May 23, 2018

Volume Number 16

 

Issue Number 09

The Ports-to-Plains Alliance advocacy efforts continue at both federal and state levels supporting policy and funding decisions which would benefit the 2,300 mile corridor.  Recent research by the Alliance shows that since 1995 over $3.61 billion in federal and state funding has been invested in expansion of capacity along the corridor. Take a look at the results shown below in this newsletter.

Efforts continue to move the Interstate 27 expansion forward with both staff and board members working to take the next steps in the process of extending the interstate along the Ports-to-Plains Corridor in Texas.

In North Dakota, on the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the 62-mile U.S. Highway 85 from Watford City to Interstate 94 project has been released.  The Alliance is commenting on the Draft and our partner organization, Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association, will be present at the upcoming Public Hearings.  See the information below on the dates, locations and times for the hearings and deadline for comments.

In Colorado, the Ports-to-Plains Alliance is a member of the statewide coaltion who decided last Friday to move forward a petition process to add a ballot question to the November 2018 election that would increase the state sales tax rate by .62%.  The new revenue would be dedicated to transportation statewide including several projects along the Coirridor in Colorado.

We are a voice for our small town, grassroots members who may otherwise not have access to the right audiences, as well as a conduit for industry to come together in support and promotion of transportation improvements.

We are committed to working as an Alliance to improve transportation infrastructure and business networks opportunities, by advocating for appropriate funding levels, so business and industry can thrive.

We are focused on the economic and business interests that are the lifeblood of the region.

 Contents


Does Investment of $3.6 billion on Ports-to-Plains Alliance Expansion Projects Surprise You?

The Alliance has tracked a summary of federal and state investments along the 2,300-mile corridor including the congressionally designated High Priority Corridors on the National Highway System: Heartland Expressway #14, Ports-to-Plains #38, and Theodore Roosevelt Expressway #58. Since 1995, $3.610 billion has been invested to expand the capacity of the corridor.  This includes investment of $344 million in the Heartland Expressway Corridor, $2.536 billion in the Ports-to-Plains Corridor, and $730 million in the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Corridor.

 

Additionally, the Alliance has published mapping showing a more specific breakdown of progress on a state by state basis. The Texas mapping is divided into TxDOT Districts to facilitate showing the dates, individual project description, project costs, and a general project location.  Each state map shows the same information.

All projects shown in the mapping and cost estimates were construction projects that provided an expansion of existing corridor infrastructure.  The investment does not include additional funding committed to maintain the infrastructure.

This mapping will be used in the Ports-to-Plains Alliance advocacy efforts giving our congressional delegation, state legislators and state DOTs a clear visual of the progress that has been made in expansion the corridor in the states they represent, as well as the surrounding states.

Link to Mapping of Historical Expansion Projects(3.5mb)

As you review the mapping, please let Joe Kiely, Vice President of Operations (joe.kiely@portstoplains.com) know if you see any improvements we can make in the mapping.


Lawmakers Stress Highway Funding, but an Infrastructure Bill Remains Months Away

“Everything is on the table, including tolling, which I am not a fan of. [There are] more and more vehicles that don’t pay any tax. It’s going to continue to get worse all the time,” Graves said. “The trust fund is going to go broke here in two years.”

An infrastructure package will probably take a back seat to bills relating to the Federal Aviation Administration, farming and water resources, which will continue to dominate Congress’ attention in the coming months, according to Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.).

Graves, who serves as chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, delivered remarks at the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) meeting May 16. His statement echoed that of White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who announced one week earlier that Congress will probably not pass infrastructure legislation this year. CAGTC’s meeting was one of many events recognizing Infrastructure Week, which is marked nationally by education and advocacy sessions that highlight the state of roads, bridges, rails, ports, airports and more.

Various lawmakers and experts agreed with Graves on the sluggish status of the infrastructure bill. Sanders’ announcement was “just kind of belaboring the obvious,” according to Jeff Davis, senior fellow for the Eno Center for Transportation. According to Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), members of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure have often discussed raising revenues to fund infrastructure, but they have yet to act on any piece of legislation.

“I don’t think there’s going be any major infrastructure bill at all in this Congress. Nothing moves forward,” Lowenthal said. “We are not going to end up with an infrastructure bill, unless I’m in total shock and all the points come together.”

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) said his main concern is compiling an infrastructure package that is less significant than the proposal President Donald Trump introduced Feb. 12. Denham, chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, said the package would lose gusto if it were divided into separate, smaller pieces to address various issues, such as dedicated truck lanes and tolling.

Read on… 


Colorado Transportation Coalition Announces .62 Percent Sales Tax Increase: Advances for Signature Collection

“Colorado’s economy directly depends on a reliable statewide transportation system. This ballot proposal addresses both local and regional problems across our state so that Colorado maintains its competitive edge.” 

Joe Kiely, Ports to Plains Alliance

This was released by Coloradans for Coloradans Transportation Coalition on May 18, 2018.  The Ports-to-Plains Alliance is a member of the Coalition.

A bipartisan statewide coalition of business leaders, mayors and transportation advocates announced Friday it will gather signatures to place a 0.62 percent sales tax increase to invest in Colorado’s transportation system on the November ballot.

