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Coalition commends Ohio Gov. Kasich and Ohio legislators for signing HB533 that will advance Bridge Project

Jun 12, 2014

Build Our New Bridge Coalition commends Ohio Gov. John Kasich for signing legislation to advance the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project HB 533 allows for modern tolling and strengthens P3 law   CINCINNATI, OH – The Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition today commended Ohio Governor John Kasich for signing House Bill 533, legislation with bipartisan support…

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Surface Transportation Increase Unlikely — Despite Infrastructure Needs, Public Transit Wants

May 6, 2014

This article was reprinted from CQ News Roll Call.  To view actual article please click here

CQ NEWS – POLICY

May 5, 2014 – 5:51 p.m.

By Nathan Hurst, CQ Roll Call

Senators writing a six-year surface transportation bill are planning to keep status quo spending levels and skip an administration proposal to boost public transit programs and update the nation’s aging infrastructure.

That means lawmakers could miss another chance to prepare the nation’s transit infrastructure to deal with a surge in urbanization in the coming decades. Most of the expected U.S. population growth of 100 million new residents by 2050 will take place in urban areas, making modernization of aging transit systems and construction of new ones more urgent for many lawmakers.

The new authorization measure is expected to be unveiled this week. It’s likely to extend current spending levels for roads, bridges and transit, with some increases to account for inflation. But given that it’s an election year, negotiations are unlikely to produce a long-term fix for the ailing Highway Trust Fund.

And for lawmakers in more rural districts, which depend more on automotive transportation, it’s hard to win support for huge new transit expenses in densely populated urban areas.

The White House had hoped to move its own four-year, $302 billion surface transportation proposal that was sent to Congress as draft legislation last week.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx defended the 62 percent increase the administration wants for transit spending — up to $13.6 billion in fiscal 2015 from $8.6 billion this year — as a necessary shift as Americans increasingly move to urban areas and drive less.

 

Foxx defended the 62 percent increase the Obama administration wants for transit spending. It is unlikely to be taken up by Congress due to partisan tensions and election-year jockeying. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images File Photo)

“Many of these communities are trying to get ahead of these population surges by creating transportation options for the future,” he told Senate appropriators.

But the proposal won’t advance amid partisan tensions and election-year jockeying.

Money for Transit

Congress first set up guaranteed formula funding for transit systems as part of a deal brokered in the early 1980s with President Ronald Reagan. It set aside 20 percent of revenues from the Highway Trust Fund for transit, on the premise that boosting transit options for commuters would help reduce congestion on the interstate and national highway systems, producing a direct benefit for fuel tax payers who generate the bulk of the trust fund’s revenue.

The American Public Transportation Association, which represents transit agencies from around the country, contends that the Obama administration’s overtures on boosting transit spending will go a long way toward building out transit systems that have, in many cities, experienced a crush of riders as fuel prices remain elevated, and younger workers choose to commute less in their cars.

In 2013, American transit systems accounted for 10.7 billion trips, the highest numbers in 57 years, said Michael Melaniphy, the transit group’s president and chief executive officer.

“Clearly, people want better transportation options and it should be a national priority to expand public transit service,” Melaniphy said.

Getting new transit projects off the ground hasn’t been an easy lift for states and cities that want them. Spending austerity across all local, state and federal governments have only exacerbated the transit budget crunch.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the subway, bus, ferry and commuter rail systems that serve the nation’s largest city, has been struggling for years to cobble together enough money to build a new subway line beneath Second Avenue on Manhattan’s east side, one of the most dense urban areas in the world.

It would be the first such project since the 1940s, but its long-term viability isn’t yet assured: A two-mile, three-station Phase One is expected to open in the next two years.

But the remainder of the 8.5-mile project, stretching down into lower Manhattan with another 13 underground stations, still doesn’t have firm funding sources for its estimated $17 billion total cost, which clouds the timeline of when its later phases might be completed.

Other states, such as Virginia, have increasingly looked to alternative financing to pay for expensive transit projects.

In the Old Dominion’s sprawling northern suburbs, lawmakers turned to the federal Transportation Department’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan program to help finance construction of the final phase of a new Silver Line that will serve the far-flung Dulles International Airport and surrounding neighborhoods, about 25 miles west of downtown Washington.

Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va., who represents a swath of suburbs that will be served by the new line, said building the new line was a sensible use of tolls collected on the adjacent expressway that serves the airport, which will gradually pay back the federal loan.

