Posts in Policy.
Posted in Policy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a report that details funding mechanisms and development strategies that communities can use to provide innovative financing options for transit-oriented development (TOD). 

The report affirms the need for local and state transportation agencies to continue to think beyond traditional funding, procurement and contracting approaches to satisfy their burgeoning infrastructure needs. 

Detailed in the report is an explanation of innovative financing mechanisms, which should be required reading for those interested ...

Posted in Policy

On January 14, 2013, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued guidance on Section 1319 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), Pub. L. 112-141, July 6, 2012.  MAP-21 is a measure that reauthorizes transportation funding through the end of 2014, and is the product of a robust effort by transportation advocates to streamline the lengthy, complex, and cumbersome federal environmental process.  As we reported here, MAP-21 includes several meaningful reforms that could expedite the National Environmental ...

Posted in Policy

State public records acts and the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) were enacted to prevent favoritism and corruption, but have had unintended consequences on competition for public projects.  As discussed in a recent article, requests for information have become a vehicle for contractors to obtain valuable information about their competitors that might not otherwise be available.

In addition, requirements to disclose information about a project to the public, including information about proposals received, whether compelled by law, political pressure, or ...

Posted in Policy

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released two guidance memoranda in December 2012 relating to Buy America, largely in light of the amendments made by MAP-21.  On December 20, FHWA clarified the Buy America requirements applicable to utility work on Federal-aid projects.  The December 21 memorandum provided additional amplification on FHWA’s position regarding Buy America requirements applicable to manufactured products.

FHWA’s December 20, 2012 Guidance

FHWA was in the process of evaluating the applicability of Buy America requirements to utility work on ...

Posted in Policy

Ted Houghton is the new chair of the Texas Transportation Commission. Governor Rick Perry announced Houghton's appointment, effective October 7.  Houghton succeeds Deirdre Delisi, who recently resigned.  Delisi had served as chair since 2008.

Houghton was first appointed to the Commission in 2003 and was reappointed in 2009. A native of El Paso, Houghton is self-employed in the financial services industry. He is the first resident of El Paso to serve on the Commission.

"I'd like to thank Governor Perry for his trust in me to continue TxDOT down a path of responsiveness, change and ...

Posted in Policy

At its first regular meeting since the retirement of Amadeo Saenz, Jr. at the end of August, the Texas Transportation Commission named its choice for his replacement.  Effective October 17, 2011, former Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson began his new job as TxDOT’s 19th Executive Director.  Mr. Wilson comes to TxDOT from Luminant, a Dallas-based electric generation company, where he was the senior vice president of public affairs.

In addition to his position as Texas’ Secretary of State, Mr. Wilson’s history of public service includes time working for both former U.S ...

Posted in P3s, Policy

If you want to know what a mature, effective federal and state P3 policy can look like, we need not look very far beyond our U.S. borders.  Two Canadian provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, provide us a road map for building successful, sustainable P3 programs and policies.

At the International Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh last month, panelists for a workshop on P3s, including Len Kozachuk with Infrastructure Ontario (IO), described the essential features of this agency and its alternative financing and procurement program.  The contrast with how our federal and state policy ...

Posted in P3s, Policy

The just ended InfraAmericas P3 conference in New York City brought together virtually every active participant, public and private, in the U.S. transportation P3 industry.  A number of public agencies showcased their plans and projects, and there was a palpable sense that opportunities to bring U.S. projects forward are growing significantly.

Perhaps the project producing the most buzz at the conference is the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority’s Knik Arm Crossing project in Alaska.  KABATA came to the conference loaded for bear (a not infrequent pastime in this bountiful ...

Posted in Policy

The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) is hosting a free panel on "Rebuilding America's Interstate Highway System" on June 21 from 8-10:30am ET. The program, which will be held at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington, DC, will also be broadcast live over the Internet for those who cannot attend in person.

The event targets anyone interested in exploring real solutions to the challenge of funding improvements to interstate highways and other major road systems in America including congressional staff, transportation ...

Posted in Job Opening, Policy

The Reason Foundation, a non-profit, public policy think tank based in Los Angeles, seeks a policy analyst in transportation.  Qualified candidates should have a relevant degree, a solid understanding of free-market public policy, and an aptitude for written communication. 

Ideal candidates will be very familiar with Reason's transportation policy work and be able to describe what they can contribute to the organization.  Work location is negotiable and salary commensurate with experience.  Applicants at all levels of experience are invited to apply. The application deadline is ...

AASHTO, through its Center for Excellence in Project Finance, has released its final report on strategies for funding and financing surface transportation for the next decade. The report, Funding and Financing Solutions for Surface Transportation in the Coming Decade,is available for download via AASHTO’s website at the following address:

http://www.transportation-finance.org/pdf/featured_documents/sep_30_report_final_2011_02_02.pdf

In September 2010, AASHTO convened a forum of members of Congress, representatives of state and local governments, and ...

Posted in Financing, Policy

FHWA has extended the deadline for FY2011 TIFIA Letters of Interest (LOI) to March 1, 2011. The previous Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), issued on January 19, had allowed less than a month for interested applicants to prepare and submit LOIs.

The January 25 revised NOFA included a new phrase addressing the role of tolling and pricing programs in enhancing environmental sustainability. Under the revised selection criteria, applicants can demonstrate that their projects help preserve and protect the environment through the use of tolling or pricing structures to reduce ...

