Volume 11, Issue 35 - Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Texas Transportation Commission
Texas - A $77 billion state transportation plan was approved by the Texas Transportation Commission on August 29. The Unified Transportation Plan (UTP) will improve safety, address congestion and connectivity, and preserve roadways throughout the state over the next 10 years.

Commission Chairman Bruce Bugg Jr. said the plan will target the state's most critical congestion improvement needs with $28 billion in funding allocated to Texas' five major metropolitan areas. The commission oversees the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which will select projects from the UTP in collaboration with local transportation leaders. The commission will provide the ultimate approval for an initiative to advance.

The UTP authorizes highway projects for planning activities, development and construction. In addition to highway projects, the plan addresses public transportation, maritime, aviation, and rail.

More than $4 billion will be set aside for safety improvements. To reduce crashes and eliminate fatalities from Texas highways by 2050, an additional $600 million will go to widen roads, improve medians and bridges, upgrade guardrails, provide intersection improvements, and make safety enhancements for bicyclists and pedestrians over the next two years.
The Permian Basin will receive more than $600 million for transportation improvements, including projects on safety, connectivity, congestion relief, and mobility improvements at high-volume intersections.
Legislative and voter-approved initiatives will provide funding from oil and gas taxes, sales taxes, and other sources to the state highway fund.
Barge heading down Arkansas River
Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a study that addresses the crucial link between inland waterways and the competitiveness of American agriculture.

The Importance of Inland Waterways to U.S. Agriculture study quantifies the cost-savings and competitive advantages of improving locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River system.

Most goods carried on the system include bulk commodities and farming necessities. These travel over long distances for import or export, and are critical to many industries. For example, in 2017, barge traffic moved 532.8 million tons of cargo worth $220 billion on the system.

The study concludes that the inland waterways system saves $7 billion to $9 billion per year when compared to other shipping modes. Investing $6.3 billion in the system over a 10-year period, and then $400 million per year thereafter, would increase the waterways' contribution to gross domestic product by 20 percent.

Overall, U.S. farmers have a competitive advantage thanks to the nation's robust transportation infrastructure, however the aging waterways' infrastructure needs significant rehabilitation to restore its full capability, prevent costly delays, and foster opportunities for growth.
Portland's Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) rail
Oregon - Transportation officials in the Portland area are studying the feasibility of a light rail tunnel under the Willamette River in the city's downtown to keep up with growing ridership.

The city of Portland and Multnomah County have partnered with TriMet transit authority on the study expected to be complete this fall. Budget estimating and planning strategy are underway with officials projecting tunnel construction costs to exceed $1 billion. They anticipate the tunnel will open between 2028 and 2040.

As the region has grown, the central city has become a transit bottleneck, impeding travel into and through the city's core. In downtown Portland, TriMet's Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) trains merge and cross each other's tracks in several places, and trains share space with cars, bikes and pedestrians, causing slowdowns. All of the region's light rail lines cross the Willamette River at the same place: the Steel Bridge. Built in 1912, the bridge can only carry one train at a time in each direction, and only at reduced speeds.

TriMet officials said the region will need at least 64 trains through downtown every hour, more than one train every minute. TriMet initiated a preliminary study last year that determined a tunnel underneath the central city could save MAX Blue and Red line riders close to 15 minutes on their commute each day. Portland's central city comprises the 14 neighborhoods closest to downtown on the river's east and west sides.
Hogback Bridge in Iowa
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the recipients of grant funding provided through the Competitive Highway Bridge Program (CHBP). A total of $225 million is being awarded to 20 projects in 18 states to fund a variety of bridge replacement and rehabilitation work in rural areas.

Funds must be used for highway bridge projects on public roads that leverage the efficiencies of "bundling" at least two highway bridge projects into one contract.