“Paving our way out of the worst traffic in the nation is impossible,” Moran said. “This extension is critical to reducing congestion, commuting time and gas consumption.”

The need to diversify federal spending on modes other than roads isn’t lost on Republicans, either. House Transportation and Infrastructure ChairmanBill Shuster, R-Pa., hasn’t championed transit spending with the same enthusiasm as some of his Democratic counterparts. But he has recognized that simply continuing to expand roadways won’t alleviate congestion that plagues densely developed areas in the Northeast, where he has suggested drawing investment to intercity rail would help reduce the need for new lanes on I-95, the traffic-choked road that connects Washington to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Transit Shift

The latest data on Americans’ driving habits suggests more transit spending would be welcome.

The Federal Highway Administration in February reported that total vehicle miles traveled — a tally of all the miles driven by all vehicles in the country — in 2013 increased just less than 1 percent, while that tally, when divided by the country’s population, actually dropped for the ninth year in a row.

By that count, there was a decline from 9,402 miles per capita driven in 2013, down from 9,412 miles per capita driven in 2012.

But not everyone is in favor of expanding spending beyond roads.

The American Trucking Associations, led by former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican, viewed the White House’s call for increased transit spending as a threat to more robust investments in roads and bridges that carry truckers and their cargoes.

“This administration needs to make much-needed investments in repairing our existing roads and bridges and looking for ways to add capacity to meet our growing needs,” the group’s chairman, Phil Byrd, said late last month.

Graves and other trucking industry officials note that total driving has still ticked up even as personal driving has decreased, meaning much of the pickup in recent months is due to increased commercial traffic as the economy continues to rebound.

Some rural lawmakers have criticized the administration’s plan to put more money into transit but not boost road spending at a similar level. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican on the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, lamented that the administration’s proposed increase in transit spending wasn’t helpful for her mostly rural state, which is in need of investment for existing roads and bridges.

Similarly, the conservative Heritage Foundation has been long critical of efforts to expand non-highway spending at the federal level, reasoning that deciding matters of regional transit mobility should be left to states and cities.

“Construction of the interstate highway system was largely complete several decades ago, but Congress has prolonged the federal highway program by repeatedly expanding its scope, inserting itself into purely state and local matters,” Heritage analyst Emily J. Goff wrote in a recent critique of lawmaker efforts to generate a new highway bill.

Joshua L. Schank , the president and chief executive officer of the Eno Center for Transportation, said such regional disagreements could be settled to transit backers’ satisfaction if federal funding formulas were looser, allowing states like Maine to spend more of their money on roads and more dense states to focus on transit.

“If the local needs focus around transit, the ability to be flexible in funding would certainly go a long way toward solving those needs,” Schank said.

Build Our New Bridge Coalition announces support for needed legislation in Ohio to advance the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project

MEDIA RELEASE

 

For immediate release:

May 6, 2014 Contact:Patrick Crowley859-462-4245pcrowley@strategicadvisersllc.com

 

Build Our New Bridge Coalition announces support for needed legislation in Ohio to advance the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project

 

CINCINNATI, OH – The Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition is announcing its support for Ohio House Bill 533, legislation that will advance the planned replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge.

 

“We applaud and support this legislation, which will keep this vitally important project moving forward,” said Coalition co-chairman Tom Williams, President and CEO of North American Properties. “Innovative approaches are needed to make the replacement of The Brent Spence Bridge a reality. This legislation utilizes the latest technology and modernizes Ohio statues so the state is better equipped to operate a 21st century transportation system.

 

“Gov. John Kasich has shown strong leadership on the Brent Spence Bridge project,” Williams said. “We are pleased with the bipartisan support HB 533 has received so far, and now call on the General Assembly to take another important step by passing the legislation, which will greatly enhance the flow of traffic and improve safety on the new bridge.”

 

The 50-year-old Brent Spence Bridge is an unsafe, overcrowded span that carries more than 175,000 vehicles a day, more than double what it was built to accommodate. Each day, 40,000 trucks carry more than $1 billion in freight across the bridge. Daily backups on the bridge contribute to gridlock, lost productivity and dangerous, time-consuming commutes.

Replacing the bridge is expected to cost an estimated $2.5 billion. Because of inflation, this cost increases $8 million for each month that construction of the bridge is delayed.