Posted in Policy

This morning, members of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission and National Transportation Policy Project of the Bipartisan Policy Center released a joint statement urging Congress to take steps toward several transportation policy principles designed to help guide deliberations over how to extend, fund and improve the federal surface transportation program in the face of dire fiscal realities. Some of the key proposals include the call for Congress to incentivize and remove barriers to increased state and local revenues from direct user ...

Posted in Policy

AASHTO recently sponsored a Congressional Forum on funding and financing surface transportation in the coming decade.  Academic co-sponsors were America 2050 at the Regional Plan Association; Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania; Georgia Institute of Technology; Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota; Keston Institute of Infrastructure and Public; Finance at the University of Southern California.

Over 25 staff members of Senate and House committees participated.  John Horsley, Executive Director of AASHTO, made one of the ...

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Tags: AASHTO, Policy

Earlier this week USDOT Secretary LaHood announced the winners of the highly competitive TIGER II grant application cycle. Forty-two capital construction projects and 33 planning projects in 40 states will share nearly $600 million in grant funds.

According to the announcement, USDOT received nearly 1,000 construction grant applications for more than $19 billion from all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.  Roughly 29 percent of TIGER II money goes for road projects, 26 percent for transit, 20 percent for rail projects, 16 percent for ports, four percent ...

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently published a progress report (PDF) presenting its ambitious vision for the congressionally-mandated National Rail Plan (NRP).  The NRP is being developed as part of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.  The progress report builds upon the Preliminary National Rail Plan (PDF) submitted to Congress last year.  When completed, the NRP is expected to present a framework for improving our transportation network for future generations.

The progress report emphasizes the importance of efficient and effective ...

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.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has asked Federal Highway Administration Chief Counsel Karen J. Hedlund to serve as Chief Counsel of the Federal Railroad Administration, effective June 29.

Hedlund moves to FRA to help advance DOT's new high-speed and intercity rail development program, one of the Obama Administration's signature initiatives with more than $10 billion already appropriated.  During her tenure at FHWA starting in 2009, Hedlund helped implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including new investments in highway, intermodal ...

Posted in Policy

The National Journal Transportation Expert Blog this week asked whether states should be allowed to commercialize rest stops.  I thought this was a timely question, and responded with the following:

The upcoming reauthorization will present an excellent opportunity for Congress to rethink its outdated blanket prohibition on the commercialization of state-owned safety rest stops.

This is no longer simply a question of who gets to sell fast food to weary travelers. The question is: how will we maintain our interstates to truly serve motorists’ changing needs at a time when ...
Posted in Financing, Policy

Jeffrey Parker, President of Jeffrey A. Parker and Associates, has worked closely with Nossaman on several projects, including two recent projects in Florida.  We are pleased to include his comments here as a guest to Infra Insight.

The House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit invited me to participate in a hearing on April 14, 2010 on Using Innovative Financing to Deliver Highway and Transit Projects.  As a participant on the panel, I was pleased to share my firm’s experiences with availability payments and answer questions from the Subcommittee Members on the I-595 and Port of ...

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.

The IBTTA is discussing the future of tolling existing interstate capacity in light of the Federal Highway Administration’s decision to reject Pennsylvania’s application to toll Interstate 80.

My opinion?

The political barriers to tolling existing interstate capacity are just as real and monumental as raising the gas tax. In the short to mid term the more likely scenario is an acceleration of the trend to toll new capacity within existing interstate rights of way. The Ft. Lauderdale I-595, the Ft. Worth North Tarrant Express, and the Dallas I-635 are all recent examples of ...

Posted in Policy

The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality has issued two draft guidance memos regarding important NEPA compliance issues that may add another regulatory layer to infrastructure project development.

The draft guidelines on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, issued on February 18, 2010, require that environmental impact evaluations by federal agencies address GHG.  Among other things, federal agencies are required to quantify and describe expected direct and indirect GHG emissions, to discuss measures to reduce GHG emissions, and to qualitatively discuss the link ...

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 Policy

TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) division has weighed in on road user fees based on vehicle miles traveled or VMT. Their latest report Implementable Strategies for Shifting to Direct Usage-Based Charges for Transportation Funding responds to VMT’s critics who say the transportation funding method would be too challenging and require a lengthy implementation period. The report outlines strategies for shifting to direct user-based charges for transportation funding, focusing on incremental VMT mechanisms which can be fully implemented in the ...

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Tags: NCHRP, Policy, TRB, VMT

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has endorsed USDOT’s policy of allocating Highway Trust Fund (HTF) apportionments based on total lane miles in each state – including miles of highway built, operated or maintained through public private partnerships (PPPs).

Each state’s share of the nation’s highway system (quantified as lane miles) has factored in federal aid allocations since 1976, though initially this measure excluded tolled facilities. In 1998, Congress greatly expanded the use of the lane mile funding formula with TEA-21, and eliminated the ...

New subway safety standards may be coming soon to a city near you.  The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has assembled a team of transportation safety experts to explore rail transit (subway, light rail, and commuter rail) safety reforms, which may extend to bus operations.

FTA is currently prohibited by law from establishing national safety standards, requiring Federal inspections, or requiring specific operating practices, but that may soon change.  In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff condemned several recent ...

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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