Bellone proposes $193M capital budget for Suffolk County

New York– Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone revealed a $192.6 million capital budget for 2018 and a $1.055 billion three-year capital plan this week. The capital budget is a 12 percent decrease from last year’s capital plan and the three-year program has seen a decrease of $19 million from the current multiyear plan. In addition to the reduced spending, Bellone also is keeping the issuance of bonds under $100 million. His 2018 proposal includes only $95.8 million funded through bonds which is an 18 percent reduction.
The budget still includes more than $300 million in projects for the Southwest Sewer district but instead of using funds from bond issuances, the projects will be funded through the sewer district stabilization fund. Included in the funds set aside for the Southwest Sewer district is a $200 million project to replace the outfall pipe, with construction planned to begin this fall. If additional funding is needed, the Environmental Facilities Corporation financing is available as a partial alternative. The budget also has set aside $46.7 million for highway work, which includes $18 million for road repairs and $19.1 million for bridge repairs.
The 2018-20 capital plan proposal includes $11 million for public safety projects such as an accredited police fingerprint laboratory, replacement of the police IT system and new canine headquarters with a training facility and kennels. The proposal also allocates $8.2 million for park work including $2.25 million to improve the Long Island Maritime Museum in Sayville. Other projects in the proposal includes expansion of the two lactation stations for nursing mothers in county buildings and a new online system for payment of delinquent taxes. A public hearing on the capital plans has been planned for April 25 by the county legislature. Legislators will consider amendments on June 6 and are required to adopt a final version by June 30.

How is America fixing structurally deficient bridges over troubled funding?

Bridges provide drivers with a safe passage over water, roadways, train tracks and other obstacles using materials such as wood, steel, iron, concrete, cement and more. But building or fixing one of these connections can be time consuming and costly.

This month Senate Transportation Chairman Willie Simmons announced that over the course of a week federal inspectors had closed more than 100 bridges on local roads in the state of Mississippi. A bill that was introduced this year in the state would have raised transportation money through an internet sales tax. Projections showed that collections could have generated an annual revenue of between $50 million and $175 million for needed repairs. The bill was not approved, but a House bond bill that would let the state borrow $50 million for repairs is still hanging on.

For the second time in a row, America’s infrastructure has earned a grade of D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). ASCE issues these report cards every four years, grading the state of U.S. bridges, dams, parks, airports, railroads and other vital links.

The United States has 614,837 bridges, of which almost 40 percent are at 50 years or older.  According to ASCE, on average there were 188 million trips across structurally deficient bridges daily in 2016.The term “structurally deficient” does not mean a bridge is about to fall down, but indicates one in need of repair or rebuilding. Further deterioration could mean a bridge must be limited to certain load levels or closed.

In steel bridges, localized structural damage produces a weakened condition called fatigue. Repetitive loading from years of passing traffic then causes cracks to develop. Most older steel bridges suffer from fatigue and eventual cracking because when they were designed codes in place did not adequately address this problem, or because they are carrying loads heavier than they were originally designed to hold.

Fatigue crack growth generally can be managed through regular repairs without compromising the bridge’s performance. However, if cracks are not repaired, they can grow quickly, which could lead to catastrophic failure. This means it is critically important to evaluate rates of crack growth, and to understand how rapid crack growth can affect the integrity of bridges.

A study performed by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association found that 8.4 percent of Illinois’ 26,704 bridges are structurally deficient, which means that one or more key elements, such as the bridge deck or its foundation, is in poor or worse condition, according to federal standards. Illinois, which has the third-highest number of bridges in the country after Texas and Ohio, ranks sixth in number of structurally deficient bridges.

For Chicago bridges on Illinois’ top 10 list, the city’s transportation department plans repairs to the bridges at Wilson and Lawrence this summer, including structural repair of the concrete. Work is expected to take about six to eight months.

