69 million trips annually from other modes of travel to rail. The second alternative does many of the same things as the first, in addition to adding even more new routes and stations as well as increased performance of the trains. It would enable up to 93 million trips to shift to rail from other modes of transit.
The most ambitious plan would cost up to $290 billion and include an underwater tunnel from Long Island, N.Y., to the Connecticut shore. The report claims that it would transform "the role of rail by becoming a dominant mode choice for travel in the Northeast." As many as 141 million trips would move to passenger rail and off the region's highways each year.
None of these alternatives include the planned Hudson River tunnel that the states of New Jersey and New York are considering, though the report mentioned that it too would have a significant impact on the corridor's rail travel. The public comment period on the draft report will be open until Jan. 30, 2016, after which the FRA will choose a preferred alternative to study for a final environmental impact report.
"From a public health perspective, these improvements to air quality, energy use and community access add up to an overall better quality of life for persons living and commuting throughout the study area," the report concluded. "The improved reliability and mobility of service provided contributes to an improved quality of life for people living and working within the region, attracts businesses and employees to the region and in turn supports economic growth and development."
Boulder leads the way on high-speed Internet access
City considering private sector partnership to expand access to high-speed internet
The city of Boulder, Colo., has a 100-mile high-speed fiber optic network capable of supplying broadband service to its residents, but the cable has gone mostly unused till now.
However, in November 2014, Boulder's voters gave approval to a ballot measure that allows the city an exemption to state laws prohibiting cities from establishing their own Internet service. The city is looking to capitalize on that now. It has hired a consulting agency to aid the process and began last week to take public comment on the possibilities for the network.
"We are now in a time when the Internet is no longer a luxury," Boulder Information Technology Director Don Ingle (pictured) said. "We encourage residents and businesses to tell us what types of services they currently use, what's working for them and what's not, so that we can fully understand our community's needs."
The consultants will pull together a report of the public input and recommend how the city can best make use of the fiber optic network. The Boulder City Council has already indicated that it is not interested in setting up a city-owned broadband utility, as neighboring town Longmont has already done, but the city does want to find out how business and industry can use the network. It is also considering a partnership with private companies to provide access for Boulder residents. Additionally, the city of Boulder will meet with the Boulder Valley School District and the University of Colorado to determine how those educational institutions might be able to benefit from the network.
Access to broadband Internet service is an emerging issue for the state, as more than 40 cities and counties followed Boulder's lead in last week's elections by approving exemptions to the state law on municipally provided Internet service.
Upcoming contracting opportunities
U.S. House passes 6-year transportation bill
The next step was taken. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives finally was able to pass its 6-year transportation funding bill, a move that gives real hope that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) - and the many state and local transportation agencies as well - can move forward with confidence. The bill, approved by a 363-64 margin, authorizes $325 billion in spending through 2021, though it provides money for only the first three years due to the lack of agreement among lawmakers on a way to pay for the entire bill. The final three years' worth of projects won't be allowed to go forward unless Congress identifies the money to fund them. As well, this bill now has to be reconciled with the bill the Senate passed in the summer. Conference committees for each house of Congress will meet and do the heavy lifting involved there before it can be signed into law by President Barack Obama. The measure also only continues the current rate of spending, even though Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said the nation needs at least $400 billion over the six years to meet the country's transportation needs.
Utah preparing to build new state prison
The state of Utah is preparing to commence a project that will build a prison to house 4,000 inmates. Though it has yet to determine how it will deliver the project, the Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management is working on a request for bids intended to identify a construction manager for the project. The new $550 million facility in Salt Lake City will replace the Utah State Prison in Draper. The state has not yet acquired land on which to locate the prison but expects to identify the property by the end of 2015. The Utah Prison Development Commission has said the construction of the prison should be completed within four years of site acquisition.
Johnson City contributes to new ETSU fine arts center
Last week, leaders of Johnson City, Tenn., approved an $8 million proposal to help East Tennessee State University build a new fine arts building. The city also contributed a piece of property on which the fine arts center will be built. "That allows us to have a sufficient footprint to construct a facility of the appropriate size needed to meet the educational demands of the institution, as well as the aspirations of the region as a whole," said ETSU President Brian Noland (pictured). An architect has drawn up preliminary designs for the center, but the university hopes to expand those plans to include a theater that will seat 1,300. The city's funding will help the school achieve those plans. As part of the funding deal, the city requested the ability to use the auditorium at least 20 days per year at no cost. The university and the state still must sign off on the deal before it is complete.
