Volume 8, Issue 10 - June 1, 2016
We've seen this before but still hope for a better ending!
Mary Scott Nabers, President/CEO, Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Traditional versus non-traditional spending, $5 billion versus $9 billion, earmarks versus no earmarks ... the U.S. House and Senate are on a collision course over an infrastructure bill again. As always, projects are in danger and this time the projects and funding are wrapped up in opposing versions of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016.

In late April, a Senate committee passed its version of the bill with traditional funding for maritime infrastructure projects. But the $9 billion bill also included numerous other "provisions," including $220 million in funding to help the city of Flint, Mich., deal with its crisis involving lead in its drinking water.

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Virginia makes sure Internet service reaches statewide
Governor, legislature address broadband Internet's infrastructure, reach
State governments across the United States are doing a lot to ensure their residents are able to access the latest technology and communications services. The most recent moves toward that goal in Virginia address the infrastructure that will bring broadband Internet service to the entire state and create a database of broadband's reach.

The first part of that equation came in the form of legislation that will allow broadband providers to install conduits that can house fiber optic cables along state highways. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed H.B. 912 last week and said the law would aid broadband providers in bringing their services to the state's rural communities. The new law will open up contracting opportunities in smaller cities and rural communities throughout Virginia that are not served by telecommunications providers on an equal basis to more populous regions of the state.

At the bill signing ceremony, McAuliffe also announced the launch of RUOnlineVA. The initiative consists of a survey designed to create a map of Internet service throughout the state. Responses will be mapped, and the results will be distributed to regulators and lawmakers in an effort to give them as much data as possible as they devise statewide broadband policy and make funding decisions.

The effort mirrors those in other states and will inform the creation of the national broadband map, which offers a similar service nationwide. It will allow communities to compare what is available elsewhere to their own service and allow policy makers to determine where gaps in service exist and where they need to focus their efforts and their budgeting decisions.

H.B. 912 goes into effect July 1. It gives the Virginia Department of Transportation the right "to permit a broadband service provider to install underground conduit capable of housing fiber optic or coaxial cable or other ancillary wiring and equipment within the public right of way."

State leaders are optimistic about the effect it will have on rural access to Internet service, which lags significantly what is available in the state's large cities and suburban communities.

Sound Transit releases updated light-rail plan
Seattle's ST3 transit plan now would cost $54 billion, take 20 years to construct
The Seattle region's public transportation agency, Sound Transit, released an updated plan to build out its light-rail line last week. The new plan was formulated following a month-long public comment period that took place after the presentation of an earlier version of the plan in March.

That version mapped out 25 years of construction that would bring light-rail to the cities of Redmond, Federal Way, Tacoma, West Seattle, Ballard and Everett at a total cost of $50 billion. The updated version of what's called Sound Transit 3 (ST3) shaves five years off of the timeline and adds $4 billion to the price tag.

The entire project will cost $54 billion, 70 percent of which is to be paid from Sound Transit's revenue and the remaining 30 percent coming from bonds. Those bonds are subject to voter approval in November. The 30 percent to be decided on by voters would cost about $200 annually per voter in increased taxes.

The ST3 plan would build a total of 62 miles of light-rail with stations serving 37 additional areas. The transit agency received about 35,000 responses online and more than 2,300 written comments during its public comment period, and the public meetings hosted by Sound Transit personnel were attended by more than 1,200 people.

"Across the region, we heard vocal support for completing projects sooner," said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. "Speeding up these light-rail expansions will give riders earlier relief from our region's ever-worsening congestion."

The plan includes projects other than light-rail, as well. The revised schedule includes improvements to the bus rapid transit system on Interstate 405, with added facilities in Kirkland and Renton, and a new station in Seattle would move from provisional to fully funded status.

The Sound Transit Board of Directors will vote on the updated ST3 plan June 2, and its final language is scheduled for formal adoption June 23 in order to meet election submission deadlines.

