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Saturday
Apr302016

FHWA releases Rural Freight Corridor Guideline

The Federal Highway Administration released guidelines this week for state departments of transportation to designate and certify Critical Rural Freight Corridors as part of a larger freight program that was included in the federal transportation authorization bill that was signed into law in December. 

The Ports-to-Plains Alliance has pressed hard for the FHWA to issue the guidelines. Without the guidance from FHWA, corridors like those serving primarily rural areas of the Ports-to-Plains region would not be eligible for or have a lower priority for key planning programs and funding programs within the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

By providing the guidance, FHWA paved the way for state departments of transportation to designate portions of the Ports-to-Plains, Heartland Expressway and Theodore Roosevelt Expressway as Critical Rural Freight Corridors.  The Alliance will be working with the planning efforts of state departments of transportation to urge designation and certification of key corridor sections across the region. States can designate up to the greater of 150 miles or 20% of the Primary Highway Freight System roads as Critical Rural Freight Corridors.

Segments that are designated and certified by the state departments of transportation become eligible for freight funding sources including the National Highway Freight Program which provides formula funds for each state to improve freight movement.  It can also improve the chances of competing for FASTLANE discretionary grants under the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program.

From a planning viewpoint, designated and certified Critical Rural Freight Corridors are added to the National Highway Freight Network and are eligible for inclusion in the National Multimodal Freight Network.  The National Multimodal Freight Network will be finalized by December 4, 2016 which makes immediate action to designate and certify important.

 “This was a top priority for the Ports-to-Plains Alliance,” said Ports-to-Plains Alliance President Michael Reeves.  “Our staff and board members met with FHWA staff as well as our congressional delegation and their staffs to let them know how critical this program is to rural economic competitiveness.”

 “We realize that the entire Ports-to-Plains Corridor will not be designated on the Critical Rural Freight Corridor Network, but we know that we have several segments that will be competitive.  The key for us was to have the FHWA Guidelines so that the state DOT’s can make those designations and we can compete,” said Reeves.

Click Here to Download News Release

Friday
Apr152016

States Struggle with Infrastructure Needs after FAST Act’s Mild Funding Hikes

A five year federal transportation reauthorization bill was an important step in stabilizing transportation funding. But as this article indicates the states must recognize the need for additional state transportation funding if state DOTs are going to be able to maintain the current systems and meet the needs of growing populations.

FAST Act... a step... but not final solutionAASHTO Journal

April 15, 2016

A number of state departments of transportation are telling lawmakers and residents to expect their highway systems to continue to deteriorate unless legislatures provide more project funding, and some states are eyeing unusual steps to keep projects moving.

A senior Michigan DOT official – Chief Operations Officer Mark Van Port Fleet – recently warned state House and Senate transportation committees, the Detroit News reported, that "the results of our predictive model is that the condition of pavement is going to continue to decline" despite higher state and federal funding levels approved in the past year.

A March 22 MDOT staff analysis said: "A significant amount of pavement is in fair condition. Even with the recent passage of increased state and federal transportation revenue, many of these pavements, if not addressed soon, will fall into poor condition. Once pavements deteriorate into the poor category, it is more costly to bring them back into good condition."

New state projections also see vehicle miles on state roads going up faster than earlier estimates, with congestion continuing to worsen.

The MDOT official told lawmakers that a large multiyear state funding plan, signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder last November, is "going to slow the decline" in road conditions, the Detroit News said.

AASHTO and other industry trade groups have said the new five-year FAST Act federal surface transportation legislation provided "modest" increases in core highway and transit program funding. While that was an improvement from previous levels, AASHTO has said it was not enough to allow states to eliminate their large backlog of needed infrastructure projects to maintain their networks and reduce congestion.   Read on…

Wednesday
Apr132016

Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Project Submissions

USDOT/FHWA has called for applications for the FASTLANE Discretionary Grant Program.  This funding was made availlable through the FAST Act under the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects (NSFHP) Program.  While this is a highly competitive program for a total of $800 million nationally, two Ports-to-Plains Alliance projects have been selected for submission by the April 14th application deadline. Each state is able to submit three projects and other entites are also able to submit applications so the competition will be tough. 

Current U.S. 85 Long X Bridge, ND

The Ports-to-Plains Alliance wishes to thank both the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) for deciding to submit projects along the corridor. NDNOT will be submitting the U.S. 85 Long X Bridge Project as a Small Category project. The FAST Act requires that a minimum of 10% of the $800 million allocations goes to projects in the Small Category.  CDOT will be submitting the U.S. 287 Lamar Truck Reliever Route as a Large Project.  Both projects will meet the threshold of being rural area projects.  At least 25 percent of all NSFHP funds are reserved for projects – either large or small projects – in rural areas.

