Posts in Legislation.

The roll-out of positive train control (PTC) is a daunting task for many railroads.  Even without PTC we would still call this a very busy time in the realm of railroad safety.  The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), which included the PTC mandate, was the most comprehensive rail safety legislation in several decades.  It would be easy in light of PTC to lose sight of all the other RSIA initiatives underway, but that would be a mistake.

In an effort to help our readers stay current, we will devote some space here to a series of posts on RSIA implementation issues other than PTC.  I will be ...

Posted in Legislation

On Monday March 14, House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) conducted the latest of a series of field hearings, this one in his home district in Central Florida, to discuss pending major transportation legislation. It was the only scheduled field hearing in Florida on the transportation bill. The hearing was focused on improving and reforming our nation's surface transportation programs.

Among those asked to testify were:

  • Geoffrey Yarema, Partner, Nossaman LLP
  • The Honorable Frank Bruno, County Chair, County of Volusia
  • Ananth Prasad, Assistant Secretary for ...

Last week the National Governors Association strongly urged key Senators to stand with them against new restrictions on public private partnerships and tolling in the House T&I Committee’s draft surface transportation bill. In their letter to chairs and ranking members of the Senate Environment and Public Works, Finance, and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, the NGA highlighted the efforts of state and local governments to pursue innovative financing options to complement traditional sources, and asked the Senate to omit the proposals from the Senate’s ...

Posted in Legislation, Policy

On July 1 the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued two Notices of Funding Availability (NOFA) for high-speed and intercity passenger rail (HSIPR) development.

The NOFA for service development programs,  published at 75 Fed. Reg. 38,344 (PDF), outlines selection criteria and application procedures for $2.1 billion in FY 2010 HSIPR funds.  A second NOFA addressing $245 million available for individual construction projects within a corridor, was published at 75 Fed. Reg. 38,365 (PDF).

Applications pursuant to these NOFAs are due to FRA by August 6. Grant awards are expected to be announced by September 30.

The NOFAs both indicate that FRA is preparing draft guidance to establish a long-term framework for the HSIPR program. This forthcoming guidance does not apply to the $2.3 billion in FY 2010 HSIPR funding but is intended to provide further clarification about future project development processes (from planning and design through construction and operation), and technical assistance for successful project development and delivery. FRA has stated that outreach on proposed new guidance will begin this fall.

Posted in Legislation

The powerful House Ways and Means Committee recently heard testimony from state and local officials on how to create and fund a new National Infrastructure Bank.  Witnesses highlighted efforts around the country to find new ways to finance transportation projects, from the Measure R dedicated sales tax in Los Angeles to Kentucky’s new Green Bank (a revolving fund dedicated to promote energy efficiency, capitalized with ARRA funds).

Witnesses emphasized the need for new transportation funding, noting that the United States has fallen far behind certain ...

USDOT has published interim guidance on its new TIGER II competitive grant program, a $600M successor to the popular $1.5B TIGER program included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  The guidance outlines application deadlines, eligibility and project selection criteria, and indicates a shift in the focus of the program from near-term job creation to long-term outcomes.

TIGER II is not constrained by ARRA’s focus on shovel ready projects and immediate job creation (funds must be awarded by 9/30/2012, but there is no deadline for expenditure or project completion).  Instead, TIGER II seeks long-term outcomes, though these outcomes fall in the same general areas as TIGER I: safety, economic competitiveness, livability, sustainability, and state of good repair (the extent to which a project improves the condition of existing infrastructure and minimize life-cycle costs).

Click below for additional details about the focus and requirements of TIGER II.

USDOT Announces $1.5 Billion in TIGER Grants – $60M in TIFIA Allocations

On February 17, the one year anniversary of the landmark American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, USDOT announced the final list of TIGER grant recipients. Grants range in size from $3.15M for a roadway rehabilitation/reconstruction in Burlington, VT to a $105M grant for construction of two new intermodal facilities in Memphis, TN and Birmingham, AL to support freight rail service from the Gulf Coast to the Mid-Atlantic.

