Volume 12, Issue 25 - Wednesday, June 17, 2020
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

COVID-19 hit the construction industry like a tsunami. Almost all medium to large construction projects were shuttered as government leaders scrambled to protect the health of Americans.

Today, however, even though the pandemic has not been contained, there is renewed interest in construction and reason for optimism. The immediate future is considerably brighter today than it was three months ago. Although construction projects are moving slower and fewer new ones being launched, there is definite movement.

One year ago, construction projects were so abundant industry leaders warned of imminent danger related to America's shortage of skilled construction workers, designers, and engineers. Those alarms are not as loud today, but that could change soon because new projects are being announced on a daily basis throughout the country.

Officials at the Tampa International Airport placed approximately $906 million in construction projects on hold, but there's little doubt that construction will begin again in the not too distant future. Air travel is down more than 95 percent, and urgency for planned expansions and upgrades is not as great.

Many colleges and universities also have delayed projects. In fact, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) put a two-year halt on construction planned for this month. A $155 million football facility near Memorial Stadium is delayed primarily because university officials anticipate a $50 million budget shortfall. There's also uncertainty about when sports events can resume.

But, more positive news may definitely be found in almost every state in the U.S. Here are just a few examples of upcoming construction projects in America.

Louisiana
The Louisiana State Legislature has approved $529 million for construction on university campuses. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette plans to spend $187,700 to repair Fletcher Hall and $16.4 million to renovate Madison Hall. Northwestern State University will receive $37.4 million for construction related to Kyser Hall. Louisiana Tech University plans to spend $40.5 million for a number of campus improvements, and Louisiana State University (LSU) has $227.7 million for construction projects. Southern University in Baton Rouge has planned renovations and expansions for about $18.2 million.

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Houston highways
Washington, D.C. - U.S. transportation associations and industry groups are asking for $49.95 billion federal aid to maintain state transportation programs and projects.

Forty-four groups wrote a letter to President Trump, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao seeking a new relief package for future COVID-19 responses to appropriate to state transportation departments.

They requested the funding to preserve ongoing transportation department programs and prevent layoffs, capital construction project delays, and reduction or elimination of department functions.

The groups estimate that state transportation revenue will decline by 30 percent on average over the next 18 months, with some states potentially experiencing revenue losses as high as 45 percent.

On June 10, Mnuchin testified at a Senate committee hearing that a new federal aid bill is necessary to assist businesses and employees recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interstate 10 in Louisiana
Louisiana - The state is advancing its billion-dollar plan to widen Interstate 10 from four to six lanes through Baton Rouge with the exception of the Mississippi River Bridge (MRB).

Transportation department officials anticipate reaching an agreement with a consulting firm to design the $360 million first phase of the project from LA 415 to Essen Lane near the Interstate 10-12 split. They also are close to procuring a contractor for construction.

Other plan components include improving the LA 415 interchange, widening the shoulders of the approaches to the Mississippi River Bridge, and adding an auxiliary lane eastbound from LA 415 to LA 1.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, the state will add shoulders and ramp capacity from the MRB to Interstate 110, lengthen the acceleration and deceleration lanes on I-10 for the Highland Road-Nicholson Drive interchange to the MRB truss, and add one travel lane in both directions on I-10 from I-110 to the I-10/I-12 split.

Additional improvements include consolidating Washington and Dalrymple interchanges into one interchange with roundabouts at several intersections, closing and removing the Perkins Road exit and entrance ramps, and lengthening ramps of the existing diamond interchange at Acadian, in addition to making surface street upgrades.
Portal North Bridge rendering
New Jersey - The state's application for a $811.12 million federal grant to replace the aging Portal North bridge earned President Trump's authorization on June 12.

After his dinner with Gov. Phil Murphy, the president tweeted he would support the Federal Transit Administration grant for the $1.9 billion project, which is one in a series of Gateway Program initiatives in the New Jersey-New York City area estimated at $30 billion total.

The state increased its financial commitment to the replacement project from $300 million to $600 million in February which prompted the FTA to upgrade the project's rating from medium-low to medium-high. 

The state's overall financial plan totals $782.61 million, and Amtrak plans to contribute $65 million.

Spanning the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus, New Jersey, the Portal Bridge is a two-track railroad swing-bridge that is part of the Northeast Corridor (NEC). This corridor is the most heavily used passenger rail system in the U.S. in terms of ridership and service frequency.

Due to its age, design, and current condition, the bridge is a single point of failure on the NEC, causing major rail traffic disruptions due to mechanical failures inherent to 108-plus-year-old fixtures, parts, and technology.

The proposed Portal North Bridge Project will replace the existing Portal Bridge with a new two-track fixed structure. The overall construction project will be approximately 2.44 miles in length, including a 3,660-foot long approach span on the west side of the river, a 2,540-foot long approach span on the eastside of the river and a 1,200-foot long center span crossing directly over the Hackensack River.

