Volume 8, Issue 8 - May 18, 2016
Recent storms create huge construction opportunities
Mary Scott Nabers, President/CEO, Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Recent storms have had an immense impact on private-sector planning and construction opportunities in many states. So far this year, the United States has incurred more than $7 billion in damages from floods, and that is less than half of the total damages resulting from weather incidents.

Winter storms, heavy spring rains, tornadoes and damaging hail have all contributed to the destruction. In Houston, rain was so heavy and damages so great, newly elected Mayor Sylvester Turner named a "flood czar" who will be responsible for designing and implementing solutions to mitigate flood risks.

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Florida ROADS program aims to use data smartly
FDOT facilitates use of massive data collection to improve statewide mobility
It's no secret that the world is being inundated with mountains of data on a continual basis. It is said that more than 90 percent of the data created in the entire history of the world has been created in the past two years.

The problem is not that we don't have the data or that we don't have the right data. It's that there is so much data being accumulated that it can be monumentally difficult to identify the right pieces of data and put them to use in anything approaching a timely manner.

And governmental agencies are certainly no exception to this fact. As Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Chief Information Officer April Blackburn (pictured) has said, we have "lots of data, little information."

"We need to be able to get to data efficiently, share information better and link data from different sources. We have it, but we need to know what we have and how to get to it," she said.

To that end, FDOT officials last year launched a project called ROADS - Reliable, Organized and Accurate Data. The project has a simple goal: "to improve data reliability and simplify data sharing across FDOT, to have readily available and accurate data to make informed decisions." It is designed to identify all of the data used regularly by various employees within the transportation agency, aggregate it and create tools for the manipulation and use of the data by others.

"We have a lot of people who have data, and they keep it in homegrown systems like spreadsheets and databases," she said.

ROADS project leaders conducted surveys and interviews with FDOT staff members to discover what data they use, how they use it and how that can be improved. They realized that the department relied too heavily on obtaining data from individuals who had developed tricks to store and utilize various pieces of data rather than applications or tools.

Transportation departments at all levels - city, state, federal - receive data submissions from all directions, and they are receiving more of it than ever. They operate traffic lights equipped with cameras, sensors attached to light poles and other infrastructure, smart highways with sensors embedded in the roadway itself and any number of other data transmitters. And, autonomous vehicles are already on the roads and soon may become ubiquitous.

FDOT planners are trying to get ahead of the curve. In the project's one year of existence, Blackburn said, officials discovered 63 gaps in data use, "opportunities to improve what we do," she called them. FDOT staff members began to close those gaps immediately, and Blackburn intends to make the ROADS program agency-wide policy by 2017.

The end result will be transportation data becoming easily shared knowledge that improves the lives of the state's residents.

Local governments' share of infrastructure increasing
National League of Cities report surveys how local entities pay for infrastructure costs
Governments at all levels in the United States currently spend about $91 billion annually on infrastructure construction and maintenance. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) estimates that $170 billion in capital investment is needed to improve road conditions and performance.

If state and federal officials are not providing sufficient funding for transportation and water infrastructure projects, then municipal governments will have to step in. At least, that's the conclusion drawn by a recent report from the National League of Cities. Called "Paying for Local Infrastructure in a New Era of Federalism," the report writers surveyed all 50 states to determine what funding options are available to cities throughout the nation.

The report notes that state and local governments own the vast majority of roads, transit systems and water and wastewater systems, while federal funding has been in decline and state funding is inconsistent. That shifts the burden to local government entities, an effect that gives us the "new era of federalism" of the report's title.

"Unfortunately, this devolution has not been sufficiently matched with funding or decision-making authority at the local level. As a result, spending on infrastructure maintenance and new investments are the most widespread fiscal stressors for city governments."

Of the options available to local government officials, the League of Cities report examined five: local option sales taxes, local option fuel taxes, local motor vehicle fees, state infrastructure banks and public-private partnerships (PPPs/P3s). It also indicated whether voter approval is needed to implement these funding sources, since that can often increase the difficulty of a city's ability to use them.

In total, 32 states authorize PPPs, 29 allow municipalities to assess a local sales tax, 27 have state infrastructure banks, 26 authorize local vehicle registration fees and just 16 states authorize local option fuel taxes.