When combined with state and private funds, the TIGER funds will support ...

USDOT has published new program guidance for the TIFIA Program which clarifies project selection criteria and processes. The new guidance is the product of long deliberation at USDOT, which withdrew an earlier proposal last spring. [See USDOT Withdraws Proposed Changes to the TIFIA Program.]

The notice:

  • Announces a change in TIFIA selection criteria and processes going forward – rather than the current first come, first served basis for project submission, the new process would pool all letters of interest and apply weighting criteria to choose the best projects.

  • Requests ...

The Obama Administration recently outlined its proposal for enhanced federal safety oversight of subways, light-rail and municipal bus systems. USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood said, Now, would we prefer that states regulate their own systems? You bet. But some states simply lack the resources to do that. And, in a pinch, some state will cut safety items from their budgets. For transit passengers those cuts are too dear.

The proposed Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009 would authorize the Secretary, through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), to set and enforce minimum federal transit safety standards and ensure that transit safety efforts grow in tandem with increased ridership.

USDOT is currently prohibited from establishing federal transit safety standards, and instead relies on 27 State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSAs) to monitor transit safety as provided in 49 CFR Part 659.   Following several transit incidents earlier this year, FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff announced the Administration’s intent to enhance federal oversight.  [See FTA Considering New Safety Oversight for Rail Transit.]  Funding, independence, and enforcement powers are critical concerns for SSAs, which average less than one staff person per transit agency and in some cases rely on transit revenues from the systems they oversee.

Under the proposed program, FTA would be authorized to promulgate minimum national standards for rail transit safety, applicable to all fixed rail systems not currently under Federal Railroad Administration jurisdiction. (The legislation would also authorize bus safety regulatory authority but DOT expects its initial focus to be on rail transit safety.)

States could choose to continue transit safety oversight on behalf of FTA, but only when FTA finds that the SSA has:

  •          an adequate number of fully-trained staff to enforce federal regulations;
  •          been granted sufficient authority by its governor and state legislature to compel compliance by the transit systems it oversees; and
  •          sufficient financial independence from any transit systems under its purview.

 

Posted in Legislation

Senators Boxer and Inhofe are preparing to hotline a six-month extension of the federal surface transportation programs, which would provide funding at gross FY2009 levels, with an additional $8.7 billion in contract authority to replace the funds rescinded on September 30.

The bill would also extend funding for projects of national and regional significance (SAFETEA-LU 1301) and national corridor infrastructure (SAFETEA-LU 1302) according to 2009 receipts. House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Jim Oberstar’s 3-month extension, which recently passed in ...

California will soon have a new authority that can authorize California transportation agencies to toll transportation facilities, eliminating the need for legislative approval for each tolling project. 

AB 798, a bill sponsored by state treasurer Bill Lockyer and recently signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, creates a new state level agency, the California Transportation Finance Authority, with the limited purpose of issuing revenue bonds for new capacity or improvements to the state transportation system at the request of a public sector project sponsor. Project sponsors ...

Posted in Legislation, P3s

California is now ready to assess P3 candidate projects. At its October 14th meeting, the California Transportation Commission approved policy guidance addressing the Commission’s role in selecting proposed P3 projects. The CTC developed the guidelines to assist Caltrans and regional transportation agencies (RTAs) as they move to develop P3 transportation projects, taking advantage of the new authority granted to them under Senate Bill X2 4, enacted in February of this year.

The enabling legislation requires the CTC to select projects nominated by Caltrans or an RTA ...

Posted in Legislation, P3s

With the delay of the federal transportation re-authorization and federal transportation funding in limbo, state transportation agencies across the nation are trying to cope any way they can. In California this week, 19 self help local transportation financing agencies - that collectively generate more than $4 billion a year for transportation - drew a large crowd of transportation public agency officials, elected officials, contractors and consultants to the 20th Annual Focus on the Future Conference in Los Angeles to explore their options. Conference speakers discussed current developments in transportation funding, environmental compliance and project delivery. The news on project delivery and innovation was positive, the environmental compliance news mixed, and the funding news pretty discouraging.