Additional Gateway Program improvements awaiting federal approval are the Hudson Tunnel Project, which includes the construction of a new two-track Hudson River rail tunnel from New Jersey to Manhattan that will directly serve Penn Station New York (PSNY), and the rehabilitation of the 106-year old, existing North River Tunnel. The final section of the Hudson Yards Concrete Casing completes a project to preserve the right of way for a future tunnel to PSNY.
Jacksonville Skyway
Florida - The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) on June 15 for the design, build, operation, and maintenance of the first phase of its project to upgrade its downtown monorail built in the 1980s.

JTA is seeking a new system to transform downtown Jacksonville through modernization and expansion of its downtown circulator that not only will accommodate autonomous vehicles (AV) but also extend service to nearby neighborhoods.

The authority has developed the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) Program featuring four major project phase components of Bay Street Innovation Corridor, Autonomous Avenue, Remaining Skyway Conversion, and Neighborhood Extensions components.

Phase 1 of the project focuses on the Bay Street Innovation Corridor to introduce AV, initially operating in mixed traffic in curbside lanes along Bay Street, for approximately 3 miles, from Pearl Street east to TIAA Bank Field, extending west to east through the Jacksonville urban core. Along the route, the AV shuttle will make stops at designated locations to allow passengers to enter and exit the AV as needed. 

The Bay Street Innovation Corridor project will support and catalyze the optimal use of land along the corridor and provide the backbone for future phases of the U2C system.

JTA has secured $44 million in funding from the U.S. and Florida departments of transportation as well as other sources.

Qualifications for the first phase are due by 2 p.m. local time on August 14. JTA will narrow applicants to a shortlist and invite them to participate in a request for proposals (RFP) scheduled to open on September 18 with a December 4 deadline. The final contract is set to be awarded in January 2021.
Rendering of New Jersey wind port concept at full build out
New Jersey - Gov. Phil Murphy announced plans to develop a $300 million to $400 million wind port that will provide a location for staging, assembly, and manufacturing activities related to offshore wind projects on the East Coast.

The New Jersey Wind Port will be located in Lower Alloways Creek Township, on an artificial island on the eastern shores of the Delaware River, southwest of the city of Salem.

Construction is planned in two phases, beginning in 2021. The first phase will develop a 30-acre site to accommodate marshalling activities and a 25-acre component manufacturing site. Phase 2 will add another 150-plus acres for expanded marshalling activities and manufacturing facilities for turbine components.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) is leading development of the wind port and is considering a range of financing options, including public-private partnerships (P3s).

Murphy said the port would serve as a major step forward in achieving the state goal of 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2035 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
Anderson Dam
California - The state's Assembly passed the Expedited Dam Safety for Silicon Valley Act to accelerate the $576 million Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project.

This project covers earthquake retrofitting of Anderson Dam to improve reliability and safety and returns the reservoir to its original storage capacity. It is currently limited to about 58 percent capacity because of seismic concerns.

Anderson Dam creates the Anderson Reservoir, the county's largest surface water reservoir with a capacity of nearly 90,000 acre-feet.

A breach of the dam at full capacity could result in flooding of surrounding land more than 30 miles northwest to San Francisco Bay including the cities of San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and Milpitas, and more than 40 miles southeast to Monterey Bay, including the cities of Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and Watsonville.

Valley Water will construct the project in two stages. The first stage entails constructing a diversion tunnel with a low-level outlet, while the second stage consists of constructing high-level outlet works and removing and reconstructing the spillway and the dam embankment.

According to its website, Valley Water is working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to begin draining  the Anderson Reservoir on October 1 to allow for construction of the tunnel and the low-level outlet in 2021, provided it can receive the required permits on time and can obtain a qualified construction contractor. Construction is estimated to take approximately two to three years.

After passing the Assembly, the bill now heads to the California Senate for further consideration.
Rendering of Port of Nome improvements
Alaska - The commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) approved a $491 million plan to modify the Port of Nome.

In his May 29 Chief's Report, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite supported the Port of Nome Modification Feasibility Study's recommendation for navigation improvements at the port that include dredging a new deep water basin to a depth of 40 feet.

Additional improvements will enlarge the harbor's outer basin and widen the entrance channel.

In partnership with the city of Nome, the Corps' Alaska District produced the modification plan for the construction project that will provide larger vessels access to Nome's existing harbor.

With the completion of the Chief's Report, the proposal advances to Congress for authorization and funding. It will be considered for inclusion in the upcoming Water Resources Development Act.
Chicago Cermak-McCormick Place station
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for $291.4 million from the State of Good Repair Grant Program (Partnership Program).

These funds will go toward capital projects that repair, replace, or rehabilitate railroad assets to reduce the state of good repair backlog and improve intercity passenger rail performance.