Notable awards include $33.4 million to Iowa, which will improve up to 77 bridges with accelerated bridge construction technologies; $18.9 million to Maine, which will upgrade four bridges in poor condition; and $16 million to Arkansas, which will rehabilitate 14 bridges that are deteriorating. All 20 projects take a cost-effective approach and demonstrate the benefits detailed in the guidelines.
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Silicon Valley Phase II map
California - The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced $125 million in federal funding for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), which will go toward its Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Silicon Valley Phase II rail project. The project, a 6.5-mile four-station extension of the BART system from the Berryessa Station through San Jose to Santa Clara, is estimated to cost a total of $5.58 billion.

The $125 million is provided through the FTA's Expedited Project Delivery Pilot Program, which aims to streamline project delivery of new transit infrastructure by fostering innovative partnerships and funding from various sources.

To receive the funds, the Santa Clara VTA must come up with 75 percent of the project cost through non-federal contributions. FTA officials will expedite their review and evaluation of application materials under a streamlined review process.
Gov. Phil Murphy gives a press conference after touring a Newark water distribution center with Mayor Ras Baraka (left).
New Jersey - Amid the city of Newark's water emergency, in which corroding lead pipes are contaminating drinking water, officials have announced a new plan that will speed the process of replacing the service pipes.

Gov. Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced the plan to have Essex County issue a $120 million bond to fund the project. Originally, the replacement efforts would have taken eight to 10 years to complete, but the new investment will allow efforts to begin in a few weeks and finish in two or three years.

The lead pipelines will be replaced with copper service lines, and the plan will be at no cost to affected homeowners. Of the 18,000 lines that need to be addressed, more than 770 have been replaced since March.
Valley Metro rail line in Phoenix
Arizona - Voters in Phoenix defeated two propositions on August 27 - one that would have terminated all construction, expansion, or improvements to light rail in the city and the other that would have capped budget growth for parks, libraries, and information technology.

The light rail measure passed 63 percent to 37 percent, and the budget item 67 percent to 33 percent. Specifically, the light rail proposition asked voters if they wanted to cease expansion of the city's Valley Metro system to the south, including future extensions, and redirect those funds to infrastructure improvements for vehicle traffic.

According to the Valley Metro website, the 28-mile light rail system has generated an estimated $11 billion in development around the system.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said the election outcome showed residents wanted more transportation options and city investment in parks, libraries, and city services. The day after the election, Gallego said she met with other Maricopa County representatives to discuss the county's new transportation plan that may be on the ballot in 2020. She also presented her idea to call for a county election to extend the county's 20-year half-cent sales tax, which expires in 2024.
California - The city of Oakland is launching a three-year, $100 million street repaving project called "The Great Pave," which will focus on local neighborhood streets and underserved neighborhoods.

Efforts won't be focused on just fixing potholes. In total, the project aims to repave 100 miles of city streets, with $75 million going to smaller, local streets that have been largely neglected over the years.

Funding comes from Measure KK, which was passed by voters in 2016 and gives $350 million in bond funding over 10 years to repair the city's roads. Prior to passing Measure KK, funding was insufficient even to maintain the poor condition of Oakland streets.
Approximate location of 8th-9th grade building
Michigan - Trustees at Cedar Springs Public Schools called an $81.15 million bond referendum for November 5 to address overcrowding at Cedar Springs High School and make safety and security improvements.

The school district is seeking funding to construct a new eighth-ninth grade building adjacent to the high school to alleviate capacity issues and provide an age-appropriate transition for students advancing from the middle school.

According to district bond information, the new facility would feature a capacity for 500 to 750 students, student devices and classroom multimedia, new furniture, a multi-purpose cafeteria, a media center with a commons area for large group instruction, and a gym to support district and community activities.

Bond funding also would support the demolition of Beach Elementary School academic wings, relocation of preschool and early childhood classes to provide for future growth at two elementary school campuses, and creation of opportunities for community learning.

The referendum includes upgrades to mechanical and building management systems, investments in capital improvements, and safety and security improvements such as constructing secure building entrances at several schools and enhancing traffic flow, parking, and sidewalks.
Rendering of Albuquerque Rail Yards
New Mexico - The Albuquerque Rail Yards could require $50 million to $80 million in site preparation work prior to redevelopment. A consulting firm drafted the report, which includes estimates for infrastructure, environmental remediation, and structural renovations.

