Volume 12, Issue 20 - Wednesday, May 13, 2020
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

Airlines are ready to fly again! As states begin to open up for business, airport and airline officials are preparing for takeoff - but the trip may be a little different.

At the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, both Southwest and American airlines are relaunching flights to Spain, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Scheduled flights will soon include Germany, Japan, Ireland, and Korea.

Thousands of flights were cancelled over the past several months because of COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Transportation has urged airlines to move quickly in refunding payments but that's no small task. To expedite refunds, a number of airlines are using software that shortens the time it takes. This particular type of software is able to handle each refund in about five minutes rather than the normal 20 minutes that it usually takes. As shocking as it sounds, a bot, incorporated in the software, can automatically extract ticket information from customer data on file, open an airline's booking, refund applications, and issue an e-voucher for future travel. Airlines with this type of software can process 4,000 refunds a day without any assistance from an employee. If this sounds futuristic, it's because it is. And, it is another example of what to expect in the 'new norm'.

Just recently, the U.S. Travel Association, along with medical experts, businesses, and selected organizations, presented a plan to President Trump and state governors detailing guidance for travel called "Travel in the New Normal." The document is all about reducing risks for travel and it describes in detail what passengers can expect in the near future.

The number of jobs lost in the travel industry was projected at about 8 million as of May 1, 2020. And, industry officials report that the travel-related economic impact of coronavirus is about nine times worse than the impact resulting from the horrific 9/11 disaster. While those numbers are extremely negative, the expectation is for the industry to come back strong and passenger safety will be paramount.

Since 9/11, the use of technology for safety in airports has expanded exponentially. Additional safeguards are being discussed now with some already making an appearance in terminals. The Pittsburgh International Airport, for instance, has become the first U.S. airport to deploy autonomous robotic cleaners with integrated ultraviolet lights.

Other safety-related technology available for terminals includes construction of an area that disinfects passengers as they walk through, thermal cameras that scan crowds for individuals with feverish temperatures, and facial recognition at check-in stations. Along with new technology, there will be more Plexiglas at check-in counters, and sanitizing dispensers will be abundant and terminals will accommodate periodical closings of passenger areas for deep cleanings.

Since March 2020, airports have received approximately $10 billion in grants funding as a result of COVID-19. Additionally, another $1 billion in grant funding was made available to 439 airports from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). That total includes $731 million in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants and an additional $455 million in Supplemental Discretionary grants. The result is that, despite financial setbacks, many airports will have funding that allows officials to move forward with upgrades and expansions.

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. transit industry appealed to Congress on May 7 for additional emergency financial relief as it estimates the fiscal fallout of the pandemic to be $48.8 billion.

An economic analysis commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) projected the industry will suffer a $23.8 billion shortfall between the second quarter of 2020 and fourth quarter of 2021.

That figure takes into account the $25 billion Congress appropriated from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in emergency relief for transit agencies' operating expenses.

In a letter to both the House and Senate, APTA sought $19 billion from the Emergency Relief Program proportionally dispersed to agencies with demonstrated needs. APTA also requested $4.75 billion from formula grants for urbanized areas, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and rural areas.

In addition to the request for emergency funding, APTA also urged Congress and the Administration to take action on the Surface Transportation Authorization bill.
Rendering of cancer pavilion interior
New Jersey - A public-private partnership is driving plans for the construction of a new $750 million cancer pavilion adjacent to the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey campus in New Brunswick.

Middlesex County is contributing $25 million as a partner in the project that includes the city of New Brunswick, the cancer institute, the New Brunswick Development Corp., and an independent health care system.

The 12-story cancer treatment and research facility will house operating rooms, radiation oncology, 100 acute-care beds, an urgent care center, outpatient examination rooms, and new research facilities in 510,000 square feet.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall with completion in 48 months.
Proposed site of Henderson Event Center
Nevada - The city of Henderson released an economic impact study on a proposed 6,000-seat events center to replace the city's weather-damaged Henderson Pavilion.

If approved, the Henderson Event Center would replace the pavilion and generate an estimated annual economic impact between $17.2 million and $26 million, annual wages and salaries of venue personnel between $6.3 million and $9.4 million, and 159 to 234 jobs annually.
The city's vision for retrofitting the pavilion into an enclosed arena changed significantly when a professional hockey team announced its plans to relocate its newly purchased American Hockey League (AHL) team to southern Nevada.