 

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About the Coalition: The Coalition to Build Our New Bridge Now (BN2) was recently formed as a 501(c)(4) organization. Membership will be comprised of business, community, labor and political leaders committed to the project. The BN2 Coalition will push for the creation of a joint Ohio-Kentucky agreement to establish a bi-state effort that will recommend a plan to fund, finance, design and construct the new bridge and perform necessary rehabilitation on the existing Brent Spence Bridge. Having a comprehensive strategic framework now will assist the states as they develop the structure and tools necessary to select the proper configuration of public-private partnerships as well as the IPD method that is the most feasible to advance the project. For more information, visit www.BuildOurNewBridgeNow.com.

Congress won’t ride to rescue on Brent Spence Bridge

Mar 31, 2014

WASHINGTON – As Kentucky leaders continue to tussle over how to pay the $2.6 billion price tag for replacing the outdated Brent Spence Bridge, some clearly hope Congress will come to the rescue.

In arguing for a ban on tolls as a way to pay for the bridge, Kentucky state legislative leaders said earlier this month that the Brent Spence Bridge was the federal government’s “responsibility,” so Washington should come up with a way to pay for a much-needed new Ohio River crossing.  To read more click this link.

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Politico: Highway fund stares into the abyss

This is a story from Politico.

By Adam Snider

3/26/14 4:17 PM EDT

The federal trust fund that pays for road, bridge and transit projects is on the verge of entering unknown territory: going dry.

Unless Congress acts, the Highway Trust Fund will start running out of money in July for the first time in its 58-year history, with no real precedent for what happens next. But the likely possibilities are ominous, including furloughs of employees in federal safety agencies and sharp cutbacks in the checks that the Department of Transportation sends to its state-government counterparts.

State DOTs would in turn have to cut or curtail their own projects, triggering job losses during the peak months for road work.

“We have the potential of missing an entire construction season,” said Michael Lewis, director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

His state’s only funding program for roads and bridges is one that matches the federal program, which typically pays for 80 percent of a project’s cost. If the federal money stops flowing, Lewis said, “We’ve got nothing.”

That’s one message he’ll deliver when he testifies Thursday at a Senate hearing on the new transportation bill that Congress must pass by Sept. 30.But the highway fund will need rescuing months before then, based on the government’s latest estimates, although DOT doesn’t know exactly when the money will run out.

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who served for five years under President Barack Obama, warned that an empty trust fund would “cause a complete calamity in transportation and infrastructure funding.” It would be “a total dereliction of congressional leadership,” he said in a comment to POLITICO.

The reasons for the depletion have been long in coming: Congress hasn’t raised the gasoline tax in 20 years, allowing inflation to erode the amount of construction work that the levy buys. More fuel-efficient cars and the economic downturn have cut into how much money the gas tax raises. And while the fund has come close to running out several times before, it’s never truly gone broke.

DOT officials readied for a depleted Highway Trust Fund in 2008, warning states that their reimbursement checks would be pro-rated and come less often. Congress heeded the call then, moving quickly to approve an $8 billion bailout.

But several more bailouts totaling tens of billions of dollars later, it’s not clear if the gridlocked Congress could pull off the same feat this time.

Failing that, DOT has few options.

The 19th century Antideficiency Act means the fund can’t run a deficit, and DOT can’t control the money coming in. So the department is left with implementing a simple budgeting philosophy: Spend only what you have, matching outlays with income.

The pay-as-you-go approach would affect the daily reimbursements sent to states that have already paid upfront for projects under construction. Payments might come less often and be trimmed, but DOT wouldn’t actually “bounce checks” — despite what Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said as he continues to urge lawmakers to find the needed money.

Department officials have two options if the balance hits critically low levels, and neither is attractive to states. If the fund has only 85 percent of the money needed to pay for projects, for example, it could either fully fund 85 percent of the projects or could give all projects 85 percent of their needed amounts. DOT could also blend the two approaches.

The cuts could entail scaling back the daily reimbursements to several times a week, which can affect cash-flow for states that have already spent the money. The effects would be especially large for states that rely heavily on the federal program, such as sparsely populated Western states that have tens of thousands of miles of roads but few people paying the gas tax.

Employees of the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are also paid from the trust fund, as are some staff at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Furloughs could be on the table, meaning reviews of new highway projects and key truck and car safety programs could grind to a halt.

