Ohio– The city of Columbus will be testing self-driving shuttle buses this year and to get those autonomous wheels turning, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has released a request for proposals that will be due Aug. 13. Vehicle testing is to start in October, with service to begin in December and continue into 2019. Each shuttle will hold roughly 12 passengers and an operator will be on-board to take over the shuttle if necessary.
This is a collaborative project between Smart Columbus, ODOT’s DriveOhio, the state agency devoted to autonomous-vehicle research and Ohio State University. The test is a result of Columbus winning the Smart City Challenge in 2016 and receiving $40 million grant from the United States Department of Transportation and a $10 million grant from Paul G. Allen Philanthropies.
The downtown shuttle service will be the first of a three-phase program that will include future testing in other locations of the city. According to the proposal, the fleet operations will be similar to a traditional transit service, with predetermined routes and stops. The first automated-vehicle pilot of the series aims to provide a shuttle service to help circulate people within a developing area adjacent to downtown Columbus. The test is meant to evaluate self-driving vehicles and to develop guidelines for self-driving technology that could be used by cities throughout the country.
Colorado– Denver has a $1 billion plan for the National Western Center campus. The only issue is, funding subsequent phases of the project. City leaders are considering a series of public-private partnerships (P3) for those projects. Part of the plan includes creating an office dedicated to vetting and overseeing such projects. Projects deemed large enough to warrant P3 treatment would go through five stages: planning, screening, structuring, procurement and implementation. The office would include an executive director, an attorney and a financial specialist.
The city budgeted $2.5 million for the creation of a P3 office but it requires council approval. The city’s portion of the campus project amounts to $765 million but the remaining balance is unfunded. Later phases that need funding call for a 10,000-seat arena, a large exposition hall, the redevelopment of the Denver Coliseum and the retrofitting of the century-old Stadium Arena to turn it into a market.
Nebraska– Omaha has received a $69.7 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan under the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This loan will help finance the Saddle Creek Retention Treatment Basin. The combined sewer system in the Saddle Creek Basin fills with stormwater and overflows during wet weather events. This sends millions of gallons of polluted runoff and sewage into the Little Papillion Creek, a tributary of the Missouri River.
When the Saddle Creek Combined Sewer Overflow Retention Treatment Basin is completed in 2022, it will collect and treat up to 320 million gallons of wastewater and stormwater daily that would have spilled into the creek during wet weather. The project has an estimated construction cost of $93 million to $103 million. The overall project is estimated to cost $142.2 million and EPA’s WIFIA loan will help finance nearly half of the project’s eligible costs, including study, design, construction administration, inspection, material testing, land acquisition and construction costs. Because the WIFIA program offers loans with low, fixed interest rates, EPA’s loan is expected to save the City of Omaha up to $20M. Project construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2019.
Maryland– Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and the United States Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an agreement to evaluate transferring the federally owned Baltimore-Washington Parkway to Maryland control. The agreement will allow both parties to evaluate future operation and ownership alternatives for the portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway that is administered by the National Park Service. It also acknowledges that the transfer cannot take place without federal legislation. Shifting the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to Maryland, widening the highway in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties and tolling it is part of Hogan’s $9 billion Traffic Relief Plan.
Hogan’s plan for Maryland 295 is going to be a public-private partnership. While a private team of builders is expected to be awarded the Interstate 495 and I-270 widening, the Maryland Transportation Authority would build, operate and maintain the new lanes and maintain existing lanes between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. The accelerated timeline for the initial Beltway and I-270 study aims to have the next rounds of technical analysis of the I-495 and I-270 toll lane alternatives done this fall. The details of the potential alternatives are scheduled to be presented at public meetings July 17-25. According to a timeline from the Maryland Department of Transportation, the state expects to issue its request for qualifications and a draft request for proposals (RFP) in 2018, and a final RFP and draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2019.