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Tampa Bay Express interstate project moves forward
The Tampa Bay Express (TBX) is a $6 billion project that will rebuild and repair 50 miles of highway in and around Tampa, Fla. The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization's (MPO) policy committee last week approved the organization's five-year Transportation Improvement Program, moving it to the full MPO board for a vote June 22. The TBX project includes improvements planned for interchanges in the downtown area and in Westshore, as well as the addition of toll lanes to Interstates 275 and 4. There has been discussion that those projects should be considered separately, though that is a decision that has not yet been made. "Both interchanges are horrendous, and both need to be worked on," Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione (pictured) said. "And the express lanes, I think, at this juncture are maybe premature, and FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) is moving very quickly with those projects."
Will County approves $275 million building project
Members of the Will County, Ill., Board have approved the county's largest-ever building project. It will include the construction of new facilities for the Sheriff's Office, courthouse, a satellite courthouse and the County Health Department. The total costs for the construction program will be $275 million. The $25 million Sheriff's Office complex will be built first and is expected to be completed toward the end of 2017. Amendments to the plan approved last week will add a new 911 center and administrative offices for the county's Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB), which oversees the 911 operations. Work on the courthouse will begin after the sheriff's complex is done, likely in 2018, followed by the Health Department facility, which should begin in 2022. The facility will be built on the site of a former bank building, which will be demolished and replaced with an 11-story courthouse.
Lincoln transit system to increase alternative fuel use
Lincoln, Neb., city officials are planning to increase the use of alternative fuels for the city's system of public transit. The StarTran public transit division already has 13 buses that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and plans, within the next few years, to fuel about half of its 80-vehicle fleet with CNG. The proposed Biogas to Vehicle Fuel Renewable Energy Project will convert methane produced at a wastewater treatment plant into CNG. Currently, the city converts the methane into electricity. The Renewable Energy Project would construct a $1.7 million fueling facility at or near the Theresa Street Wastewater Treatment plant, which would fuel 39 of the 80 StarTran vehicles. There is the potential to convert more vehicles to CNG, as well. "We anticipate it being less expensive than what we are paying now. And the fuel costs will be stable into the future," Transit Manager Mike Davis said. The city's proposed Capital Improvement Program includes plans to purchase about $3 million in equipment to produce compressed natural gas in the next two fiscal years and a $5 million investment for an expansion of the program. The project would produce about 100 cubic feet per minute of renewable natural gas initially and an additional 200 cubic feet per minute when the second phase is completed.
New York State approves $27B MTA improvement plan
New York State's Capital Plan Review Board last week approved a five-year, $27 billion plan for New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). It represents the largest infrastructure investment in the agency's history, according to state officials. The capital program will renovate 31 subway stations and add 18 miles of track to a segment of the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). The station projects will be built using the design-build delivery method. The MTA board will issue a Request for Statements of Qualifications (RSQ) on the renovations to the subway stations shortly, with the contracts to be awarded in the fall. The renovations will include design enhancements like improved lighting and more intuitive signage that will make it easier for riders to navigate stations. The renovated stations also will provide improved communications access with cellular connectivity and Wi-Fi availability. The two-step RSQ process will identify design-build teams by early summer, and those companies will submit proposals for station renovation packages beginning in July.
Augusta parks department may demolish city pools
A parks master plan for Augusta, Ga., has been developed that recommends the city demolish two city pools and convert them into splash pads. Officials haven't decided to move forward with the plan, but they do have $2 million of special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) revenue to implement improvements to the city's public pools. "The decision over the next few months will be: Do we bring our existing facilities up to good? Do we move toward spray ground? Or, do we focus on those facilities and bring them past good, up to excellent standard?" Augusta Parks Director Glenn Parker (pictured) said. City officials have said they will make a determination about how to proceed by the end of the summer.
County seeks proposals for fairgrounds redevelopment
Montgomery County, Ohio, is seeking proposals for the redevelopment of its fairgrounds. The Montgomery County Commission and officials with the city of Dayton are working together on a project that will relocate the county fair and redevelop the 37-acre Montgomery County fairgrounds. Commissioners agreed last week to issue a request for proposals to developers interested in developing the property. A private group had been working on a proposal for many years that would have built, with both public and private money, a mixed-use development with multi-family housing and retail. Its exclusive option to develop the land expired in January, and now officials have decided to open up the project to more bidders.
West Memphis district gets state money for schools
The Commission for Arkansas Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation approved last week the provision of $44.5 million for 49 school construction projects. While a few of the approved projects are quite small - such as $8,794 for work at Baker Elementary in the Pulaski County Special School District - many are much larger. The Cutter-Morning Star School District will build a new high school, and the school districts in Arkadelphia and Rogers each will construct a new elementary school. The West Memphis School District will receive $16 million for additions at four elementary schools, electrical system improvements throughout the district that will enable students to take better advantage of educational technology and a new library/media center at one campus. "I'm surprised you didn't hear me scream 'hallelujah' this morning when we got notification," said Jon Collins (pictured), superintendent of the 5,700-student West Memphis district.
Trumbull County water line project funding approved
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the largest water project in Trumbull County's history. The $12.5 million project, called the Blueprint to Prosperity Project, will deliver drinking water to residents in Braceville and West Farmington. The project will construct a water line that will connect the cities and some areas in between. The EPA's approval provides a no-interest loan for 30 years, with the potential for 50 percent of the loan's principle amount to be forgiven. Trumbull County water planners will consider additional water line extensions to portions of Braceville, Champion, Farmington, Southington and Warren Townships, depending on the level of interest from residents in those areas.
Oklahoma Legislature adds funding to capitol project
Members of the Oklahoma Legislature have authorized the sale of $125 million in bonds to complete repairs and renovations to the nearly 100-year-old state capitol building. That amount is the second phase of bond funding, bringing the total price tag for the capitol renovations to $245 million. Construction on the capitol restoration project is scheduled to begin this summer. Among other goals, the project will ensure the parapet walls and the east tunnel are protected from water infiltration. It also will replace approximately 40 percent of the building's copper roof. Interior upgrades include improvements to the security system and technology cabling, as well as infrastructure work in the tenant areas of the capitol and replacement of outdated furniture and equipment. The exterior portion of the project will take three and a half years to complete, while the interior project team has established a timeline of 6 years. The entire project will be finished by the end of 2022.
State approves funding for new Stoughton High School
The high school in Stoughton, Mass., was built in 1923 and last renovated more than 50 years ago. In addition to not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the building has issues with lead and asbestos. For those reasons, the city is planning to build a new high school at a total cost of $123 million. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) last week voted to fund about $52 million of the construction project. The new school will contain more than 215,000 square feet of space, with six auditoriums and 92 core academic classroom spaces. The new high school is scheduled to be completed by the opening of the 2019-2020 school year, and adjacent athletics fields will open the following year.

