Volume 9, Issue 22 - May 31, 2017
Holdup of FTA investment program funds could threaten transit projects
Mary Scott Nabers, President/CEO, Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
A letter was sent recently to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urging the administration to release of $2.4 billion in funds for federal transit projects. The funds were previously allocated by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for light rail, heavy rail and commuter rail, streetcar and bus rapid transit projects. There are many shovel-ready projects that could be launched immediately and quite a few were included in the spending bill that was passed by Congress in early May.  

Just last week, the FTA announced it will approve $647 million for the San Carlos Peninsula Corridor (Northern California) Electrification project. That funding will be used to electrify the existing Caltrain commuter rail system. 

A few other projects have signed funding agreements so those projects can be launched. These projects include six California transit lines, and rail work projects in Denver, Colo., Portland, Ore., Fort Worth, Texas, Chicago, Ill., Boston, Mass. and Charlotte, N.C. The fate of numerous other projects, however, hangs in limbo.

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Shifting air-traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a private partnership is part of President Donald Trump's proposed budget that was introduced last week. Critics say it isn't a good idea because of the lack of congressional oversight. In 2015, members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Subcommittee on Aviation were requested to review the causes of recent disruptions and whether FAA possesses the ability to manage air traffic control crises that arise within the National Airspace System. In January, the Office of Inspector General released an audit report that stated "although FAA has taken steps to improve its operational contingency plans, significant work remains to mitigate the effects of major system disruptions." 

One of the examples of these disruptions provided in the 23-page audit occurred in 2014 when a communications contractor assigned to the Aurora FAA radar center set fire to the center, grounding more than 2,000 flights in Chicago. The contractor allegedly planned to "take out" the center and kill himself. The contractor was charged with setting fire to and damaging an air navigation facility. The audit stated that the "FAA's air traffic facilities are not yet fully prepared to respond effectively to major system disruptions, in part because of a lack of necessary controller training for these types of emergency events." Congress will debate the possible change as part of renewing the reauthorization of FAA funding, whose current spending authority expires on Sept. 30.


North Carolina- The Department of Defense (DOD) recently announced plans to spend more than $293 million on construction projects at North Carolina installations in the next fiscal year. The projects include: $57.7 million will be for new facilities on Fort Bragg, $193.7 million on Camp Lejeune, $26.4 million at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and $15.6 million at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. The installations at Seymour Johnson and Cherry Point are especially interesting to state officials as the new installations will be dealing with the stationing of some of the nation's newest aircrafts like the KC-46 tanker and F-35 fighter, which would prevent future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). 

The military is currently planning to request Congress to approve a round of BRAC in 2021. The Department is seeking the BRAC to get rid of excess infrastructure - the DOD currently has about 20 percent more facilities than needed and is attempting to utilize the resources spent on excess infrastructure to improve readiness and modernization. North Carolina's biggest installations, Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, are thought to be protected from future BRAC rounds because of their key functions in national security. Fort Bragg is the largest military installation in the country and the base for special operations and the Global Response Force. Camp Lejeune is the biggest Marine Corps installation on the East Coast. 

The North Carolina Military Business Center is expected to work to help connect opportunities with businesses in North Carolina. One of ways the organization will do this is through its annual construction summit for federal contractors in Wilmington which will happen this year Oct. 24-25. At Fort Bragg, the U.S. special Operations Command requested $20 million for a human performance training center, $13.5 million for a support battalion administration facility, $20 million for a tactical equipment maintenance facility and $4 million for telecommunication reliability improvements. There are also projects at Camp Lejeune for special operations forces. This includes a $10.8 million human performance training center and a $20.5 million motor transport maintenance expansion. Other proposed projects at Camp Lejeune include a $327.9 million housing facility for enlisted bachelors and a $65.7 million water treatment plant replacement.
Louisiana- The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has a $100 million project that could go out for bids around 2020. The project calls for construction of a four-lane bridge, called the Jimmie Davis Bridge, between Shreveport and Bossier City. The plan also calls for converting the existing two-lane span over the Red River into a pedestrian crossing.The traffic bridge will be erected just north of the pedestrian span. 