"Traditional means of paying for infrastructure no longer cover the costs of building, operating and maintaining elements such as roads and wastewater management facilities," the report concludes. "The partnerships between levels of government are eroding, and cities are increasingly on their own to fund necessary infrastructure."

The report's authors advocate municipal leaders develop "a more deliberate approach" to funding infrastructure that takes advantage of all the available alternatives.

Upcoming contracting opportunities

George Washington Bridge to get $2 billion upgrade
The 85-year-old George Washington Bridge is the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge and in desperate need of repair and renovation. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has begun some of the needed work, but officials have now bundled together 11 projects with a total cost of almost $2 billion to "Restore the George," as planners have named the rehabilitation program. The largest project will be the replacement of 592 vertical cables, known as suspender ropes, that support the bridge deck. Their replacement will cost more than $1 billion. "The suspender ropes lasted 85 years," said Cedrick Fulton (pictured), director of bridges, tunnels and terminals for the Port Authority. "The only other bridge that lasted that long was the Brooklyn Bridge." Other projects will rehabilitate the two main support cables, which hold up the suspender ropes, add lighting across the bridge's length and improve the feeder roads that lead to the bridge. Work began in 2015 to remove lead paint from the bridge's lower deck. The entire project is expected to last 10 years.
TxDOT releases RFQ for Southern Gateway in Dallas
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) last week issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for the Southern Gateway project in Dallas. The construction project will be procured as a design-build contract and will include the possibility of maintenance of the highway for up to 15 years by the winning bidder. It will include two sections: a 5.1-mile section of Interstate 35E from Colorado Boulevard to south of the I-35E-US 67 interchange and a 4.9-mile section of US 67 from that interchange to I-20. TxDOT planners have set four goals for the project: completion on schedule, minimal traffic delays during construction, facilitation of participation of women- and minority-owned businesses and consistent public communication throughout the project. Responses are due by June 30, after which TxDOT will select a short list of contractors to receive a request for proposals (RFP). The final RFP will include a scope of work, contract documents and the objective methodology for determining the selected proposal.
Columbus city budget includes fire, police stations
The Columbus, Ohio, City Council last week approved a $1 billion plan that will address the city's aging and deteriorating water system and roads. As well, the budget will include new facilities for the city's emergency personnel. A new fire station will be constructed on the east side of Columbus for $8.5 million, and a $3.6 million police substation also will be built near the Polaris area on the northern edge of the city. Both are intended to alleviate the heavy call traffic experienced in the outer limits of the city and to reduce response time for emergency personnel. The stations are expected to open in 2018. The budget also provides $3.5 million in funding for police body camera equipment. "This budget provides the tools our safety forces need to be effective," Council Member Priscilla R. Tyson (pictured) said. "This budget is our commitment to neighborhoods and safety."
UCLA to expand art school with $31 million project
Art dealer Margo Leavin recently gave a reported $20 million donation to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and school officials will use the money to fund most of the costs for an expansion of the university's art school. The $31-million project will construct a 75,000-square-foot studio complex for graduate students in the UCLA School of the Arts & Architecture. Plans for the new facility have been in place since 2011, but the university was short of funding for the project. Now, officials will be able to replace UCLA's current, aging and inadequate facility with a modern structure. The plans, which came together after a feasibility study five years ago, call for razing additions that had been built onto the main art building and refurbishing that central facility, wrapping it on two sides with a new, two-story structure. Studios will accommodate 45 students, and there also will be common areas, classroom space, an apartment to host visiting artists, a gallery and a communal kitchen and garden. The project will begin construction in 2017, and completion is set for the university's 2019 centennial year.
Stark State College to build campus in Akron