News about public-private partnerships (P3s)

Senate bill seeks to add PPPs to border projects
A bill making its way through the U.S. Senate would encourage leaders within U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the General Services Administration to consider public-private partnerships (PPPs/P3s) when planning future budgets. The "Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act" is sponsored by Texas Sen. John Cornyn (pictured) and passed the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee last week. If signed into law, the bill would formalize and make permanent pilot programs that commenced in 2013. The programs help to supplement staffing and implement infrastructure improvements in the region along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. Cameron County and the cities of Donna, Laredo, McAllen, Pharr and Rio Grande City have participated in the pilot programs, which have helped to reduce wait times at various air, land and sea ports, according to officials. "A robust economic relationship with Mexico is critical to both the Texas and U.S. economies, and public-private partnerships can help boost legitimate trade and travel at our ports of entry," Cornyn said.
Finalists for Denver airport PPP submit proposals
Denver International Airport's Great Hall will get redeveloped as part of a public-private partnership (PPP/P3) project. Last week, officials with the airport received proposals from three shortlisted developers. The project will entail removing the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) security screening equipment from the Great Hall in the Jeppesen Terminal and replacing it with retail and dining establishments. That space takes up about 815,000 square feet of the main terminal. The TSA's security area will be moved to an unused ticketing area. The selected partner will make its money back through concessions revenue, which amounts to more than $150 million annually. Airport planners are giving flexibility to the developers to devise different uses for the Great Hall project, as well as for about 475,000 additional square feet of space on another level of the terminal, which can be included in the proposals.
IDNR seeks proposals to redevelop Eagle Creek resort
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is soliciting for proposals to demolish and redevelop a resort on Lake Shelbyville in Central Illinois. The state-owned, privately managed Eagle Creek Resort and Conference Center has been closed since 2009. The long-term plans for the property include constructing a hotel with a limited number of rooms, but which could be expanded later assuming sufficient demand. "After reviewing the report and talking with local officials, the IDNR believes it best to plan on demolishing the current resort buildings and seek development proposals for a modern resort complex on that beautiful shoreline site at Lake Shelbyville," IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthal (pictured) said. "We will consider all ideas for the resort that will result in development of a great visitor destination and the best deal for taxpayers." IDNR officials said they plan to issue a request for information (RFI) from developers this summer and set a deadline for responses at that time.
Amtrak seeking master developer for Union Station
Amtrak last week issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) seeking to identify a master developer for Chicago's Union Station and property surrounding the station owned by the rail provider. The RFQ follows a request for interest (RFI) issued by Amtrak in October 2015. Any developer interested in winning the contract to develop the station that will result from an eventual request for proposals (RFP) will need to respond to this RFQ, which has a deadline of July 1. The RFQ made clear that respondents will need to include plans for including the West Loop neighborhood and its residents in their proposals. "It is critical that the master developer successfully engage the community and incorporate feedback from West Loop stakeholders into any development plan," stated the request. The project will include design, construction, financing and, potentially, the operation and maintenance of the non-rail assets of the station property.
Amarillo parks department considering PPP
Officials with the city of Amarillo, Texas, are working to build the city's first municipally owned recreation center. Parks department leaders are now planning to convert a former YMCA facility as part of a project that will cost about $2.2 million. The Amarillo Area Foundation recently contributed $250,000 to the project, which will be added to city funds. The rec center's conversion will be part of a $100 million program that will implement major improvements to the city's parks and athletics fields. The larger parks project would be funded primarily through public funding - possibly to include a $74 million bond proposition in November - though it would also be financed through a public-private partnership (PPP/P3), according to city leaders. Of the new rec center, Rod Tweet (pictured), director of Parks and Recreation, said, "As a whole, it will be the first owned-and-operated city recreation center. We hope that this is the first of many."

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