New York– The city of New York has committed $1 billion to protect the nation’s largest municipal water system as part of a 115-page agreement with state health officials. Funding for the drinking water system will be used for programs that protect the one million acres of watershed. The biggest chunk, $200 million, will be used to maintain and upgrade dozens of wastewater treatment plants. Another $180 million will go toward reducing pollution from working farms and replacing old and dead forest trees with young saplings that collect nutrients from rain and snow that runs into the reservoirs. There will also be $150 million for shoring up eroding streams to improve water quality and supporting flood mitigation projects. In addition, $96 million has been allocated for preserving land from development and $85 million will be used to expand a program that repairs or replaces septic systems for homes and small businesses.
The new agreement is the result of more than six months of negotiations between city and state officials, along with input from environmental and public health advocates, and representatives of upstate residents near the reservoirs. The agreement also calls for an independent review of the city’s water protection efforts by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
Nebraska– A consulting group has been hired by the city of Lincoln to perform an economic development study to find the best use of the land that lies in the path of the Cornhusker Highway corridor. The project, which includes moving railroad tracks and streets, is expected to cost $70 million to $80 million and may start by 2026.
The city has formed the Northeast Lincoln Advisory Committee, to hold a series of public meetings, meet privately with business owners and community leaders and residents, and present information to community groups as it develops recommendations for the city and the Railroad Transportation Safety District (RTSD). The city is committing to pay about one-third of the $932,250 cost of the yearlong study. Last year, the RTSD picked two potential alternatives for the project. Both would displace some businesses, but no homes. The alternatives generally shift 33rd Street to the west and extend it over railroad tracks. Each includes different plans for traffic on Adams Street.
Tennessee– Tennessee hopes to start work by summer on an estimated $70 million project aimed at easing the Chattanooga traffic bottleneck at the intersection of interstates 24 and 75. That is anticipated to take 3 years. Funding is coming from the Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy (IMPROVE) Act, introduced in January to help fund the state’s $10 billion backlog in road projects. The Act raised fuel taxes for the first time in nearly 30 years.
The I-24/I-75 project is one of 23 projects in Hamilton County estimated to cost a total of $600 million. Despite the influx of money from the IMPROVE Act, funding is still a big concern for many of these projects being completed. Tennessee officials are concerned the state could lose $178 million annually in several years unless Congress addresses expected shortfalls of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the last federal funding bill that passed. Of the 962 total state projects envisioned under Tennessee’s IMPROVE Act, 288 are now underway, 20 are in the construction phases and 10 bridge projects have already been completed.
Oklahoma– Oklahoma’s Gilcrease Expressway project began in the 1950s to create a loop around the city. But the planned loop stalled at a necessary crossing of the Arkansas River west of downtown. The route of the five-mile, four-lane tollway, which will include an adjacent multiuse trail, was approved by the state in April. The plan should be finalized by May 2018, with construction to begin late in the summer.
The estimated $290 million cost will be funded through a public-private partnership. The plan is to issue a request for information and then a request for proposals. The private partner will be responsible for about a third of the total cost, and will be repaid first out of the tolls. The other two-thirds will be funded through a partnership of six government entities – the city of Tulsa, the Indian Nations Council of Governments, Tulsa County, Oklahoma Transportation Authority, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the federal government. Appraisals are underway on 20 parcels and an offer will be made soon on right-of-way acquisitions.