Interspersed with the grim chronicling of the current state and federal funding landscapes, the conference highlighted some bright spots, including federal ARRA funds, Measure R funding in Los Angeles, and innovative project delivery, PPPs and congestion pricing.

Posted in Legislation, P3s

Included in New Jersey’s Economic Stimulus Act of 2009  are provisions to allow the use of PPPs to design, build, finance, operate and maintain higher education facilities.  Is this the start of a trend for developing social infrastructure in the US?

Social infrastructure includes housing, educational, recreational and law and order facilities that support the community's need for social interaction.  As reflected by several projects in Canada, this is not a new concept for North America.  Along with the recent use of a PPP for development of the Long Beach Courthouse, New Jersey’s ...

Posted in Legislation

Infrastructure Investor, a trade publication, examined how the proposed extensions to the transportation authorization could pull money from states through rescission. Monday’s article, US states face $9bn in transportation funding cuts, discusses the looming rescission of budget authority required by SAFETEA-LU, as well as the proposed extensions of program authority moving forward in the Senate. The article extensively quotes Ed Kussy, former Federal Highway Administration Deputy Chief Counsel, and current Nossaman partner. Excerpts from the article ...

Posted in Legislation

The House has passed a new bill (H.R. 3617) which extends federal highway and transit programs set to lapse at the end of September, when SAFETEA-LU expires, through the end of the calendar year.

Yesterday, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Jim Oberstar introduced the bill under an expedited process which waives committee approval and prevents amendment.  The bill does not address the $8.7 billion rescission required under SAFETEA-LU, which will force FHWA to cancel program funding apportioned under SAFETEA-LU (as amended by the EISA) on September 30.

The ...

In addition to the recent passage of comprehensive P3 legislation in Arizona and California, the newly created Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has also been authorized to utilize public private partnerships for transportation projects. Provisions for design-build-operate-maintain (DBOM) and design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM) procurements are included in Senate Bill 2087, commonly known as the "Transportation Reform Act," under which MassDOT was formed. Under the Act, P3’s may be used for a new or existing highway, road ...

Posted in Legislation, P3s

Arizona has passed comprehensive P3 legislation on the heels of the passage of similar legislation in California.  Last month, Governor Jan Brewer signed House Bill 2396 which both updates Arizona’s existing toll road development and operations laws and gives the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) broad authority to develop and operate a range of transportation projects through a variety of delivery methods.

Under House Bill 2396  ADOT is authorized to use virtually  any innovative delivery method, including P3s.  Facilities eligible in the bill include: new or ...

Posted in Legislation, P3s

California is serious about using its new legislative authority to deliver some of the state’s much-needed transportation projects through public-private partnerships (P3s). On August 12, 2009, the California Transportation Commission issued draft guidelines addressing the Commission’s role in approving the P3 delivery method for specific projects.

The draft guidelines follow the California legislature’s momentous enactment of Senate Bill 4, referred to as SBX2 4.  That bill authorizes Caltrans and regional transportation agencies to enter into P3s for ...

A recent survey conducted by KPMG International confirms what many in the infrastructure industry already knew: current infrastructure investment is insufficient to support economic growth and politics frequently influences infrastructure development in the United States.  In this global survey, KPMG surveyed 455 infrastructure executives, including 118 from the United States.

While much of the recent industry press has focused on the lack of available financing as the primary challenge to delivering infrastructure, a vast majority of the respondents indicated that ...

Nossaman LLP’s 30-plus infrastructure attorneys offer clients, colleagues, strategic partners, and industry media a wealth of practical experience, insider insight, and thoughtful analysis here on Infra Insight. We blog about what we know best, from industry-leading procurements to local and national policy developments that affect the market and our clients.

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