There are currently 9,025 megawatts (MW) of wind projects under construction in the United States and an additional 11,952 MW in advanced development, according to the Wind Energy Association. Texas, the country’s top state for wind power capacity, was the leading location for wind installations in the first quarter, followed by Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina and Michigan. The U.S. wind industry installed 2,000 MW of capacity in the first quarter, nearly four times the amount installed in the same period last year, as developers race to capture a federal tax credit that is gradually being phased out. The federal production tax credit for wind projects does not expire until 2020.
Starting this year, however, the credit’s value will drop by 20 percent each year for projects that start construction from 2017 through 2019. About a quarter of the megawatts installed in the first quarter are contracted to buyers outside the utility industry, including the U.S. Army and other businesses. A landmark state law signed last summer in Massachusetts will make it the nation’s biggest state commitment to offshore wind to date. Three companies have their eye on the bid to buy long-term contracts for at least 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power in the next decade. Companies have to solicit bids jointly by June 30 for the first project, which must provide at least 400 MW of power. Not until June will interested parties get a glimpse of a timeline for the bidding process. The $113 million state-funded terminal spans 26 acres of waterfront property at 16 Blackmer St., just inside the hurricane barrier.
For the first wind project, large turbine components would probably be shipped to the Marine Commerce Terminal, where they would be assembled and perhaps painted. Blades would likely be affixed to the hub at sea and each turbine would have an elevator inside and would require a significant amount of electrical work. Behind the hub of a wind turbine is the nacelle, which houses the generator and sometimes space for a worker to stay overnight. It’s estimated that permitting and financing for the first project would last into 2019. Construction could start around 2021, and if the timeline goes as expected for future rounds to bring the state up to 1,600 MW construction on the second project could start around 2024.
Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that included funding for Amtrak, rail and transit programs and $500 million for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. The bill allows state departments of transportation and transit agencies access to this year’s funding increases that Congress had approved and set aside money for in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. That means about $400 million is available for transit programs and $1 billion is available for highway programs.
The bill also increases funding for the Federal Railroad Administration by $173 million to $1.85 billion. The bill also includes $98 million in rail grants to support positive train control implementation, make railroad infrastructure improvements and improve passenger-rail service. An additional $328 million will be given to Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor and $1.17 billion for its national network. The bill also allocates $258 million for rail safety and research programs. The Federal Transit Administration will receive $12.4 billion, $9.7 billion of which will be for transit formula grants from the Highway Trust Fund. The measure provides $2.4 billion for Capital Investment Grants known as “New Starts,” which funds all current Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) transit projects and provides support for new projects anticipated to receive FFGA awards.
The spending generally presents good opportunities for the railroad industry according to the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association. Not only are current transit projects receiving funding with existing FFGAs, future projects across the nation could receive funding if new FFGAs are signed. Possible funding includes $125 million for the Maryland Purple Line, $100 million for Caltrain electrification, $100 million for Seattle’s Lynnwood Link, $84 million for New York City Transit’s Canarsie power improvements, $50 million for the Santa Ana streetcar program, $49 million for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s core capacity project and $10 million for the Minneapolis Southwest light rail transit project.
The legislation also sets aside $408 million for 10 “small start” projects such as streetcar projects in Tempe, Sacramento, Fort Lauderdale, and Seattle. Also in the bill is $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and $199 million for positive train control funding for commuter railroads that was authorized under the FAST Act.
Wisconsin- Wisconsin Rep. David Steffen is interested in a privately built, state-run prison to replace the aging and overcrowded Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI). This new prison would improve safety for staff and inmates at the maximum-security prison, provide tax revenue for the host community and put Allouez land back on the tax roll. Because it would be privately-owned, the prison would pay property taxes, saving taxpayers about $150 million over a decade. Wisconsin’s other prisons are not taxable because they are government-owned.
Steffen said a new prison would ultimately need considerably fewer employees than GBCI because it would be more efficiently designed. The proposal calls for a new prison that would house about 1,300 inmates and open by November 2022 at a location in or near Brown County. The Green Bay-Luxemburg corridor could be a good spot because it is near a major highway, State 54/57, and would not need water and sewer lines added. GBCI would be sold to a developer or another interested party by Nov. 1, 2018, then leased back to the state until the new prison is ready. Inmates would remain at GBCI until they could safely be transferred to a new facility. At least 100 beds in the prison would be set aside for overflow inmates from crowded jails in Brown and Kewaunee counties.
Officials in Brown are considering a jail expansion that would likely cost the county more than $10 million. Part of the prison has been designated as a historic place. Steffen said he has met with a local preservation group, and that they would need to be partners in any redevelopment of the site.
The number of passengers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport increased 23.4 percent in the past five years and this number is expected to grow. The airport has very little outside space for expansion, so improvements
would need to be around the facility. The airport will need additional airplane gates, a way to connect its four terminals, decreased congestion in the terminal and to provide a larger cell-phone parking lot for people waiting for planes to arrive.
Another addition would be to demolish the four-level Palm Garage and replace it with a nine-level structure that includes a hotel. One thing the airport hasn’t had is convenient lodging for travelers. Planners haven’t figured out the details of a hotel, but it will probably be built through some type of public-private partnership. The cost of improvements won’t be paid for by taxpayers, but will come from grants and airport revenues – such as ticketing, landing and car rental fees.