Among the state bridges on the list, repairs are being planned by the Illinois Department of Transportation and construction could begin on I-290 over Salt Creek in Addison as early as 2018, on I-55 at Lemont and Joliet roads in Will County in 2019 and on I-53 over Kirchoff Road in Rolling Meadows in 2021.

New methods of building and repairing structurally deficient bridges has cut down on expense and time spent re-routing traffic. In Wayne County, Ind., contractors plan to use the accelerated bridge construction method called a slide-in bridge to replace the twin three-span bridges carrying eastbound and westbound Interstate 70 traffic over State Road 121/New Paris Pike.

The new bridge deck will be built on temporary supports adjacent to the existing bridge. Once the new portion of the bridge is completed, four-lane traffic would be decreased to two lanes, barriers would be set up, the existing portion of the bridge will be demolished and the new bridge will slide laterally into place.  The same method would take place for the two lanes on the other side of the bridge.  Construction is anticipated to begin in early April 2017 and finish before June of 2018.

Another time-saving bridge is a prefabricated one. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) will install the state’s first prefabricated bridge on old Route 66. The 110-foot-long bridge will be transported in sections from Phoenix, where it is being manufactured, to the bridge site in Mohave County. The support structure is already in place and bridge installation is expected to take place  this month.

This reduces traffic restrictions and closures to days instead of weeks or months. According to ADOT, this initiative saves an estimated $2.6 million in road user impacts to traditional bridge construction methods. That includes work zone delays and a costly, long-term detour to commuters, businesses and visitors who depend on the Oatman Highway corridor. The total cost of the bridge project is $1.8 million.

Seattle, Wash., will be the first bridge in the world with a new type of column that flexes during an earthquake and then snaps back to its original position. The Washington State Department of Transportation is building an offramp from Highway 99 to South Dearborn Street that has a flexible column that can withstand so little damage during an earthquake that it can be used after the quake has settled.

The project is based on research performed at the University of Nevada, Reno. But the bridge’s safety feature comes at a price. Shape-memory rods cost 90 times more than conventional rebar and the bendable concrete is four times more expensive than ordinary concrete. However, the materials are only used in the tops of the columns that are most vulnerable to earthquakes, so the innovations added only about 5 percent to the overall cost.

Iowa and Illinois are teaming up and seeking bids on the Interstate 74 bridge project. The Iowa Department of Transportation is seeking bids on three contracts that are worth about $400 million for the project. The new bridge will be built east of the existing one, with two spans of four lanes and full shoulders. A recreation trail and an overlook are also part of the design. The bids will be opened April 25 with work expected to begin in the summer.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is preparing a similar process for the their portion of the bridge. The first will be work on the new bridge viaduct with a mandatory pre-bid meeting on the $120 million project, expected in the coming weeks, so the candidates can ask questions and learn more about the work. The bids will be opened in June with construction expected to start in August.

President elect’s infrastructure plan calls for increase in P3s

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to make a $1 trillion in infrastructure investments a top priority for him as president. He reaffirmed that pledge in his Nov. 9 victory speech and signs point to public-private partnerships (P3/PPP) as a significant component to his infrastructure plan.

“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it,” said Trump.

Some of the infrastructure policies laid out by Trump include:

  • a deficit-neutral plan for new infrastructure investments;
  • supporting investment in transportation, clean water, a modern and reliable electricity grid, telecommunications, security infrastructure, and other pressing domestic infrastructure needs;
  • offering maximum flexibility to the states;
  • creating thousands of new jobs in construction, steel manufacturing and other sectors;
  • leveraging new revenues and working with financing authorities, P3s and other prudent funding opportunities;
  • implementing a bold, visionary plan for a cost-effective system of roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, railroads, ports and waterways and pipelines in the tradition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower;
  • linking increases in spending to reforms that streamline permitting and approvals; and
  • linking increased investments with positive reforms to infrastructure programs that reduce waste and cut costs.