Eligible applications may involve railroad infrastructure, equipment, or facility assets such as track, ballast, switches and interlockings, bridges, communication and signal systems, power systems, highway-rail grade crossings, stations, passenger cars, locomotives, maintenance-of-way equipment, and yards, terminal areas, and maintenance shops.

The grants are intended to benefit publicly or Amtrak-owned or -controlled passenger rail infrastructure, equipment, and facilities.

Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis. FRA will consider how the projects support key departmental objectives, including enhancing economic vitality; leveraging federal funding; using innovative approaches to improve safety and expedite project delivery; and holding grant recipients accountable for achieving specific, measurable outcomes.
In addition, selection preference will be given to applications with a proposed non-federal share that is comprised of more than one source of funding and applications that indicate strong project readiness. The Federal share of a project's total cost must not exceed 80 percent.

Applications for funding are due by 5 p.m. ET on July 27.
Kanas City water main installation
Missouri - The city of Kansas City issued $79.53 million in revenue bonds on June 10 to fund several water infrastructure projects.

Proceeds from the sale will fund $36.7 million in water main replacements, $20 million in water treatment plant upgrades, and $12 million in switchgear replacements at the city's secondary pump station.

More than $7.6 million will go toward improvements at the Water Department's chemical building, and $3.1 million will fund other capital improvements.

The issuance is the third bond sale out of the $500 million Water Revenue Improvement bond package approved by voters in 2014.
Milwaukee County Transit System bus
Wisconsin - Milwaukee County's East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line expansion project will receive a $40.9 million Smart Starts grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

The $54.8 million BRT is the county's planned 9-mile, regional service connecting major employment, education, and recreation destinations through downtown Milwaukee, Milwaukee's Near West Side, Marquette University, Wauwatosa, and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center.

East-West BRT would be the first rapid transit corridor in the region, providing the "central spine" for Milwaukee County Transit System and future transit connections with up to 19 stations. The East-West corridor could be expanded west to Waukesha and east to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the future.

County officials said they will begin a general contractor bid process after the FTA grant is formally awarded, which could start in late 2020.

The BRT project is scheduled to begin construction in spring 2021 with revenue service starting in fall 2022.
Wheeling downtown
West Virginia - The city of Wheeling is partnering with the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) on a $25 million project to update the city's downtown streets. 

The last major improvements to the city's downtown streets occurred more than 35 years ago.

Plans call for making improvements to West Virginia Route 2 on both Main Street and Market Street by repaving the streets and updating sidewalks and curb ramps to be more accessible, as well as installing new traffic signals.

Engineering for this project is underway with construction set to begin in late 2020 or early 2021.
Penn's Landing rendering
Pennsylvania - The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) issued several requests for qualifications (RFQs) on June 15 to design amenities and provide services for the $225 million Interstate 95 Central Access Philadelphia (I-95 CAP) Project in Philadelphia.

DRWC is seeking the design of an ice rink, interactive water feature, building food service, and park cafe for the park, which is envisioned as a hub for recreational, cultural, and commercial activity and as a catalyst for additional waterfront development.

The I-95 CAP will feature an 11.5-acre signature park spanning over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard. Approximately half of the park will be on a new bridge structure, and the other half will be on earth fill.

Funding will be provided by a partnership that includes the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), and the DRWC. The partnership's goal is to create a hub for recreational, cultural, and commercial activity and as a catalyst for additional waterfront development.

For each one of the projects, a 12- to 18-month project design schedule is anticipated with construction lasting 36 months.
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PEOPLE ON THE MOVE


Hawaii - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) named Dr. Adam M. Robinson Jr. as director of the Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System on June 12. Robinson currently serves as medical center director at the VA Maryland Health Care System. Before that, he served as the 36th surgeon general of the U.S. Navy.

Colorado - Grand County named Thomas Johnson as its director of information systems. He will take over for Kirk Magnusson. Johnson previously served as vice president of operations for a consulting company in Scottsdale, Arizona, and in various cybersecurity and information technology positions. 

California - The Chula Vista City Council selected Maria Kachadoorian as the next city manager. She will succeed former City Manager Gary Halbert who is retiring. Kachadoorian held multiple positions with the city including assistant city manager and finance director. 

Illinois - The Will County Board selected Denise Winfrey as interim county executive on June 8. She succeeds Larry Walsh who passed away on June 3. Winfrey has served on the county board for 11 years and speaker of the board for the last two years. 

Tennessee - Gov. Bill Lee appointed Kristi Davis to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern Grand Division. She will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Charles Susano Jr. Previously, Davis served as Knox County Circuit Court judge and presiding judge for the sixth judicial district.

Iowa - The Southeast Iowa Regional Airport Authority named Ted Brown as airport manager. Brown previously worked in information technology, industrial engineering, and software development in Rochester, New York, and the Washington, D.C. area. 
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