 

Ports-to-Plains Corridor Through Downtown Lamar, CO

The FAST Act establishes the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects (NSFHP) program to provide financial assistance – grants or credit assistance – to nationally and regionally significant freight and highway projects that align with the program goals to:

  • improve safety, efficiency, and reliability of the movement of freight and people;
  • generate national or regional economic benefits and an increase in global economic competitiveness of the U.S;
  • reduce highway congestion and bottlenecks;
  • improve connectivity between modes of freight transportation;
  • enhance the resiliency of critical highway infrastructure and help protect the environment;
  • improve roadways vital to national energy security;
  • address the impact of population growth on the movement of people and freight, and mitigate the impacts of freight movements on communities.
Wednesday
Apr132016

Ports-to-Plains Alliance urges FHWA Administrator to Provide Guidance on Critical Rural Freight Corridors

On April 4, 2016, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce hosted the Administrator’s Roundtable on the Freight Economywhich included Gregory Nadeau, FHWA Administrator and Tretha Chromey, Senior Policy Advisor, FHWA Freight Program Office along with John Cater, FHWA Colorado Division Administrator and Shailen Bhatt, Executive Director at Colorado Department of Transportation.

The Roundtable included overviews of the Freight Economy and Federal Freight Funding.  At the center of the roundtable was a facilitated discussion of trends, challenges and opportunities.

Joe Kiely, Vice President of Operations for the Ports-to-Plains Alliance, was able to initiate a discussion about the importance of guidance from USDOT/FHWA on the process for states to designate Critical Rural Freight Corridors (CRFC).  At the core of the importance is eligibility to be included in the final National Multimodal Freight Network which, pursuant to the FAST Act must be finalized by December 4, 2016.

Gary Beedy, Genoa, CO, a member of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance Board of Directors, was able make a strong case for the Heartland Expressway (Colorado Highway 71) as an alternative truck route for north/south freight on Interstate 25 north of Denver.

Wednesday
Apr132016

Ports-to-Plains Newsletter | Successful Energy & Agriculture Summit | PTP Freight Project Submissions Upcoming

Download Newsletter

A big thanks to everyone who attended the Ports to Plains Energy and Agriculture Summit in Lubbock March 30 – 31. It was two full days with great presentations and excellent networking opportunities. We have received great feedback about the event, and if you didn’t make it this year, you will want to be sure you don’t miss it next year.

There is no rest for Ports-to-Plains as we are preparing for our annual Washington Fly In next week. Alliance board members and staff will travel to Capitol Hill to meet with our congressional delegation and discuss the issues affecting the corridor.

Also note the story below on two projects on the corridor – one in Colorado and one in North Dakota – that were selected by their state departments of transportation to be submitted for FASTLANE grants. Each state was allowed to submit only three projects for this program that was created by the FAST Act. While it is the first step in the competitive grant program, it is exciting to see CDOT and NDOT highlight these projects as priorities.

Michael Reeves, President

Monday
Mar072016

Ports-to-Plains, LEDA host Energy and Ag Summit

“The fact is, this is different from anything we have ever seen, and what may have worked for you during the last downturn in the oil industry, may not work this time,” said Baron Lukas, President of Vital Strategies. “This time it’s not only different; it is in reality, the beginning of a new age.  A time when the U.S. is on the verge of energy independence, global demographics are drastically changing, and the global strategic situation is becoming ever more unstable.”  Lukas will speak at the 2016 Ports-to-Plains Energy and Ag Summit co-hosted by the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance, March 30 – 31 at the Arbor Hotel and Conference Center in Lubbock.

A retired Marine Corps Colonel and former COO of a privately held company in the oil and gas sector, Lukas has over 35 years of leadership, management, and mentoring experience.  He spent 27 years as a commissioned officer and fighter pilot in the U.S. Marines.  He served in numerous command, operational, training, staff, and diplomatic positions. Upon retirement from the military in 2007, Baron joined Western Commerce Group as Managing Director.  Western Commerce group is a regional M&A investment banking, private equity, wealth management, and consulting group based in Fort Worth, Texas.  In 2008, Baron was asked to join HSC as its COO.  HSC is a privately held oilfield, industrial, and mining supply, services, and manufacturing company with more than 20 locations nationwide.

