Volume 8, Issue 6 - May 4, 2016
Transportation - vital to global competitiveness
Mary Scott Nabers, President/CEO, Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
State leaders must find new ways to fund transportation because federal funding is no longer adequate. Historically, states have used funds from the federal gas tax to maintain and improve highways, bridges and transit systems. The gas tax, however, has been at 18 cents per gallon for more than two decades. As a funding source for all that is needed to maintain the country's massive system of roads and bridges, it is almost laughable. And, Congress has simply been unwilling for entirely too long to increase the gas tax or find an alternative solution.

There are many reasons why there has been such a decline in gas tax revenue. The oil industry is in the midst of a downturn and the cost of a barrel of oil has fallen to levels not seen in more than a decade. As a result, the price of gas has been vulnerable to unpredictable fluctuations and that affects gas tax revenues.




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San Diego to fund projects that fight climate change
Mayor announces $127 million for projects included in 'Climate Action Plan'
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer this week announced the funding strategy for his city's efforts to combat climate change. The initiative includes $127 million for Fiscal Year 2017, a figure the mayor stressed will not cover the entire costs of what he hopes the city will get done.

"This over $100 million is just the down payment," Faulconer (pictured) said in making the announcement. "It's going to help us create the foundation we need as we build a better and cleaner future for all of San Diego. These investments, along with other sustainability initiatives, will help us as we work to reach the goals in the Climate Action Plan."

The city's Climate Action Plan was approved and adopted by city council in December 2015. Using San Diego's rate of emissions in 2010 as the baseline, it calls for the phased reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city, beginning with 15 percent by 2020 and reaching 50 percent by 2035. As well, the plan aims for all of the city's electricity to come from renewable resources by 2035.

The initial year's funding will cover everything from planting trees and striping bike lanes to street improvements and stormwater and sewer upgrades. The largest expenditure - accounting for about half of 2017's budget allocation for the program - is beginning the implementation of the city's Pure Water program, which has as its goal the creation of an independent, drought-proof local water supply. That project will focus on water recycling and is intended to provide one-third of San Diego's water supply by 2035. Negotiated separate from the Climate Action Plan, the Pure Water program is expected to cost the city up to $3.5 billion and take more than a decade to complete.

"Not all the funding is directly correlated with greenhouse-gas reductions," Cody Hooven, sustainability manager for the city and co-author of the implementation plan, said. "There's a lot of co-benefits for why we're funding what we are. Pure Water is an example of a really-high-infrastructure-cost program that, even without the Climate Action Plan, is still a good thing for us to do."

City staff this week released a Funding & Implementation Report, which establishes a baseline funding level in the annual budget for the Climate Action Plan. That will be used to determine future funding levels as the program advances toward its goal deadline of 2035.

U.S. Senate to vote on $9 billion water bill
Bill passed through committee easily, will dedicate significant funds to drinking water
The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week voted to pass the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016 on to the full Senate. The $9.35 billion bill would authorize spending on improvements and maintenance for ports, coastal navigation and river channels, canals, dams, locks and levees. 

More than half of the bill's potential appropriations, $4.5 billion worth, would go toward water infrastructure projects nationwide. Within that amount is $220 million in direct emergency assistance for the city of Flint, Mich., and other communities that are dealing with lead contamination and other hazardous drinking water issues.

"What happened in Flint has shown us how vulnerable some of our water systems are, and this bill is a perfect vehicle to upgrade our water infrastructure," said committee member Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Further efforts to support the nation's aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure come in the form of modernizing State Revolving Loan Fund programs, providing funding to control sewer overflows and to replace lead service lines.

The bill includes 25 new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) projects in 17 states, including port improvements in Charleston, S.C., and elsewhere. The ports projects have taken on particular importance with the imminent completion of the Panama Canal expansion, which will open up the U.S. Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard to bigger container ships that will be able to sail through the canal from Asia.