Depletion of the trust fund would come as a one-two punch. The highway account that pays for road and bridge projects should run out in July, while the transit account will survive into the next fiscal year — but not long after.

DOT will have to act well before the fund’s balance hits zero, however. Officials estimate that the highway account needs about $4 billion in cash liquidity to maintain timely spending, and the transit account needs $1 billion. If the balances dip below that recommended cushion, the agency will have to act.

To top it off, DOT doesn’t even have up-to-date numbers on how much is in the fund and doesn’t know when zero day will arrive. The latest estimate says late July for the highway account, but that’s several weeks earlier than predicted in February. DOT officials know how much they send each day to states, but the Treasury Department updates the fund’s income only every quarter.

And sometimes Treasury gets it wrong, two former top DOT officials said.

The government typically collects one large check from oil refineries — the ones actually paying the gas tax — that includes items like Social Security, payroll and other taxes on top of the fuel excise tax. Treasury then estimates how much is earmarked for the Highway Trust Fund, and later reconciles earlier guesses against production numbers and other data from refineries. Sometimes that means DOT gets less money for the highway fund than it thought earlier in the year.

The Congressional Budget Office has offered two scenarios to bring the trust fund back into line in the long term, neither of which would sit well with lawmakers: Eliminate virtually the entire $51 billion road and transit program for the upcoming fiscal year, or boost the 18.4-cents-a-gallon gas tax by 10 cents. The official congressional scorekeeper projectsthat the fund will be $13 billion short through 2015, with the figures skyrocketing in later years. Just 5½ years from now, it will be $95 billion in the red.

“The administration has repeatedly called for increased infrastructure investment to avoid such a situation,” DOT said in a statement noting the administration’s four-year, $302 billion proposal in the president’s budget request.

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Former U.S. Congressman Geoff Davis: NKY loses with Simpson’s bridge amendment

Geoff Davis of Hebron represented Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District in Congress from 2005 to 2012. While representing my congressional district in Washington, I worked with former U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning of Southgate to earmark nearly $50 million for the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge. The funding was essential to lay the foundation for the major…

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Need for Brent Spence Corridor project isn’t going away

By Mike Hancock

Secretary, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

 

FRANKFORT, Ky. – On average, a commuter in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area spends 37 hours per year in traffic jams. That is according to the closely watched and highly regarded Urban Mobility Report issued annually by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University.

Thirty-seven hours. Nearly the equivalent of a work week.

It’s a lamentable and frustrating statistic, and it’s not going to improve on its own.

The largest single source of that gridlock is the Interstate-75/Interstate-71 Corridor, including the aged and overburdened Brent Spence Bridge.

Nothing is going to improve until dramatic changes are made in that Corridor, including construction of a second bridge to take some of the load off the Brent Spence.

Nothing is going to change the fact that the Brent Spence, which carries both interstate routes over the Ohio River and a measurable share of the nation’s commerce, also carries twice the volume of traffic for which it was built 51 years ago.

The need for action on the I-75/I-71 Corridor is obvious to anyone who has to drive it.

But in all the sound, fury and outright demagoguery over whether tolling is appropriate as a way to help finance the Brent Spence Bridge Relocation Project, this particular point has been drowned out: The Corridor will not – cannot – get any better on its own.

The real issue is not whether drivers want to pay tolls; it’s whether drivers want to keep paying the price of lost time, lost productivity and daily highway hazards with the Corridor as it is.

How best to finance the Brent Spence project is a legitimate and important issue that needs public debate and discussion. But the debate should be rational.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund, source of federal transportation funding for all the states, is nearly broke. Its revenues have been on a downward arc for years because the fund’s main source, the federal tax on motor fuels, has not increased in 21 years. Since 1993, it has been a flat 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline, 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel.

Congress, which has shown no appetite for raising the motor fuels tax, periodically bailed out the Trust Fund with a transfer of General Fund monies but always with great reluctance and always at the 11th hour – playing havoc with the ability of Kentucky, Ohio and other states to carry out long-range planning.

Despite that history, it is apparent from public comments that many people in the region firmly believe the federal government should pay for the Brent Spence – 100 percent – because it is an important interstate project. And they hold out the unreal hope that Congress and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will eventually come to the rescue if Kentucky and Ohio simply take and hold a hard line on tolling.