In spite of the recent slump in oil prices, energy continues to play a key role in economy of the Ports-to-Plains region that stretches from Alberta, Canada, through West Texas and on to Mexico’s west coast.  Traditional resources such as oil and gas, as well as renewable energy such as wind are responsible for many jobs throughout the region.

“Energy and agriculture are so important to our region, and it is vital that we understand the issues facing these industries,” said Ports-to-Plains President Michael Reeves. “We have assembled a great lineup of speakers for this conference that will give you great insight into these critical economic drivers.”

“The dynamic changes in our energy sector right now are of major interest to Lubbock businesses, as those changes drive business decisions both short-term and long-term. Likewise, agriculture continues to be the cornerstone of our community and an industry that will continue to drive Lubbock’s economy for years to come,” said Lubbock Economic Development Alliance CEO John Osborne.

Agriculture presentations include former House Ag Committee Chairman Larry Combest’s insights on federal issues.  Representatives from Monsanto and Continental Dairy Facilities Southwest will give updates on their recently announced projects that will be significant job creators on the South Plains.  Texas Tech Health Science Center President Dr. Tedd Mitchell, M.D. is slated to provide an update on the proposed Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine.  And Plains Cotton Growers Executive Vice President Steve Verett is one of the speakers addressing challenges in the cotton industry.

Energy presentations will showcase the region’s diverse and productive energy production portfolio from oil and gas to renewable sources such as wind and solar. 

The event will also draw international speakers and attendees.  Consul General of Canada Sara Wilshaw will discuss trade opportunities with the United States largest trade partner and northern neighbor, while presentations from Ports-to-Plains partners in Mexico will share the developments in Texas’ largest foreign trade market.

A strong transportation infrastructure is critical to moving the region’s ag and energy products to market, and these issues will be featured as well.  Lubbock Mayor and Ports-to-Plains Treasurer Glen Robertson will give an update on efforts to extend Interstate 27.  Texas Department of Transportation Interim Director of Freight and International Trade will speak on the Texas Freight Mobility Plan and what it means for the Ports-to-Plains Corridor.

Registration is required and information and full details about the Energy and Ag Summit are available on the Ports-to-Plains website at portstoplains.com. 

Ports-to-Plains is a grassroots alliance of over 275 communities and businesses, including alliance partners Heartland Expressway, Theodore Roosevelt Expressway and Eastern Alberta Trade Corridor Coalition, whose mission is to advocate for a robust international transportation infrastructure to promote economic security and prosperity throughout North America's energy and agricultural heartland including Mexico to Canada.  Additional information on the Ports-to-Plains Alliance is available at http://www.portstoplains.com/.

Sunday
Mar062016

Wind energy technology booms, increases role in Texas electricity power

In the South Plains, wind farms are being built in several counties, including an 1,100-megawatt wind farm in Hale County that is set to break ground later in 2016, and two wind farm projects in Floyd County.

Plainview also has a 70-acre rail-adjacent wind turbine distribution center that has been built to serve the 5,900 megawatts of wind energy that will soon be produced in a 100-mile radius of Plainview.

Lubbock Avalanche Journal

March 5, 2016

The Texas wind industry continues its boom and is showing its impact on the state’s electricity generation.

Texas joined 11 other U.S. states that generated 10 percent or more of their in-state electricity from wind in 2015.

Texas came in at 10 percent, which is the first time for the state, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Local and state officials in the wind industry said the renewable clean energy source is here to stay and can be expected to grow substantially in years to come, due to a boom in technology in wind turbines and a multiyear extension of the wind energy production tax credit.

“It’s amazing that from a technology that didn’t really exist in Texas 20 years ago, we’re now where it’s 10 percent of the power,” Jeff Clark, executive director of the Wind Coalition, said. “What’s happening is the technology has really matured and there has been a boom of development that has gone on. In Texas, right now, we’re looking at over $30 billion invested in wind farms.”  Read on…

Friday
Mar042016

Wind energy boom spurs $77.4M expansion

Amarillo Globe News

March 3, 2016

The towering white turbines are hard to miss in many areas as wind farms continue to sprout, but the production of wind energy in the region is already about to overwhelm some of the lines that take it to the more populated areas of Texas. Those lines cost more than $1 billion when completed about three years ago.

Sharyland Utilities, one of the utility companies that completed transmission lines from the Texas Panhandle to the grid serving the rest of the state, is asking to double its capacity on 166 miles of its route.

It filed a request last week for the $77.4 million project with the Public Utility Commission of Texas. As proposed, it would string a second high-voltage line on the towers it installed for the first line, which covered about 300 miles in the western and central Texas Panhandle and into the South Plains at a cost of about $630 million.   Read on…