“This coalition has been working together for years to secure badly needed funding for transportation. And after another legislative session that failed to meaningfully address the issue, it has become clear that the citizens of Colorado have no choice now but to take this issue into our own hands,” said Mike Fitzgerald, president and CEO of the Denver South Economic Development Partnership. “As a business community we never want to see taxes increased unless it is absolutely necessary. We are now convinced that it is absolutely necessary.”

Coalition members highlight the decades-long revenue shortage for transportation combined with population growth as driving the need for new revenue.

“Maintenance and construction for our state highways are funded by a gas tax, which hasn’t been raised in over 25 years,” said Tony Milo with the Colorado Contractors Association. “When you combine that with population growth, we are spending less per driver on our highways today than we were in the 1990s.”

According to state budget documents, the Colorado Department of Transportation currently has a $9 billion backlog of projects across the state. In addition to funding for state highways, a key component of the coalition’s plan would provide funding for local projects across the state as chosen by local communities, including alternative means of transit.

"It’s about time we make a serious investment in our transportation infrastructure. Our roads are literally crumbling beneath our feet,” said Christian Reece, executive director of Club 20, an association of counties on the Western Slope. “This initiative is a responsible and modest approach to provide an immediate solution before our infrastructure goes from bad to worse.”

“Coalition members said they decided on sales tax to provide the new revenue, in part, because tourists, conventions and other visitors to the state will help pay a significant part of the tax. Every year 80 million people visit Colorado and use our roads; this approach will allow them to leave a little something behind to help us out,” said Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Coalition members said they would begin circulating petitions immediately.

Quotes from key coalition partners from across the state follow:

Jackie Millet, Republican Mayor of Lone Tree:

“Our transportation crisis in Colorado extends from our state highways to local roads. This ballot initiative is a modest increase in the state sales tax, and it will do a lot to address the congestion caused by growth.”

Dan Gibbs, Democratic Summit County Commissioner:

“If we’re ever going to solve our transportation problems, we need to move away from the gas tax and make sure our communities have the resources they need to meet demand. This initiative will have a big impact on our mountain communities and rural Colorado by directing more resources where it really matters: improving our streets, highways and transit options so it’s easier and safer to get around.”

Cathy Shull, Executive Director of Pro 15:

“Our failing transportation infrastructure isn’t just a Denver problem, it’s a problem that affects every part of Colorado. This ballot initiative was developed by leaders from Fort Morgan to Grand Junction. This is a bipartisan solution that will repair and improve our infrastructure in a way that benefits every part of the state.”

Joe Kiely, Ports to Plains Alliance:

“Colorado’s economy directly depends on a reliable statewide transportation system. This ballot proposal addresses both local and regional problems across our state so that Colorado maintains its competitive edge.”

Cindy Dozier, Republican Hinsdale County Commissioners:

"Colorado has been underfunding transportation for decades because we’re using a funding source that just can’t keep up while the need continues to grow. Speaking as a rural county commissioner, I believe the only way we’ll be guaranteed that our local roads and highways will get the repairs they need is by going to the ballot and dedicating new revenue to this critical priority.”

Margaret Bowes, Executive Director of the I-70 Coalition:

“It is absolutely necessary we make a meaningful investment in our roads. Our failure to invest over the last 25 years is impacting our quality of life and costing us money in traffic congestion delays, traffic accidents and damage to vehicles, lost gas efficiencies and it’s only getting worse.”

Rachel Richards, Democratic Pitkin County Commissioner:

"We need a statewide transportation system that works for rural and urban Colorado. The state highways and local roads that connect our communities and support regional economies are in dire need of repair. This initiative goes a long way toward addressing those problems and provides the flexibility that local communities need to address their challenges.”


 Historic Long X Bridge up for adoption as part of Highway 85 expansion

The North Dakota Department of Transportation is proposing to remove the historic Long X Bridge and is seeking a public or private agency to adopt one or more segments of the structure.

The announcement Monday came as the agency published the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed expansion of U.S. Highway 85 in western North Dakota.

Proponents of the highway expansion say a four-lane highway is needed to improve safety due to increased oil traffic, but others have raised concerns about impacts to the 7-mile stretch through the Badlands and the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The Department of Transportation’s preferred alternative is to expand Highway 85 between Interstate 94 and Watford City to a divided, four-lane highway with a depressed center median.

The roadway footprint through the Badlands segment would be reduced as much as possible and three wildlife crossings are proposed to minimize impacts, the agency said in documents now available for public comment.

The agency studied three options for the Long X Bridge that crosses the Little Missouri River near the entrance of the national park.

One option was to retain the Long X Bridge for an alternate use and construct a new four-lane bridge adjacent to it. The agency also studied rehabilitating the Long X Bridge, including increasing its clearance, and building a new two-lane bridge next to it.

Read on...


 Public hearings scheduled for the U.S. Highway 85 Draft Environmental Impact Statement

The North Dakota Department of Transportation has scheduled three public hearings on the U.S. Highway 85 draft environmental impact statement. Documentation is available at the project website,

www.dot.nd.gov/projects/williston/US85I94/

The meetings will be from 5 to 7:30 p.m. local time, with an open house at 5 p.m. and formal presentations at 5:30 p.m.