The report describes three development scenarios for the 27.3-acre property: a low-density redevelopment strategy is estimated to cost $50 million, while a more intensive strategy is estimated to require $80 million. The city of Albuquerque is most likely to pursue a medium-density strategy that would cost about $55 million in site preparation work.

Cost estimates include utilities, landscaping, cleaning up contamination, and improving aging structures on the property.

The city will pay for the project, but exact funding sources have not been identified. This year, the state allocated $7.5 million in capital funding for the Rail Yards, and city officials are hoping to generate $5.5 million through a general obligation bond package that will be on the ballot this November. The city has $2 million left from previous bond elections and also is applying for grants.
The University of Texas' Frontera supercomputer
Texas - Representatives from the National Science Foundation (NSF) joined The University of Texas at Austin (UT) on September 3 to officially launch Frontera, the fastest supercomputer at any university and fifth-most powerful system in the world.

Frontera has been assisting science applications since June and allowing more than 36 teams to conduct research on various topics such as black hole physics, climate modeling, and drug design by using simulation, data analysis, and artificial intelligence at previously impossible scales.

A $63 million award from the NSF's Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure served as the catalyst for the project to begin in September 2018. Private-sector technology partners aided the university in building and installing the supercomputer in early 2019.

The supercomputer is located at UT's Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) and open not only to UT students but also to the science community at large. Projects will be selected through a competitive application process, and researchers will need to show that their work merits access to a computer at the scale of Frontera to solve their problems.

Once selected for a project, researchers will work with TACC specialists who will be on site to support their work with the supercomputer. Under the award agreement with the NSF, Frontera will operate for a minimum of five years to support research projects.
Kentucky - The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) recognized 30 state government projects as finalists in its 2019 State IT Recognition Awards.

NASCIO, which is based in Kentucky, has been advising state information technology offices for the last 50 years, and this year, 19 states are among the featured finalists. Finalists are grouped into 10 categories which include data management, digital government, and cybersecurity.

Illinois is featured in the data management category for its project Winning Against Tax Fraud with Data Analytics. In the digital government category, North Carolina and Tennessee are both featured for government-to-business and government-to-citizen projects.

In the cybersecurity category, Iowa and Texas are featured for their election security and managed services projects. Iowa's Election Cybersecurity Partnership Project has enrolled all 99 of the state's counties in cybersecurity training, with the ultimate goal of securing their election systems. Meanwhile, Texas' Managed Security Services program focuses on a broad effort to share cybersecurity resources with agencies, universities, and local governments. The program provides technical services, incident response assistance, and risk and compliance services.

From these finalists, a recipient from each category will be announced during an awards dinner at the upcoming NASCIO Annual Conference on October 13-16 in Nashville.
   View our Government Contracting Pipeline and Texas Government Insider newsletter archives
Ohio - The state's Department of Transportation (ODOT) is suggesting changes to alleviate congestion on the east side of Cincinnati. Currently, commuting is a challenge due to construction on Interstate 275 and Columbia Parkway, causing heavy congestion and traffic delays.

ODOT released recommendations for 68 transportation improvement projects along U.S. 50 and U.S. 32, from Red Bank Road and the Beechmont levee to the I-275/32 interchange. The projects are part of the Conceptual Alternatives Implementation Plan (CAIP), and include high-priority changes such as adding better signage, improving signal timing, increasing lane storage, lengthening turn lanes, and more.

Some medium-priority projects involve installing several roundabouts, connecting routes, and adding access roads, while low-priority work includes adjusting grade at railroad crossings, lengthening turn lanes, and extending sidewalks.

Though ODOT hasn't released a date for when the next steps will begin, the goal is to improve safety for travelers.
South Station Tower 1
Massachusetts - The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has been awarded $41 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to improve South Station's Tower 1 Interlocking. Both Amtrak and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) trains converge on South Station in Boston, serving almost 60,000 passengers daily.