Through the city's public-private partnership with the team, the two organizations began planning construction of a new entertainment venue where the hockey team would be a tenant.

According to the city's website, the events center on Green Valley Parkway and Paseo Verde would serve as a year-round, family-friendly entertainment venue that will feature concerts, cultural arts performances, high school and college graduations, sporting activities, meetings, and other community events in addition to hosting the professional hockey team as a tenant. Other proposed improvements to the area could include an outdoor plaza and park space; pedestrian and trail improvements in the immediate area; and improved and enhanced perimeter landscapes. 

Several design and architectural firms are being considered for the Henderson Event Center with a decision expected to be made in summer 2020 if the project is approved. Construction on the venue and surrounding improvements would then be expected to begin in fall 2020 with completion before the end of 2021.

Henderson's city manager also announced plans are underway for a new police station and training facility in West Henderson. Construction of the police station and training facility would be funded through the sale of general obligation bonds City Council approved on April 21.
Rendering of Northern Avenue Bridge promenade
Massachusetts - The project to replace Boston's Northern Avenue Bridge is moving through its design phase. The aging bridge, which opened in 1908, closed to car traffic in 1997.

City leaders reviewed renderings of the new bridge on May 6 that will connect downtown Boston with the Seaport.

The design incorporates a single bus lane as well as space for pedestrians and cyclists. It will not have car lanes.

Plans also include a promenade featuring public art, landscaping, and an area for vendors.

Design is expected to be finished by late 2020, and officials anticipate the new bridge will open in 2022.
U.S. 93-Interstate 40 study area
Arizona - The project to build a $66 million freeway-to-freeway interchange between U.S. Highway 93 and Interstate 40 in west Kingman is moving forward with the release of a draft environmental assessment.

Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) staff are working on the assessment along with a preliminary design that will allow free-flowing traffic when the interchange is complete.

ADOT is planning the first phase of construction to start in FY 2024 to build ramps between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The second phase will construct ramps between Las Vegas and California when traffic counts merit the improvements.
Rendering of San Diego State University Innovation District
California - San Diego councilmembers are set to consider a signed agreement from San Diego State University (SDSU) on May 19 to purchase 135 acres of city land to build a new stadium in Mission Valley and develop the River Park area.

The university is offering $86.2 million for the property that includes the San Diego County Credit Union stadium site and the adjacent portion of Murphy Canyon Creek.

SDSU plans to construct a 35,000-seat multi-use stadium and surrounding developments including 4,600 residential units, 400 hotel rooms, 80 acres of parkland and green space, 1.6 million square feet of office and research space, and 95,000 square feet of campus retail.

Total project cost is estimated to be $3 billion with completion scheduled for 2037.

If approved, the agreement would give the city 20 years to decide if it wants to lease a 1-acre site on the property for construction and operation of a community recreation facility.
Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is accepting applications from eligible communities for $1.5 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) supplemental funds (EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance).

The EDA, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, will make CARES Act Recovery Assistance grants under its Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) program available to aid communities in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the coronavirus.

Investments will support a range of non-construction and construction projects, including Revolving Loan Funds, in regions experiencing severe job losses and furloughs due to the pandemic.

Types of projects that EDA may fund include economic recovery planning and preparing technical assistance strategies to address unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic, preparing or updating resiliency plans to respond to future pandemics, and implementing entrepreneurial support programs to diversify economies.

Other examples of eligible projects are constructing public works and facilities that will support economic recovery, including the deployment of broadband for purposes including supporting telehealth and remote learning for job skills.
New Jersey - The Trenton City Council approved $25 million on May 6 for Trenton Water Works to replace lead pipes in its water system.

The utility, which requested council authorization for more than $108 million in water infrastructure projects, serves more than 200,000 city residents and also the townships of Lawrence, Ewing, Hamilton, and Hopewell.

After several high-profile lead violations in 2017 and 2018, the city's Water Works is under administrative oversight by the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The estimated cost is $150 million to replace the city water system's more than 36,000 lead service lines. It is working to replace 2,600 lead lines this year.

Trenton Water Works failed to gain the supermajority council vote necessary for more than $83 million in bond requests that would have provided $50 million for water meter and reservoir replacement projects and $33.6 million for upgrades to its water treatment plant and headquarters.

