California- Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) president Jeff DeFranco’s first State of the College Address focused on several projects taking place that could increase enrollment. One of the upcoming projects that could combat low community college enrollment is to create student housing on campus.
By 2022, the school intends to be a residential campus and solve the housing problem for South Lake Tahoe students. In the meantime, the school plans on providing interim housing support. Within the next year, the LTCC hopes to secure a private partner to start building their housing on campus.
Alabama- The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is moving ahead with plans to create a public-private partnership (P3) for the Mobile River Bridge project on Interstate 10. Estimates put the total price of the project in the range of $850 million to $1.5 billion. ALDOT hopes to use a design, build, finance, operate and maintain model and create a toll for the six-lane highway. The government entity would give all duties for the project to a private entity.
In exchange, the private entity is entitled to collect fees from drivers and/or payments from the government entity to recoup its investment. Control of the road is returned to the government entity after the agreed upon payback period. In the fall, ALDOT plans to issue a request for qualifications followed by a request for proposals in 2018. A rough timeline for the project sets construction to begin in 2019. The bridge is expected to be 12,000 feet long and 215 feet high to allow for ships to travel underneath.
New York/New Jersey- The planning process for a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel is moving forward in New Jersey this month. A final environmental impact statement will be issued next spring to allow for construction to get underway in 2019. The tunnel would run between North Bergen and New York’s Penn Station and is part of a regional Gateway initiative for infrastructure improvement in the region.
The project will require building a tube in each direction for rail transit and alleviate concerns over whether the existing tunnel would ever shut down due to damage suffered during hurricane Sandy. Plans for the new tunnel were released for public review, along with an environmental impact study, and Federal and state officials are collecting public comments on the tunnel through Aug. 21. Questions over funding for the $13 billion project have urged officials to explore creating a public-private partnership for the tunnel.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has stated that he plans to alleviate the impact of potentially large National Park Service budget cuts by allocating more resources to the “front line” and away from middle management. Zinke, whose department oversees the Park Service, has said the government can’t come up with funds to eliminate the entire backlog much less offer new amenities and so he has proposed outsourcing the management of the campgrounds to private companies, reducing labor and maintenance costs in the process. The National Park Service reports it has $11.3 billion in improvement projects backlogged at the time President Donald Trump proposes cutting $322 million from the agency’s annual $3 billion budget.
The Park Service now contracts with private companies to provide services to some of its campgrounds but the vast majority are managed by the agency’s employees, including park rangers for security and assistance. Zinke has in mind expanding so-called public-private partnerships (P3), where the Park Service would still own the land and set the rules but private companies would operate, manage and make improvements to the campgrounds. The companies would recover some of their costs with user fees, which are now charged at some, but not all, federal campgrounds. The Park Service estimated Trump’s budget cut would eliminate 6.4 percent, or 1,242 of its work force, when visitors to national parks and campgrounds are soaring, reaching a record high of 324 million last year. The National Parks Conservation Association said it supports legislation in Congress to allocate royalties from oil and gas drilling on federal park land to a fund dedicated to the Park Service’s improvement projects backlog. A bipartisan bill to do that has been introduced in the House.
A General Accounting Office report in February indicated P3s can be profitable for the government. The report included the Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park in Montana as an example. The hotel opened in 1915, five years after the park’s creation. In recent years, it has negotiated 488 contracts with private companies to provide a range of management and vendor services, generating about $104 million per year in revenue for the Park Service. The U.S. Forest Service, which separately controls 3,005 campgrounds around the country, has turned over the majority of their operation and management to private entities. Nearly all of them charge user fees.