While $23 million in state funding is already in place, paying the entire bill has led to the idea of possibly installing a toll road on the bridge. State officials say there has been no decision yet on whether to charge a toll on the new bridge to help pay for it. That plan requires an environmental assessment, which is required for federal funding of such a project. That's now underway and is expected to wrap up by this fall.
California- The California Transportation Commission has allocated $328 million for 88 transportation projects across the state. The projects include 41 biking and pedestrian projects receiving $35.8 million from the Active Transportation Program. California's SB1, also known as the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, was recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown and will allocate $52.4 billion over 10 years towards transportation infrastructure improvements. As a result of the bill, there will be more awards and allocations for projects similar to those receiving funding now. 

This round of funding dedicated $234 million from the State Highway Operation and Protection Program for 29 "fix-it first" projects for the state highway system and related infrastructure. These projects include maintenance, pavement repair, safety improvements and bridge enhancements. Other areas of funding include: $45.4 million for two Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program projects, $6.4 million for eight capital improvement projects that are part of the State Transportation Improvement Program, $4.6 million for the Traffic Congestion Relief Program and the connect transportation systems to improve the movement of goods.
Florida- The federal government has allocated $17.5 million to Jacksonville for dredging the St. Johns River signaling Washington D.C.'s commitment to deepening the harbor to allow jumbo sized cargo ships to access Jacksonville's port terminals. The dredging will still require future funding from federal, state and local governments in the future as the project has a total cost of $684 million. The first phase of the project could start as early as December utilizing the $17.5 million from the federal government and contributions from the state Department of Transportation, JaxPort and the city. 

Funding the enormous $684 million in its entirety remains in question but dredging the port was a pledge from President Donald Trump when he campaigned in Jacksonville last year. Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designated the harbor deepening as a "new start" project, a designation only given to a few projects each year and has made the project more competitive. The state Department of Transportation has pledged to pay 50 percent of the non-federal share of the costs of dredging. The 2017-2018 budget for the department contains about $15.5 million in state money for the project. If JaxPort matches the state commitments, there would be enough with the federal contributions to pay for phase 1. 

Phase 1 will begin near the mouth of the St. John's River and go to just west of Mayport. The beginning phase will not require underwater blasting of the river bottom although the following phases may require the use of explosives to crack the hard bottom. As phase 1 gets underway, JaxPort will look to receive funding for the next phase so that all four segments of dredging can be completed without interruptions. If the funding falls into place with the schedule, the entire 13-mile stretch would be completed by 2024. In its entirety, the project calls for $312.8 million from the federal government. The remaining $371.4 million would have to be contributed by state and local entities. JaxPort officials have discussed with city administrators about contributing anywhere from $93 million to $167 million of the cost. The 2018 budget does not contain any funding for the projects in Jacksonville or Savannah but it is still possible that Congress could authorize a 2018 work plan that would dedicate additional money for the Corps projects.
Massachusetts- School officials opted to wait on a request for proposals for the $4 million sale and redevelopment of the Thurgood Marshall Middle School Project proposed by city officials to allow the committee's attorney enough time to research the project. The proposed project would develop amenities that are currently lacking in Lynn, such as a mixed-use facility including doctor's offices and market-rate apartments for senior citizens. 

An initial plan opted to demolish the existing middle school building, which would cost around $2.2 million, but after a contractor contacted the city, the committee is reconsidering the demolition in favor of renovating the building and saving the bonded money for other capital projects. Many on the committee are hesitant to sell the lot because the area is strapped for land. The property is also too small to build a new middle school, is not in the correct district to serve as the new elementary school and it cannot be used for a fire or police station because it is in a residential district. A final decision about the land transfer will be made at the next School Committee meeting.
Florida- The city of Jacksonville is seeking bids by June 7 from prospective contractors to clean up land that was polluted for decades by the now dismantled Southside incinerator. The project has been approved by state environmental officials and involves collecting and disposing of 32,000 tons of soil that have been contaminated by ash and replacing the soil with 29,000 cubic yards of uncontaminated soil. Much of the 19 lots that are affected by contaminated ash are city-owned, so the project is expected to be much less costly than cleanup of the incinerator north of the St. John's River. The Southside cleanup is projected to begin after 2020 with costs around $2.5 million.