Upgrading the Tower 1 Interlocking is currently in the design stage and is estimated to cost a total of $82 million. Amtrak and MBTA will cover the remaining $41 million.

The grant money will go toward improving core infrastructure, such as replacing the existing signal system, upgrading switches, track, and power systems, and addressing settling that has occurred at switch points. Tower 1's existing signal system is outdated and has the potential to hinder service for thousands of passengers every day.

Officials stress the importance of providing reliable service, as traffic and passenger volume is anticipated to grow in the future.
Missouri - Officials in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska are seeking to identify bottlenecks along the Missouri River that can increase flooding in certain areas.  
The officials submitted a draft study proposal to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). An analysis could take up to six months to complete and would identify constriction points such as levees, roads, or bridge embankments that can cause waters to back up. 
Federal, state, and local officials could use the analysis to plan alternatives as part of a regional approach to reducing flood damage. 
However, the USACE cautions that fixing flood bottlenecks is not a long-term solution, as new problem areas could emerge elsewhere. A long-term solution would focus on the overall care and capacity of the Missouri River system, including its six major dams in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana.
Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor
Indiana - The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor director said the port would embark on $20 million in projects over the next four years to increase its cargo handling capacity.

The deepwater port on Lake Michigan will construct two rail yards to serve unit trains, a road connecting to the rail lines, and 1,800 feet of dock. Another project will build a marshaling yard for trucks to wait, similar to cell phone parking lots at airports.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the port a $9.85 million grant, which it will use to help fund the intermodal improvements. The Ports of Indiana, which oversees three ports on Lake Michigan and the Ohio River, will fund the remainder of the costs.
Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) and Cornerstone on Demand are teaming up to host a Lunch & Learn Forum from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, September 11, at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

The program will be about retaining great employees and what some successful organizations are doing to win the "Battle for Talent."

John Llamas, a talented speaker with three decades of work in human resources and information technology, will lead the program. As a member of Cornerstone's Thought Leadership and Advisory Services group, Llamas leverages his in-depth knowledge and comprehensive mastery of human capital management to help implement new and effective human resources programs throughout the country.

Parking is free, and continuing education credits will be available. Food will be served during the program. Registration is now open.

For information, call Taylor Kerr at SPI at 512-531-3914.

California - Sutter County commissioners approved Steve Smith as permanent county administrator on August 27. He has served in an interim capacity since February when former county administrator Scott Mitnick resigned. Smith previously was assistant and deputy county administrator at Sutter County. Prior to those positions, he worked for Contra Costa County as assistant director of nutritional services and administrative services officer.

Virginia - The city of Radford named Kimberly Repass as its new economic development director August 26. She succeeds former director Blair Hoke who left to accept a position with the Salem Red Sox in March. Repass previously served as senior vice president and director of meetings and education for a private communications firm in the Washington, D.C area.

Michigan - The Bishop Airport Authority Board of Directors selected Nino Sapone to serve as the airport's interim director. He has served as deputy director since March and assumed director's duties in July when former airport director Craig Williams resigned. Before joining Bishop Aiport, Sapone was the vice president of airfield operations at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Florida - Councilmembers in the city of Opa-locka appointed John Pate to be their city manager, effective October 15. He takes over for acting city manager Newall Daughtrey who had served in the position since April 2018. Pate is the current village manager and director of public safety for the village of University Park, Illinois. He previously served as a police inspector and deputy director at the Cook County Sheriff's Department in Chicago, a special agent at a railroad company, and a federal investigator with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He also worked as a police lieutenant at Phoenix, Illinois. 

Oklahoma - Officials at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) named Chelley Hilmes as director of finance and administration on August 27. She previously worked at ODOT as the finance manager in the comptroller division and then was promoted to comptroller.

Wisconsin - University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross announced Sheryl Van Gruensven as interim chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UW-Green Bay) on August 29. She will take over for Gary Miller who will leave his position as chancellor on October 1 to become the next president of the University of Akron. Van Gruensven is currently the UW-Green Bay vice chancellor for business and finance. She previously served as the university's director of human resources. 
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