In fact, demands on the Trust Fund have never been greater and promise to continue mounting, year after year. In addition to the Brent Spence, no fewer than 36 transportation “mega projects” – defined as costing $1 billion or more – currently are in the works around the United States. Several are larger than the Brent Spence. All are moving forward with tolling as an element – or being considered as an element – of their financing.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Ohio Department of Transportation seek the opportunity, working together, to deliver a badly needed infrastructure project to the Tri-State Area with a reasonable and workable financial plan.

But to do that, Kentucky and Ohio need new tools. One such tool is the ability, when feasible and desirable, to enter into Public-Private Partnership agreements – P-3, for short – with private-sector entities that can bring badly needed capital to a public project.

Congress delivered another tool to states with passage of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act – TIFIA – under which it is possible for states to obtain very low-cost loans that can significantly reduce overall costs of a mega project. That was Kentucky’s experience in obtaining a $452.2 million TIFIA loan for the Downtown Crossing portion of the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project.

We are in the very early stages of the Brent Spence project’s financial planning. The “Initial Financial Plan” for the project – emphasis on “initial” – was submitted to FHWA on Dec. 31, 2013. The financial plan will undergo many changes over time. Kentucky and Ohio will aggressively pursue a TIFIA loan, for example.

Likewise, the $60 million included in Governor Steve Beshear’s recommended budget and Recommended Highway Plan for the Brent Spence project was a starting point – not the final word by any means – on level of funding for the project besides tolls. The Kentucky Highway Plan only covers six years. The question of what financing of the BSB will look like beyond 2020 – the sixth year – is yet to be determined.

The $60 million proposed by Governor Beshear would have provided for continued planning, right of way acquisition and other work to keep the Brent Spence project moving forward. But at the behest of legislators from Northern Kentucky, the P-3 legislation was amended in the Kentucky House this week to preclude any possibility of tolls for any interstate project between Kentucky and Ohio.

Then, not surprisingly, the House passed a transportation budget and highway plan that stripped away the bulk of the cash Governor Beshear had proposed for the Brent Spence and spent it elsewhere. The House left the Brent Spence with a $22 million federal earmark. But by federal law the earmark could not be spent for anything else, anyway.

To reiterate, the question is not whether drivers in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky want to pay tolls in exchange for a much-improved Brent Spence Corridor. The question is whether they want to continue paying the price of congestion, lost time and lost productivity. Time really is money.

The budget and highway plan legislation have now moved to the Kentucky Senate.

It is our hope that a window of opportunity has not been slammed shut.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock Dispels Rumors of $6.50 Tolls

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock responds to a question from OKI Executive Director Mark Policinski regarding speculation that tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge would cost $6.50.

Mark,

That is certainly not the case.   As included in the Options Analysis the Transportation Cabinet publicly released with the Ohio Department of Transportation last fall, two tolling scenarios have been evaluated thus far.  The base, per-trip rate for a passenger vehicle was between $1 and $2.  For light trucks (box trucks), rates from $3 to $6 were evaluated, and for heavy trucks (semis), rates ranged from $5 to $10 per trip.  Here are the details of the two scenarios analyzed in the Options Analysis:

Scenario One:

o   $1 base toll for passenger vehicles

o   $3 base toll for light trucks (box trucks)

o   $5 base toll for heavy trucks (semis)

Scenario Two:

o   $2 base toll for passenger vehicles

o   $6 base toll for light trucks (box trucks)

o   $10 base toll for heavy trucks (semis)

It is important to note that these are preliminary rate scenarios and are subject to change as traffic and revenue analyses continue and the ultimate plan of finance is developed.  At no time has a toll rate of $6.50 for one-way passenger vehicle travel ever been discussed or been remotely considered. 

Mike

The time to act is now! Call 1-800-372-7181 and ask your legislator to support HB407!

With less than three weeks remaining until the General Assembly begins their veto recess, time is running short to pass HB 407, legislation to authorize public-private partnerships in Kentucky. HB 407 (Combs) enables the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) by state and local governments to encourage competition for private sector investments, save tax dollars, and promote transparency and accountability. Every state bordering Kentucky already has a P3 law.

Help us make P3 legislation a reality in Kentucky by contacting House leaders and urge them to pass HB 407 this week. Visit our P3 Action Alert to quickly and easily send an email or leave your representative a message by dialing 1-800-372-7181.