The meetings are scheduled for Belfield City Hall on May 29, Billings County Rural Fire Hall in Fairfield on May 30 and Watford City City Hall on May 31.

Written comments will be accepted through June 25 at DOTUS85@nd.gov with public hearing in the email subject heading. Comments also can be mailed to Matt Linneman, project manager, NDDOT, 300 Airport Road, Bismarck, ND 58504-6005.


Amarillo To Invest $69M in Construction of Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine

“The Veterinary School will provide our community and our region with decades of economic growth,” AEDC Board of Directors Chairman Brian Heinrich said.

Yesterday, the Amarillo City Council approved an amendment that could bring hundreds into Amarillo and shape the city as a foundation for educational growth. The amendment, which altered the 2016 agreement between the Texas Tech University System and the Amarillo EDC, will provide an investment of up to $69 million to ensure the construction of the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine (TTU SVM) in Amarillo.

“The investment in a veterinary school in Amarillo has huge economic implications and enhances our educational opportunities for generations to come,” Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said. “Amarillo sees the return that will come on this investment. Our community has the determination and drive to make this educational and economic opportunity a reality.”

The new veterinary school could potentially create 95 new direct jobs and more than 270 indirect jobs, as well as attract prospective veterinarians to the Texas Panhandle. Additionally, the TTU SVM will be the only veterinary school in the country co-located with a pharmacy and medical school on the same campus, thus expanding opportunities to combine research efforts impacting both human and animal health.

“The Veterinary School will provide our community and our region with decades of economic growth,” AEDC Board of Directors Chairman Brian Heinrich said. “AEDC has the opportunity to position Amarillo as a hub for innovation in the human and animal health science industries — industries driving a multi-billion dollar global market. The Veterinary School will provide an exceptional return on our investment not only to Amarillo but to the generations of families throughout the Panhandle and the State of Texas working in our livestock and food supply systems.”

The shortage of rural veterinarians has become a pressing concern for many smaller communities across the nation, particularly in Texas. The critical shortages of large animals and rural veterinarians has a significant, negative impact on global food supplies, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The TTU SVM hopes to directly address this concern in a cost-effective manner by eliminating the need for a teaching hospital, and equipping students with expert training under the leadership of local and regional veterinarians.

Read on…


Hale County sees more economic development with Xcel wind farm

PLAINVIEW - Xcel Energy is bringing more jobs to Hale County with the development of the Hale Wind Project, which received verbal approval from the Public Utility Commission of Texas last week.

Construction on the 478-megawatt project is scheduled to begin in June, according to a news release from Xcel Energy. The wind farm will create 300 jobs during development and between 17 and 22 full-time positions once the facility is operational.

Wanzek Construction, the builder of the wind farm, held a job fair at the offices of the Texas Workforce Commission in Plainview Wednesday to begin hiring workers for the project.

Wes Reeves, a spokesman for Xcel Energy in Texas and New Mexico, said the company expects to receive written approval for the project from the commission next week, at which point further plans to hire and move forward with construction will be announced.

Executive Director of the Plainview and Hale County Economic Development Corporation Mike Fox said a wind power distribution and logistics facility owned by BNSF Logistics opened in the county in 2015, but there were other opportunities for the area to enter the wind energy market.

“Yet in Hale County proper, we don’t have a wind farm,” Fox said. “All of that is about to change with this project.

“Finally we’re going to get some activity that will directly benefit the citizens of Hale County. We’re tickled to death.”

Read on…


Mark Your Calendar for the Ports-to-Plains Annual Conference

Mark your calendars! The 21st Ports-to-Plains Alliance Annual Conference has been scheduled for October 30 - November 1, 2018 in Del Rio, Texas and Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico

Stay tuned! More details coming soon!

Upcoming Events

2018

 

May 29 - Public Hearing: U.S. Highway 85 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Belfield, ND

May 30 - Public Hearing: U.S. Highway 85 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Fairfield, ND

May 31 - Public Hearing: U.S. Highway 85 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Watford City, ND

October 30 - Ports-to-Plains Alliance Quarterly Board of Directors Meeting, Del Rio, Texas

October 30- November 1 - 21st Ports-to-Plains Annual Conference, Del Rio, Texas

Ports-to-Plains Alliance Staff

Duffy Hinkle

Vice President of Membership & Marketing
5401 N MLK Blvd. #395
Lubbock, TX 79403
P: 806-775-3373
duffy.hinkle@portstoplains.com

Joe Kiely
Vice President of Operations
PO Box 9
Limon, CO 80828
P: 719-740-2240
F: 719-775-9073
joe.kiely@portstoplains.com

Cal Klewin
Executive Director
Theodore Roosevelt Expressway
PO Box 1306
22 E Broadway
Williston, ND 58802
P: 701-523-6171
cal@trexpressway.com

Deb Cottier
Board of Directors
Heartland Expressway Association
706 West Third St.
Chadron, NE 69337
P: 308-432-4023
dcottier@gpcom.net