Gladstone voters OK new city hall, police station
In last week's elections, voters in Gladstone, Ore., approved two projects totaling about $11 million. As a result of the go-ahead from voters, the city will build a new police station for $7.2 million and a new city hall for $4 million. The projects will be paid for, in part, by the sale of city property. Among the options being considered for that is a 10-acre piece of land called Gladstone Nature Park. Though it is called a park and has a bicycle trail through it, the parcel is actually zoned as undeveloped commercial property. The city bought the property for $3.1 million as a public park and potential site for a public library. The ballot language said that $3 million would come from an undetermined property sale; another $3 million will come from bonds, with the remaining costs covered by current city funds. The measure passed with 58 percent approval.
Florida-Alabama TPO adopts $430 million roads plan
The Florida-Alabama Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) has identified about $2.4 billion in transportation needs for the region over the next 25 years. But the group doesn't have the funding to cover that, so it approved a long-range transportation plan that will include about $430 million in projects. The largest of those needs is the intersection of 17th Avenue and Bayfront Parkway in Pensacola, Fla. That intersection serves as the landing area from the Pensacola Bay Bridge, which the state of Florida is planning to replace, a project expected to start in 2016 or 2017. The intersection project is expected to cost about $40 million, though only about $11 million is funded in the long-range plan. Leaders of the TPO understand its importance, however. "I certainly believe and realize that to build a half-billion-dollar bridge and not have a proper landing ... to not have it flow in a method that would be appropriate for the next 50 years would be a disaster, in my opinion," said TPO member and Escambia County Commissioner Wilson Robertson. The TPO is an intergovernmental transportation policy board for Santa Rosa and Escambia counties in Florida and Baldwin County, Ala.
Fort Collins, Loveland to build police training facility
Fort Collins and Loveland, Colo., are joining together to build a new police training facility on 43 acres of land on the edge of the regional airport the two cities share. City councils for both Fort Collins and Loveland have approved funding the facility's design, with each city anteing up about $800,000. The expected construction costs are $18.5 million, down from an original estimate of $23.5 million. Loveland Facilities Manager Ken Cooper said the cities plan to complete the project's design in 2016, start bidding for construction before the end of 2016 and have construction commence in 2017 to 2018. The training facility will consist of classrooms, a driving track and a shooting range, all of which will be available for rent when not in use by either city's police department. Officials hope that will defray some of the facility's $680,000 annual operations and maintenance costs. Loveland Police Chief Luke Hecker said neither city could have afforded to build a similar training facility on its own. "I believe the partnership is going to maximize the dollars for the most robust, first-class training facilities for both agencies," Hecker said.
Michigan legislature passes $1.2 billion in road funding
Even as it looks like the U.S. Congress is finally acting on a long-term transportation funding bill, more and more states are taking matters into their own hands to ensure their transportation future. Michigan is the most recent to do so, with the $1.2 billion roads plan its legislature passed last week. The funding package includes $600 million annually from a raised gas tax (an increase of 7.3 cents per gallon beginning in January 2017) and a 20 percent increase in vehicle registration fees (also beginning in 2017). The other half of the funding boost will come from the state's general revenues, which legislators managed through re-prioritization of state spending. "It's time to put this to bed," House Speaker Kevin Cotter (pictured) said. "It's time to let the road work begin. It's time for us to create an infrastructure that all of us can be proud of and can welcome people back to Michigan." A provision of the transportation package holds back $100 million a year in new fuel tax revenue to create a "roads innovation fund." Those funds would be released once the Michigan Department of Transportation identifies ways it can build longer-lasting roads. Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation into law yesterday.
Phoenix issues RFP to redevelop downtown property
Phoenix is looking for a developer to purchase 7.6 acres of city-owned land along Fillmore Street bounded by Fourth and Sixth Avenues. The city has issued a request for proposals (RFP) and is hoping to identify a company to build a mixed-use development that would have both commercial and residential uses. The property consists mostly of vacant land and is one of the largest unclaimed pieces of real estate in downtown Phoenix. A previous solicitation and successful bid was canceled after a conflict of interest was found with the bidding partnership. That proposal was to include more than 600 multifamily residential units, 14,000 square feet of retail and 20,000 square feet of commercial space. Bids for the re-released RFP are due in February 2016.
