Officials are not Waiting on Congress

Dozens of infrastructure projects are being announced, with or without the funding Congress is promising

By Mary Scott Nabers

Public officials throughout the U.S. have obviously decided not to wait on Congress because infrastructure projects are being announced every week.

Visionary leaders are launching projects related to the repair of aging infrastructure, installation of clean energy projects, integration of smart city technology, construction of social infrastructure projects, and/or revitalization of downtown areas. The projects will require contracting from almost all industry sectors.

One particular industry sector undergoing significant transformation is public transit, mainly because mobility is such a critical issue. Municipal leaders must find ways to move people and lessen transportation congestion. The primary reason for the focus on public transportation is related to nudging drivers out of individual automobiles – a daunting task.

Solutions are being sought for other types of transportation projects as well. The electric vehicle market is expanding rapidly, and more charging stations are needed now. Without charging stations, the electronic vehicle market cannot expand, which government officials want to happen. The obstacle is funding.

Installing thousands of charging stations will be expensive but the capital needed is available from private-sector investors and grant funding. A number of cities and counties have adopted requirements mandating charging stations in new residential developments, while some counties are considering mandating charging stations in other types of new developments.

In February, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced an allocation of $10.8 million for electric vehicle charging stations. DEP will use $3.2 million to award grants through the Electric Vehicle Charging Grant Program. This program is the first to be announced from the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust. Other states are sure to follow.

Transit systems are trying to make public services more economical, efficient, and convenient. Not only have they have optimized routes and reduced costs, but they are also seeking solutions to the ‘last-mile’ problem—getting riders from stations or bus stops to final destinations. Community colleges and universities are extremely interested in enhancing public transportation options for students.

Examples of these initiatives include:

• Ohio State University recently released a solicitation to attract vendors interested in renting bikes and scooters so that students could move quickly from public transportation to destinations throughout the sizeable campus.

• The City of Houston is considering a large light rail connection project at the airport and a decision has been made to either upgrade or replace the current rail system, and the city is now considering funding options. The proposed light rail project is part of a larger-scale, long-range plan to expand transit across the city.

• The VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio approved a Mobility on Demand pilot project to serve residents in areas with low bus ridership. This project will be among the first of its kind in the U.S. In May, the Federal Transportation Administration announced the availability of $15 million in research grants to support more innovations of this type, available for providers of public transportation.

• The Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Transit authority are collaborating on a pilot program to test a 29-mile express bus service that will link Salt Lake City, the airport, and three other cities. Also being tested is an autonomous shuttle throughout the state that will travel at speeds up to 15 miles per hour and is designed to react to pedestrians, vehicles, and other obstacles.

• The City of White Plains, New York, is preparing to redevelop four parcels of city property as part of a larger transit district, with connections to regional express bus service. After a $92 million renovation to the city’s Metro-North Railroad, paid for by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the city wants to make the station the center of a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with access to multiple modes of transportation. The request for proposals will include converting a garage, surface lot, parking lot, and firehouse into a mixed-use project. City officials have indicated interest in a public-private partnership.

• The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority has announced plans to develop a 41-mile bus rapid transit system, estimated to cost $400 million. Funding will come from state grants and other sources. Cap Metro, the transit system in Austin, Texas, plans to replace its fare collection system in 2019 and solicitation for this project is anticipated to begin soon.

There is a lot of infrastructure activity already underway but hundreds of other upcoming opportunities are currently in the planning stages. Infrastructure reform is occurring and contracting opportunities will be abundant throughout the country for the next several years.

Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. For more information, please visit maryscottnabers.com.

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