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Last week’s activity on Capitol Hill led to mixed results in providing infrastructure project funding. A continuing resolution (CR) that barely passed both houses before the deadline to avoid a government shutdown will reduce transportation spending while ensuring that key water projects are funded. There were stops and starts at the state level as well: Virginia signed an ambitious and long-sought highway P3 agreement but public dissent has triggered the latest in a series of delays in Colorado’s pursuit of a highway expansion. On the other hand, several federal projects have gained some momentum, ranging from a House committee’s approval of funding for an agency’s new headquarters to progress on two types of military projects.
Not so FAST. Investments in Highway Trust Fund transportation projects that were supposed to increase by $2.4 billion starting in fiscal 2017 under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act will be frozen at 2016 levels through the end of April under a continuing resolution the Senate passed Dec. 9; the House passed the measure a day earlier. “Instead of carrying out the promise of rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, and transit systems, the continuing resolution ignores the FAST Act transportation funding levels that were approved a year ago, resulting in a $2.4 billion reduction in transportation investment which will impact the next spring’s construction seasons,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
CO’s I-70 project hits another pothole. The extent to which a $1.2 billion expansion of Interstate 70 would adversely affect largely Latino communities in north Denver will be investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. The project is opposed by residents in the Elyria-Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods, in part because the project would cause dozens of residents to be relocated. Project planning will continue during the investigation, which could take more than six months. The controversial project has an anticipated start date of 2018 although the Colorado Department of Transportation has not received final federal approval or selected a team to build its initial phase. Earlier this year, an air quality lawsuit caused the Federal Highway Administration to delay approval and neighborhoods to the south are suing Denver over a drainage project related to the project.
Keep on truckin’ (for a price). Virginia signed an agreement with Express Mobility Partners to develop a nearly 25-mile stretch of I-66 between Gainesville in Prince William County, Va., and the Capital Beltway to accommodate two express lanes and three general lanes in each direction. Trucks will be allowed to use the lanes if they pay toll fees three times higher than the amount other drivers pay at any given time, despite citizens’ concerns about noise, air quality and that truck traffic would drive up toll prices, which rise as traffic volume rises. Final designs for the project are expected to be reviewed in public hearings during the second half of 2017 and the financial portion of the estimated $2.3 billion project is scheduled for finalization by July. In its bid, Express Mobility Partners promised to rebuild most of the road before the state takes it over in 50 years, said Virginia Department of Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne.
TX transit RFI. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO), Texas has issued an RFI to identify developers for a commuter line to link Harris and Fort Bend counties in eastern Texas and other potential transportation projects. The commuter line may consist of light rail or other transit infrastructure. Ways to connect the new line to METRO’s existing light rail line, while not required, should be considered. The deadline for responses to the RFI is Feb. 7, 2017.
Hard-fought WIIN. Senate passage of a CR to keep the federal government funded shortly before the Dec. 9 deadline ensured funding for a key piece of water legislation. The CR provides funding for water projects in accordance with the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN), which paves the way for nearly $12 billion in spending for ports, dams and waterways projects and includes $170 million to help Flint, Mich., deal with its contaminated water supply.
Army of Sun. The Army issued a draft “finding of no significant impact” for the programmatic environmental assessment it prepared for the construction and operation of solar photovoltaic arrays across the service’s facilities, according to a Dec. 2 Federal Register notice. The assessment is intended to streamline environmental reviews for future projects by providing installations with analyses of the environmental impacts associated with similar efforts. The review covers “real estate actions on Army lands where the projects could be funded and constructed by the Army, funded through a third-party power purchase agreement utilizing a lease of Army or joint base land to an independent power producer or the local regulated utility company, or funded via some other relationship with a private or public entity,” according to the notice. The assessment covers the development of arrays on greenfield sites, previously developed sites, and buildings or impervious surfaces.
We’ll leave the light on for you. Officials from the Army, Lendlease and IHG Army Hotels on Tuesday held a ribbon-cutting for the grand opening of Staybridge Suites on Fort Belvoir, Va., which is part of the Privatization of Army Lodging program. Lendlease is the owner, developer, design-builder and asset manager for the Staybridge Suites and the exclusive developer for the Department of Defense’s only lodging privatization program.
I’ll swap ya. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved spending $834 million in federal funds for the construction of a new FBI headquarters that would consolidate agency office space from more than a dozen different buildings. The committee’s authorization, which increases the likelihood that Congress will fund it next year, would be added to $390 million previously appropriated and is part of $1.7 billion in appropriations requested by the Obama administration. The committee capped appropriations for the project at $2.11 billion, which does not include the costs of equipping it or decommissioning the current one. The funding does not factor in the value of the dilapidated J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington, which would be swapped for a new facility to be built on one of two sites in Maryland or one in Virginia. The General Services Administration (GSA) is expected to select the location in March 2017. Four developers have been shortlisted for the project. … GSA also is considering conducting a building swap to provide a new, up-to-1.4 million-square-foot headquarters for the Department of Labor. All three locations under consideration for this project are in the District of Columbia. The department is located in the 40-year-old Frances Perkins Building, which is in major need of expensive upgrades.
NCPPP Member Spotlight
P3 Digest will publish periodically a brief profile of an NCPPP member to showcase the organization’s mission, experience and how it participates in and contributes to U.S. P3 projects. Any member that would like to be profiled should contact me at email@example.com.
Nossaman LLP, E. George Joseph, Managing Partner
We serve clients across the U.S. from offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, and Sacramento, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; and Seattle, Wash.
Describe your company’s work in P3s:
Nossaman advises public agencies in using public-private partnerships (P3s) to accomplish their project goals, offering an Infrastructure Practice Group of more than 30 attorneys who handle the largest portfolio of U.S. P3 project engagements of any law firm. We assist clients in laying the groundwork for successful, long-term P3 programs, including drafting P3-enabling legislation and guiding procurements for a pipeline of highly complex, marquee projects. Clients seek our expertise in the transportation, social, water and wastewater infrastructure spaces.
Why did your firm join NCPPP?
Our organizations’ interests go hand-in-hand: NCPPP was a trailblazer in educating the market about P3 policy, and Nossaman was among the first firms to represent public clients in P3 projects. Like NCPPP we believe that P3s are a viable solution for many infrastructure challenges. NCPPP is the leading source of information and education for the market, including through programs that encourage productive discussions about advancing P3 project delivery throughout various sectors of infrastructure.
What is the most interesting P3 projects your firm completed in the last year and are/will be working on in the near future?
We recently helped the Maryland Transit Administration achieve commercial and financial close on the complex Purple Line Light Rail Project — a 16.2-mile, 21-station system that will ease travel between the Maryland suburbs and Washington, D.C. With a capital cost of more than $2 billion, this high-profile project was Maryland’s first transit P3 and one of the largest full design-build-finance-operate-maintain P3s in the U.S. The project overcame numerous challenges and its scale required considerable teamwork among our client, consultants and private sector bidders to allocate risks efficiently.
Among many other P3 projects, Nossaman is advising the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports on the $5 billion Landside Access Modernization Program at LAX, which includes a consolidated car rental center and an automated people mover system.
WHAT’S GOING ON AT NCPPP?
Here’s a quick peek at the upcoming NCPPP calendar:
- P3Bootcamp — Dec. 13-14 — Chicago
- P3Bootcamp — Feb. 21-22 — Miami
- P3Bootcamp — March 15-16 — San Francisco
- P3Bootcamp — May 2-3 — Philadelphia
For more information about event programs, registration and sponsorship, please visit NCPPP’s website.
The next issue of P3 Digest will hit your mailbox Monday, Dec. 19.