Sound Transit issues RFQ for Lynwood rail extension
Seattle-area commuter train provider Sound Transit has issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for the civil construction management of the extension of train service to Lynnwood, Wash. The project entails the construction of 8.5 miles of transit guideway from Northgate Station along Interstate 5 to Lynnwood Transit Center. Its budget will be in the range of $850 million to $900 million. Companies or teams interested in responding to the RFQ must have "expertise in retained cut, aerial guideways, track work and constructing stations and parking garages for light rail." This project will include management of two phases, the first of which is classified as pre-construction, while the second is construction management.
Patterson will expand its wastewater treatment plant
Patterson, Calif., is operating its Water Quality Control Facility above its capacity of 2.25 million gallons per day and, as a result, has agreed to expand the facility. The $16.7 million expansion is just one part of the city's $25 million capital improvement plan (CIP). Design work for the wastewater treatment plant expansion project is almost done, and the city considers the project "shovel-ready." Public Works Director Mike Willett said that his department expects the project will go out to bid in spring 2016. The city will foot $2 million of the project and the region's development community will cover the remaining $14.7 million to pay for capacity-related costs.
News about public-private partnerships (P3s)
State Department forms new committee for global P3s
| The U.S. Department of State last month announced plans to establish an advisory committee on public-private partnerships (P3) worldwide. The purpose of the committee is to act in an "advisory capacity concerning the development of public-private partnerships that promote shared value with the private sector worldwide." It will consist of 25 members made up of corporate, nonprofit and faith-based leaders; academics; and scientists. P3s that might emerge from this endeavor could involve infrastructure projects or areas that more traditionally fit within the State Department's priorities, including what it refers to as "diaspora engagement," climate change, sustainable oceans and educational exchanges. The committee will last for at least two years with the possibility it could be renewed for an additional two years.|
Florida city approves P3 for affordable housing project
A Florida state law has enabled the city of Hollywood to embark on its first public-private partnership (P3) to build an affordable housing complex on currently vacant property. The city's private partner first approached Hollywood with an unsolicited proposal for the project in 2014, but it wasn't until this year that the city's code complied with the state's law on such proposals. The project will develop a 100-unit rental building for senior citizens with an income of 60 percent or less of the area's median income. That cutoff currently is $29,040 for a one-person senior household and $33,180 for two. The project will include a club house, gym, cafe, game rooms and outdoor recreation. It is scheduled to commence construction in October 2016 and be completed a year later.
Kentucky opens up Capitol Plaza for development
The Kentucky state Finance and Administration Cabinet issued a request for information (RFI) last month for suggestions on how it can use four pieces of land in the Capital Plaza area of downtown Frankfort. According to the RFI, the property could be used for a blend of residential, commercial, cultural, institutional and industrial uses. The RFI calls for the developer to finance, build, maintain and operate the project, which includes demolishing an office tower and providing new space for 350 state workers who currently use that building. If the project were to include tourism aspects, the developer could receive financial incentives including up to 25 percent of its development costs over 10 years from state sales taxes. The state's Tourism Development Act allows payments from any increase in sales taxes on expanded tourist attractions to be paid to developers of those projects. Responses are due Nov. 30.
Illinois OKs social services public-private partnership
The state of Illinois has launched a pilot program that forms a public-private partnership (P3) to fund social services in four counties. The program will provide the upfront costs for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in its management of the child welfare and juvenile delinquency systems. "It's an exciting opportunity for our state and provides us with a way to save money, be more effective and better serve youth," Andrew Flach, a spokesman for the DCFS, said. "Instead of just writing checks, we're ensuring that we're getting outcomes we're asking for." The state government has been mired in a budget stalemate for months, and many agencies are struggling as a result. The pilot program has been in the works for years but only launched last week.
MassDOT, MBTA approve P3 to fund station project
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) have approved a public-private partnership (P3) as part of a real estate deal that will help pay for improvements to the Hynes Convention Center Station on Boston's Green Line train. The private developer has acquired the "air rights" above the Massachusetts Turnpike and part of a tunnel owned by the MBTA, which gives it permission to build commercial and residential facilities above the publicly owned property. The company will pay about $30 million in rent, and that money will be used to fund the station accessibility improvements. The station is the Green Line's busiest that is not accessible to people with disabilities. The deal calls for the new construction to include station entrances along with project construction management services. "By harnessing the developer's expertise and the value created by the air rights development, this project gives us the opportunity to address station accessibility and reliability concerns at a critical location sooner than we would be able to otherwise," said MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola (pictured).
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