The council's rejection drew a critical response from the DEP, which urged them to comply with state and federal law and the department's administrative orders.
Florida International University
Florida - The state's Department of Transportation (FDOT) is starting a project for a new pedestrian bridge at Florida International University (FIU) to replace the bridge that collapsed in 2018 and killed six people.

FDOT officials said the department will manage and oversee all aspects of the bridge project at State Road 90/SW 8 Street at SW 109 Avenue. The new plans incorporate additional enhanced safety measures, including National Transportation Safety Board recommendations.

The bridge project will undergo a scoping process in which a cost estimate is developed. This project will be constructed with federal funds from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant that was issued in 2013 and local funds to be received from FIU.

In June 2017, an FIU student was struck and killed while crossing the road at SW 109 Avenue, prompting local and state officials to seek ways to address pedestrian safety.

Design will begin in early 2021 and is expected to last two years. FDOT will coordinate with FIU regarding aesthetics for the bridge. Construction of the replacement bridge will take about two years.
Blanton's Landing study area
Kentucky - The city of Frankfort is soliciting firms to develop a design and construction estimate for Blanton's Landing as part of a feasibility study for its waterfront revitalization effort.

Officials issued a request for proposals (RFP) as the third step of a process to plan for and implement strategies to maximize the use of the Kentucky River as a resource for quality of life and economic development.

The first step was the completion of a downtown master plan, and the second step was an earlier RFP to solicit proposals to engage and energize the Blanton's Landing Riverfront area and dock facility. That procurement generated several ideas for expansion of an existing floating public dock, improvement and energizing of the existing parking lot, and construction of new docks or boardwalks in the downtown area to stimulate economic development.

If a viable option is identified from the feasibility study and approved by the City Commission, then a new fee and scope will be negotiated to provide design, estimating, bidding, and possible construction inspection.

Deadline for applications is 2 p.m. EST on May 26.
Audubon Estates rendering
Louisiana - The state's Office of Community Development anticipates issuing a request for proposals (RFP) soon to seek a homebuilder to construct houses at the future site of Audubon Estates.

To prepare the area for new home construction, the state began installing roads and utilities on May 11 for the 22-acre resettlement community of 30 to 40 homes. The neighborhood is located north of Nelson Lane on La 10.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds will support the state's Sustainable Resettlement Program project to make properties available to residents of the flood-stricken Pecan Acres neighborhood.

State officials expect construction on the new homes to begin in summer 2020 with move-ins beginning as early as spring 2021.
   View our Government Contracting Pipeline and Texas Government Insider newsletter archives

California - Gov. Gavin Newsom reappointed Amy Tong as the state's chief information officer and director of the California Department of Technology where she has served since 2016. Tong previously served as the chief deputy director of the Office of Systems Integration and agency chief information officer at the California Health and Human Services Agency. Prior to that, she was deputy director and chief information officer at the California Lottery and chief technology officer at the State Board of Equalization.

Michigan - The city of Detroit named C. Mikel Oglesby as its executive director of transit. Oglesby previously served as deputy executive director of the South Florida Regional Transporation Authority, general manager of the SunLine Transit Agency in California, and assistant general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Oklahoma - The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency Oversight Committee on May 8 selected Mike Jackson as executive director of the office. Jackson served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2004 to 2014 and most recently served as executive vice president of government and political affairs at the State Chamber of Oklahoma.

Mississippi - Rust College has selected Ivy Taylor to serve as its next president, effective June 1. She will succeed Dr. David Beckley who announced his retirement in March. Taylor previously served as mayor of the city of San Antonio, Texas, and on the board of trustees at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin. Prior to that office, she was a lecturer at The University of Texas at San Antonio and served on the San Antonio Planning Commission.

Florida - Hillsborough County Commissioners appointed Bonnie Wise as the new county administrator. She will succeed Mike Merrill who is retiring June 30. Wise currently serves as assistant county administrator and chief financial administrator for the county. Before joining the county, she was chief financial officer for the city of Tampa, Florida.

West Virginia - The city of Clarksburg appointed Harry Faulk as its new city manager on May 4. He will take over for interim City Manager Annette Wright. Faulk most recently served as chief of staff for a Pennsylvania house member. Prior to that, he was assistant manager for the borough of Green Tree, Pennsylvania.
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