Washington- Snohomish County announced plans to deploy technology and form partnerships to draw economic growth and improve connectivity to all residents. The county released a request for information (RFI) through its Department of Information Technology seeking details on potential public-private partnerships for the county's rural and urban areas for review by July 12. 

County officials are designing plans after the established smart city model used across the nation but have not specified exactly what type of technology they are looking for because they want all types of ideas from vendors. The county is open to all ideas including integrated information and communications technology, Internet of Things devices and data, publicly deployed infrastructure, rural broadband capacity, urban informatics and data analytics, mobile/civic applications, sensor-based networks, and/or urban wireless networks (including 5g). A challenge facing the county is figuring out how to balance the needs of its rural areas with the needs of its high-tech urban regions.
California- The town of Truckee is looking for a public-private partnership (P3) and has released a request for interest and qualifications for those who would be interested in redeveloping the West River Site, located at 10257 West River Street. This 1.42-acre of land served as the Nevada County Department of Transportation and Sanitation Maintenance Yard from approximately 1964 until 1994. The Town of Truckee acquired the site from Nevada County in 2004. 

In 2010-2011 the Town hosted a series of community workshops to guide future use of the site. A West River Site Redevelopment Feasibility Study shows that the community is interested in a restored riparian corridor, a river-oriented public park and developed use that will draw the public to the site, with an opportunity for additional mixed-use development. The deadline for responses to the request for interest and qualifications is June 30.
Kentucky- A new communications center, P3 Kentucky, will assist in connecting Kentucky's local and state leaders who are considering public-private partnerships for water and sewer improvements, economic development projects and other public infrastructure investments. P3 Kentucky recently launched its new website, P3KY.com, and is sending e-newsletters to more than 4000 local, state, economic development and business leaders. Kentucky has one of the nation's most expansive laws in encouraging public-private partnerships for infrastructure needs and P3 Kentucky is serving as a financing tool that can provide capital and private sector expertise to bring projects to construction. 

P3 Kentucky is part of a communications firm based in Louisville specializing in transportation, economic development and community improvement projects. The venture has received support from groups that pushed for changes to Kentucky's P3 laws. Those groups are serving on the P3 Kentucky roundtable and providing expert advice on infrastructure projects. These groups include Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky League of Cities, Kentucky Association of Counties, Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association, Kentuckians for Better Transportation, Associated General Contractors of Kentucky, the American Council of Engineering Companies, Kentucky Chapter and the Kentucky Association for Economic Development.
New York- While on a tour of Buffalo, New York's Inner and Outer Harbors, Governor Andrew Cuomo committed $2 million of state funds to develop the Aud Block, the site of the former Memorial Auditorium. The site is partially reused as "canals" that host seasonal activities such as water sports and ice skating. The northern portion of the block remains a fenced-in undeveloped space. 

Cuomo announced on the boat tour that he is willing to provide state money to spark its redevelopment. Cuomo committed state funds after Mayor Byron Brown of Buffalo and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation pledged to move forward with the Canalside 2004 master plan that outlines the development of office, residential and green spaces as well as restaurants and entertainment options along the Aud Block. Brown believes that the $2 million of state funding will generate interest in the private sector to take part in the development.
Wisconsin- City officials in Marshfield are seeking a new buyer to purchase and develop the City Hall Plaza after the original buyer fell through. Mayor Chris Meyer hopes to review request for proposals at the next city council meeting on June 13 so that the project can begin as quickly as possible. The redevelopment possibilities for this project are open-ended but city officials hope that proposals will demonstrate how the building can be developed to benefit the downtown district and provide tax revenue.
Kentucky- The Kentucky Department of Parks is requesting information by July 25, from private developers interested in building and operating a new campground at Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park. The 150-acre campground, located on Gobbler's Knob, would include basic campsites as well as sites equipped with amenities such as electricity, water, bathhouses, a playground and Wi-Fi access. The area currently houses lodges, cottages, a restaurant, golf course and marina.

June 18-20
SelectUSA Investment Summit will be held June 18-20 at the Gaylord Hotel - National Harbor in Washington, D.C. During the event, Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), with assistance from the Association for the Improvement of American Infrastructure (AIAI) will facilitate a 3-hour symposium covering the basics of Public-Private Partnerships. Experts from throughout the U.S. will be on hand to provide hands-on assistance to attendees. 
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