An initial move by the president-elect to see those policies through was to name Martin Whitmer to his transition team to oversee transportation and infrastructure. Whitmer is the chairman of a Washington law firm which lobbies for the Association of American Railroads and the National Asphalt Pavement Association. He was previously deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Just prior to the election, Trump economic advisors Wilber Ross and Peter Navarro released a report detailing his infrastructure plan. The plan calls for spending $1 trillion over ten years with much funding provided by private contractors. These contractors would be incentivized to invest in infrastructure projects through federal tax credits and usage fees, such as tolls. The plan would add nothing to the national debt. Investors would receive an 82 percent tax credit on equity invested in infrastructure paired with federally subsidized loans at a 5-to-1 leverage ratio.

Experts are divided on the practicality of the plan with some calling it a step in the right direction and others offering criticisms. Some economists said the tax cuts would indeed add to the deficit in the long run. Others pointed to projects that would not be appropriate for usage fees. Critics have also said that congress has not been as interested in infrastructure as Trump seems to be and he might face some resistance in getting legislation passed to support his plan.

With or without the support of the president-elect or congress, P3s have been gaining momentum in recent years. The National Law Review recently published an article detailing three factors spurring the popularity of the model. The need to repair aging infrastructure in the U.S. has continued to grow. Public funds for improvements have been diminishing. Lastly, P3s success stories in the U.S. and abroad have become widely known.

Trump’s focus on infrastructure, and the use of P3s to meet infrastructure needs, can only serve to increase awareness of critically needed improvements.


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Electric vehicle corridors designated in 35 states

White House officials announced 48 national electric vehicle (EV) charging networks will be established on nearly 25,000 miles of highways in 35 states. State officials, utilities, automakers and EV charging companies have partnered on the initiative to jump-start charging station construction on designated corridors. Charging stations are expected to be constructed every 50 miles and Federal Highway Administration officials unveiled new roadside signs to help motorists find the stations.

“Alternative fuels and electric vehicles will play an integral part in the future of America’s transportation system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “We have a duty to help drivers identify routes that will help them refuel and recharge those vehicles and designating these corridors on our highways is a first step.”

A list of Alternative Fuel Corridors, which includes those designated for EVs, can be found here.

Officials said one reason EVs have not been adopted in great numbers is the difficulty in locating charging stations. The number of EV charging stations in service has grown from about 500 in 2008 to more than 16,000. Recently, 24 state and local governments have agreed to buy hundreds of additional EVs for government fleets.

Los Angeles officials plan to purchase 50 percent of all new light-duty vehicles as battery EVs by 2017 and 80 percent of municipal fleet procurements by 2025. The city’s electric fleet is slated to reach over 400 battery EVs and 155 plug-in hybrid EVs by the end of 2017. About $22.5 million dollars will be spent on electric vehicle charging stations by June 2018, adding to existing stations for a total of 1,500 city-wide.

In Vermont, 50 percent of the state motor pool will be converted to plug-in electric vehicles by the end of 2017. The state will also convert 10 percent of its centralized light-duty fleet to EVs and install one dedicated charging port for each of these vehicles.

Minnesota officials have developed a fleet action plan to integrate EVs, hybrid EVs and zero emission vehicles. The state plans to purchase 25 of these vehicles in 2017 and install 15 charging stations.

The City of Atlanta is encouraging public adoption of electric vehicles and installing charging stations in 100 dedicated EV parking spaces at the Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport by the end of 2016. The city committed to converting 20 percent of its municipal fleet to electric vehicles by 2020.

In Detroit, city officials plan to purchase 10 percent of service vehicles as plug-in electric in 2017. They also set a goal to purchase EVs as 10 percent of light-duty replacement vehicles. Low-speed EVs will also be used for transit police and safety and security staff.


Want to read more stories like this one? Check out the most recent editions of Government Contracting Pipeline and Texas Government Insider. SPI’s government contracting consultants assist firms of all types in selling to governmentContact them today.