Stark State College will build a new campus in Akron, Ohio, after college officials reached an agreement with the Akron City Council on a 20-year lease-purchase agreement for about $950,000. The campus will be built on 11 acres of vacant, city-owned property just northeast of the downtown area. The two-year college offers associate degrees and certification programs. Plans are to build a 50,000-square-foot facility that could attract as many as 5,000 students and employ the equivalent of 157 full-time workers within five years. The school has reserved $5 million and secured $6.5 million in state funding to construct the facility, and the campus is scheduled to open for the 2018-2019 school year. Akron is the largest metropolitan area in the state without a community college. "We're here because of students," Stark State President Para Jones said. "We are committed to providing the most affordable, the most effective and the highest quality education that our employers need to ensure a well-educated, technically proficient workforce to keep our companies competitive and keep our community strong."
Regents approve design for $175 million health center
The University of Michigan Board of Regents soon will authorize the release of a request for proposals (RFP) for a $175 million project to build a new hospital. The new Brighton Health Center South will include the construction of a 297,000-square-foot building on 32 acres of university-owned land near the existing Brighton Health Center. The new facility will have multiple exam and operating rooms, a pharmacy and services in both pediatric and adult health care. Specialty services given space at the new hospital will include musculoskeletal health, ophthalmology, radiology and diagnostic imaging and comprehensive cancer services, including radiation oncology. The first projects to be bid out will include excavation and grading, construction of parking lots and roadways and onsite utility work. The cost of that work is $6.8 million. Construction for the hospital is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2018.
New Prairie school district prepares for construction
Leaders with the New Prairie School Corporation in New Carlisle, Ind., are preparing for $42 million in construction projects after voters approved a property tax increase in a referendum last week. A few of the construction projects began work immediately, but Superintendent Paul White said most of the work wouldn't begin until the fall. The majority of the construction projects will take place at the high school. They will include improvements to the stormwater and HVAC systems, installation of a new fire suppression sprinkler system, relocation of the high school's main office and construction of a new 1,200-seat auditorium for fine arts programming. The current auditorium will be converted into new classrooms and storage space. District officials soon will release requests for proposals (RFPs) for the projects. Responses will be reviewed by a committee - formed of board members, administrators and community members - which will narrow candidates to a list of three finalists before choosing a contractor.
Massachusetts pares down Green Line extension
The Boston area's proposed extension of the Green Line train system has continually run into trouble, primarily budget-related. Last week, the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA) fiscal control board agreed to a revised, scaled-down version of the project. The board members also stated that they could still cancel the project if the state runs into more trouble financing it. A consultant for the transportation authority said that the MBTA could save about $288 million by building simpler stations and $122 million by designing a shorter hike-and-bike trail featuring fewer walls and bridges. The new plan's stations call for open-air stops rather than buildings. Originally set to cost more than $400 million, the stations come in at about $120 million with the new designs. The extension has been discussed for more than 25 years. It would include seven new stations in Cambridge, Somerville and Medford and about 4.7 miles of track. The project would begin construction in late 2017 and take at least five years to complete.
Elm Street bond project goes forward after election
Voters in Georgetown, Mass., last week voted to approve a funding mechanism that will allow the city to commence a street project. The $1.8 million Elm Street road repair project will add sidewalks and repave the road. In the works for at least four years, the project has become even more necessary after the construction of the city's new Penn Brook School building led to further damage to Elm Street. "We haven't gone out to bid yet, so we'll put it out to bid and hopefully it will cost $1.8 million or less," Town Administrator Mike Farrell (pictured) said. The project gained approval by just five votes, with 261 in favor and 256 against, after the decision by city officials to pay for the project with a debt exclusion proved controversial.
Iowa DOT presents $3.5 billion road construction plan
Officials with the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) have compiled a five-year construction plan that totals $3.5 billion. The long-range plan calls for upgrades to the state's 8,871 miles of state and federal highways and 4,103 bridges. Major reconstruction work is scheduled for Interstate 29 in Sioux City and on I-29 and I-80 in Council Bluffs. The plan also includes the replacement of the I-74 bridge over the Mississippi River in Bettendorf and expansion of US 20, creating a four-lane highway between Dubuque and Sioux City. The Iowa Transportation Commission is scheduled to consider approval of the five-year plan June 14. State planners have been able to address many of these projects due to the increase in the state's gasoline and diesel fuel taxes by 10 cents per gallon, which has generated an additional $215 million annually for city, county and state roads.