Other large projects included in the bill are ecosystem restoration projects in the Florida Everglades, an effort to revitalize the Los Angeles River and flood and hurricane protection for Louisiana.

The legislation requires the USACE to update its reservoir operations and to streamline the approval process for modifications and updates to existing projects.
Collaboration Nation
Upcoming contracting opportunities

Columbus to spend billions upgrading water system
The Columbus, Ohio, City Council this week approved a $670 million capital projects budget designed to improve the city's water and wastewater systems. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has for more than a decade cited the city for allowing too much sewage to wash into waterways during heavy rainstorms. These projects are intended to put a stop to that problem, as well as conducting additional improvements to the city's public water system. "Obviously, our goal is to comply with the state and EPA requirements, but obviously we're focused on water quality," said Jon Lee, fiscal officer for the Columbus Public Utilities Department. The state environmental agency has issued a letter signaling its approval of the city's long-term planning, called Blueprint Columbus. The city's original plan called for the installation of larger drainage pipes throughout the system. Blueprint Columbus, however, will see the construction of hundreds of rain gardens, a sump-pump program and other environmentally conscious solutions to help Columbus's sewer system handle heavy rains and to curb overflows. The entire 20-year program will cost about $2.5 billion, $1 billion less than the original plans. The first projects will begin this summer.
New York City to issue RFP for $1.7B BQE rehab design
New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) officials have said they soon will release a request for proposals (RFP) for a project that will rehabilitate the 62-year-old triple cantilever that underpins the Brooklyn Heights Promenade along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). The project is expected to take five years to plan, another five years for construction and cost the NYC DOT $1.7 billion. Included in the project will be 21 bridges and other structures, which will improve roadway and ramp configurations. The RFP will be issued in May, and the design phase will begin in early 2017 and be completed in 2019. Construction could start in 2021 and is scheduled to be completed by 2026. The highway's triple cantilever design in Brooklyn Heights includes two levels for BQE traffic and another for the Promenade, with a city street running beneath it all. The expressway sees an average daily traffic of more than 140,000 vehicles.
Houston to create citywide transportation app
Ridesharing company Uber has threatened to withdraw from the city of Houston over a disagreement about regulations for its drivers, but Houston's municipal government is moving forward with plans to create a mobile application that combines all of the city's transportation options in one tool. The app would include the city's limousine, taxi and ridesharing companies, as well as other transportation services. Users would select a service and be directed to the appropriate method to contact that service, said Lara Cottingham (pictured), deputy assistant director of the Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department. "We're in the process of working on an RFQ (request for qualifications) to look for companies that would provide a platform to put multiple vehicles for hire on board," she said. The department's goal is to have the app ready by the time Houston hosts the 2017 Super Bowl. Still to be decided is whether the app would feature the city's public transportation services (such as buses, light rail).
FRA makes available $25 million for safety upgrades
The U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is accepting applications from state and local governments, as well as railroads, for $25 million in competitive grants. The Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvements Grant funding can go toward railroad infrastructure projects that have safety improvements as their focus. This includes the acquisition, improvement or rehabilitation of intermodal facilities; improvements to tracks, bridges and tunnels; upgrades to railroad crossings; and the separation of railroad crossings and roads. "To safely move tons of freight and millions of passengers each day in this country, we need to continually invest in safety. These dollars will help get us closer to that goal," FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg said. "We hope to receive applications that can make these limited funds go as far as possible." FRA will accept grant applications through June 14.
Washington, D.C., commuters may get gondola system
Leaders in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., the district's oldest, are considering a proposal to build a gondola system that would ferry commuters to the nearest Metro station. Currently, the neighborhood has no rail station of its own, and residents must travel more than a mile away in either direction to reach the nearest stations, including one in Virginia, across the six-lane Francis Scott Key Bridge over the Potomac River. The gondola system, similar to mountain ski lifts, would bring commuters from Georgetown to the Rosslyn, Va., Metro station just across the river. The system, while very early in the conceptual stage, has several advantages over a previously proposed streetcar system, according to proponents of the plan. It would run continuously and above, rather than in, street traffic. A gondola  system, because it runs nonstop, can carry roughly five times as many passengers as a streetcar, and construction costs would be much cheaper. Both the district and Arlington County, Va., have committed funding for a study of the idea.
Ohio city to build $2.3 million bike path
The city council of Athens, Ohio, last month agreed to spend $2.3 million to fund the construction of a bike path. A project that's been in the planning stages for many years, the proposed bike path will stretch from Armitage Road to Columbus Road across the Hocking River. City council members said that the project wouldn't be completed for several years and that it would be paid for primarily with state and federal funding, with funding provided by the Ohio Department of Transportation, though "a small city grant" also will contribute to the project's completion. "This isn't happening all willy-nilly," Councilman Kent Butler said. "We've made up a bicycle master plan, and this falls into that bigger vision of connecting our bike paths."
Abilene needs $229M to upgrade water infrastructure
The director of water utilities for the city of Abilene, Texas, recently recommended that city council members begin developing a master plan to upgrade the city's water infrastructure and prioritize projects needed to meet increased water consumption in the future. The necessary upgrades will carry an estimated cost of about $229 million. The projects include renovating a water treatment plant to process 25 million gallons of water daily at an estimated cost of $49 million and rehabilitating Kirby Lake Dam at an estimated cost of $3.9 million. The city also needs to renovate six of its 17 water tanks at a cost of about $6 million each, officials said. If council members vote to develop the master plan, City Manager Robert Hanna (pictured) said city staff would issue a request for proposals to identify engineering firms that can help design the infrastructure projects.
Chicopee City Council funds two school roofs
The city council of Chicopee, Mass., last week agreed to fund projects that will replace the roofs at two city schools. Together, the two roofing projects will cost about $3.8 million, but since they have been placed within the accelerated repair program of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the city will pay only about $750,000 to complete both of them. The MSBA will cover about 80 percent of the repairs. The work will likely be done at Belcher and Fairview Veterans elementary schools over the summer, said Ronald Simard, school maintenance director. The MSBA reimburses cities for projects at schools that teach children in grades kindergarten through 12. Belcher's students attend kindergarten through second grade, while Fairview School has been converted from a middle school to an elementary school with kindergarten to fifth-grade students.
New York issues RFP for renewable energy projects
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) last month issued a request for proposals (RFP) seeking companies that intend to develop large-scale renewable energy projects. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $150 million in funding that would go toward the projects. The funding would be in exchange for "the environmental attributes" created by generation resources under the Renewable Portfolio Standard Program. To be eligible for the funding, a bidder must have begun commercial operations after Jan. 1, 2003. The research and development agency has offered two options to apply for funding. NYSERDA staff's preferred method is for an applicant to submit a notice of intent to bid by May 26. Officials will respond to applicants by June 16 to notify them if they are eligible to advance in the RFP process. For companies interested in submitting a proposal directly, the deadline is July 12.
Hamilton commissioners seek bids for paving project
Officials in Hamilton County, Fla., spent two years preparing a construction project along NW 23rd Boulevard. In February, the county finally completed the process of acquiring the needed rights of way to put the project out to bid, and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) had allotted $2.9 million for the paving project. However, the one bid submitted in response to the solicitation came in at more than $4.9 million, well over the prospective budget. Members of the Board of County Commissioners rejected that bid at their meeting held in the middle of April and agreed to re-advertise the NW 23rd Boulevard project. County Commissioner Randy Ogburn said that there are 500 miles of dirt roads in Hamilton County, and NW 23rd Boulevard has been on the list to be paved since the 1990s.