News about public-private partnerships (P3s)

Cook County agrees to PPP for hospital redevelopment
Cook County Hospital is 102 years old and has sat empty for the last 13 of those years. Last week, Cook County, Ill., commissioners approved a redevelopment plan that will give a private group of companies a 99-year lease to convert the empty structure into a mixed-use development with a hotel, restaurant and retail shops. The public-private partnership (PPP/P3) is valued at between $550 million and $700 million and will be completed in four phases. The remaining phases of the redevelopment will add a technology and research center, a medical office building, more residential space and parking decks to the 13-acre site. County officials have spent about $3 million on planning for the project already and could contribute up to $5 million for environmental remediation of the site. The private partners will have two additional 25-year options upon reaching the end of the 99-year lease. They will pay the county $520,000 in rent annually, a figure that will rise to $2 million upon the project's completion. The County Commission also approved a related project that will spend $118 million to build a new administrative and clinic building on the site, a move commissioners say is cheaper than renovating three outdated structures.
Ohio State names energy management PPP shortlist
Officials with The Ohio State University are pursuing a public-private partnership (PPP/P3) to manage the school's energy system and narrowed their choice to 10 potential bidders in February from an original list of 40 interested parties. School administrators now have narrowed that list to six. The selected groups will receive a request for proposals (RFP), to which they will need to respond by the fall. The project calls for the private partner to pay for a 50-year lease to provide operations and maintenance of the university's utility system, to buy its energy and to make sure it meets energy-efficiency goals. Ohio State estimates that it needs at least $250 million in energy-efficiency improvements. The school had previously entered into a PPP in 2012 when it selected a private partner to manage its on-campus parking operations in a $483 million deal. Officials have said the utility's 52 employees would get an interview with the winning bidder and an opportunity to remain with the university in another position at the same rate of pay if not hired by the private company.
Eastern Michigan considering dining services PPP
Eastern Michigan University's leaders are in the process of reviewing the operations of the school's dining services. Last week was the deadline for private vendors to submit bids in response to a request for proposals (RFP) to take over management of the university's cafeterias, restaurants and cafes, as well as the concessions and catering at athletics facilities. Officials have not yet decided to make the switch to private management of the services but are reviewing both the proposals and the manner in which the school currently operates the dining services itself. "It could turn out we stay with the current dining services, contracted through the university," university spokesman Geoff Larcom (pictured) said. "The whole point of the RFP is to fulfill its stipulations." University officials have cited a recent national survey that found that 74 percent of universities nationwide use a private partner to provide food services.
Yale administrators support New Haven rail project
New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) operates a train line that runs 80 miles of track between New Haven, Conn., and Manhattan. A modernization effort is currently being contemplated for the New Haven Line (NHL) that would increase the frequency and capacity of that service, as well as expand station access through alternative transportation projects, including parking, bus, bike and pedestrian improvements. The NHL project would make that route a 30-minute ride each from Hartford to New Haven, from New Haven to Stamford and from New Haven to New York. The travel time for those trips now totals about two hours. Yale University in New Haven last week convened a conference at which officials expressed support for the endeavor. "Yale sees many of the benefits of the project, including increasing faculty retention by making it possible for its employees to live in New York City but work in Connecticut," said Michael Likosky, an adviser to the university. Among the route's biggest current drawbacks is the number of aging bridges that require trains to decrease their speed to 45 miles per hour. Connecticut's state transportation plan calls for $5 billion worth of work to rehabilitate or replace all of the bridges on the NHL. Likosky said that private investment, including a public-private partnership (PPP/P3), would be essential in the project's completion. "It's the type of project where the only real option - given its nature - is a P3."
Federal prison facilities to get energy, water savings
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has awarded a $38.6 million contract to a private company to oversee energy and water conservation measures at two prison facilities in Kentucky. The private partner will install and operate energy and water conservation equipment at the Federal Correctional Institution in Ashland and the Federal Medical Center in Lexington. The company will replace HVAC systems, upgrade lighting and water infrastructure and replace a steam facility at the Lexington site. According to the agreement, the project's costs will be paid through the energy savings that the company has committed to produce. The facilities are expected to earn the money back within 20 years. The work will be conducted through an energy savings performance contract (ESPC), a financing mechanism used to reduce energy use and costs by investing in resource conservation measures.

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