News about public-private partnerships (P3s)

Los Angeles issues RFI for convention center project
Planners with the city of Los Angeles have issued a request for information (RFI) to determine the level of interest the private sector has in redeveloping the Los Angeles Convention Center through a public-private partnership (P3) using the design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM ) model. The Los Angeles Convention Center Expansion and Modernization Project is scheduled to include a 220,000-square-foot expansion of the building's main level exhibit space and the construction of a new 78,000-square-foot ballroom. City staff members also are considering the reconfiguration of the convention center's master plan to allow 14 acres of the 54-acre convention center site to be redeveloped for mixed-use purposes. That part of the project would consist of condominiums, apartments and retail. Responses to the RFI are due May 6, though responding is not a requirement to participate in the eventual procurement process. A request for qualifications (RFQ) is scheduled to be issued in July, with a request for proposals (RFP) to follow in November. The schedule has selection of a developer set for September 2017 and the convention center's completion in 2021.
Hawaii to build broadband infrastructure through P3
The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has issued a request for proposals (RFP) seeking to identify a structuring agent to select a public-private partnership (P3) procurement model and a developer to procure, finance and operate a trans-Pacific, fiber optic cable landing station. State leaders hope to find a partner that will assist them in bringing broadband infrastructure to the state and making it widely available to residents. The structuring agent will have two duties: (1) preparing solicitation documents and leading the RFP process, and (2) creating the operating, revenue and financing models, including the $25 million in general obligation bond funding the state has set aside for the project. The deadline for responses to the RFP is May 18. The state expects to award a three-year contract a month later. The contract will take effect Aug. 1, run through the end of July 2019 and include up to two one-year extensions.
Florida state lawmakers pass additional P3 legislation
The Florida Legislature last month passed legislation that will expand the available options for the tax-exempt financing of public-private partnership (P3) projects. House Bill 7027 created the Florida Department of Transportation Financing Corporation, a nonprofit with the power to serve as a financing mechanism for P3s conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The director of the Division of Bond Finance (DBF) of the State Board of Administration will serve as the corporation's chief executive. The purpose of the corporation is to take on the debt from the FDOT, thereby allowing the transportation department to fund projects that might otherwise have to wait for traditional funding sources to become available. According to officials, the ability to borrow on a federally tax-exempt basis could lower interest rates below those typically associated with P3 transactions. "We've had to rely on the private sector" for P3 financing, FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold (pictured) said. "This gives us the option to do public-sector financing with bonds and presumably obtain lower interest rates."
Prince George's County builds out green infrastructure
Prince George's County, Md., has formed a public-private partnership (P3) that will retrofit 15,000 acres of pavement and buildings in the suburban Washington, D.C., county. The project will install rain gardens, vegetated roofs and other water-absorbing landscape features with the intent of capturing rain runoff and helping to meet the county's obligations to maintain the Chesapeake Bay. Meeting pollution mandates imposed by the state would cost the county more than $2 billion by 2025 if those projects were financed conventionally, according to county officials. This P3 agreement will allow the county to do so for about $1 billion. It will include more than 400 installations, which currently are in various stages of planning, permitting and design. The private partner is earning about $40,000 per retrofitted acre, compared to the $250,000 per acre a neighboring county paid for a similar project. Aside from costs savings, Prince George's County is saving time. If county officials had taken on the project themselves, they would have had to do project-by-project feasibility studies, site planning and permitting before putting each project out to bid individually. Through the P3 agreement, retrofits that do not involve wetlands or navigable waterways are pre-approved and can be commenced immediately.
D.C. accepting comments on OP3 rules documents
The municipal government of Washington, D.C., established the Office of Public-Private Partnerships (OP3) in November 2015 to lead the district's efforts to build collaborations between the private sector and government on large-scale infrastructure development projects. The office's leadership now has opened a public comments period on two draft documents that will guide the district's P3 procurement process. The OP3 Draft Rules delineate the process for developing, soliciting, awarding, delivering and providing oversight of both solicited and unsolicited P3s. The OP3 Guidelines and Procedures is a more informal version of the office's rules. The OP3's website offers more information about the office's mission and the draft documents. Among the types of projects for which the OP3 can enter into P3 agreements are education, transportation, cultural or recreational facilities, utilities and city-owned properties.

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