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Ports-to-Plains Alliance


Amazon Transportation and Logistics Executive Shares View of the Future

Katie Thomson, a former Obama-administration U.S. Department of Transportation official who now serves as vice president and general counsel for Amazon's transportation and logistics operations, offered her perspective on some of the future transportation challenges and opportunities facing America during a speech at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2018 Joint Policy Committee meeting in Spokane, Washington, on July 18.

"Safe and reliable transportation is the lifeblood of our nation; it is critical to our economic prosperity," she noted. "Well-planned transportation provides connections to our urban, suburban and rural communities. That includes passenger and freight rail, airplanes, roads, bicycles and pedestrian modes of transport."

The challenges facing the U.S. transportation, however, are coming from different angles and all at once, Thomson noted.

For example, she pointed to USDOT research conducted in 2017 that found commuters waste one week per year just sitting in traffic. She also highlighted a report by the American Transportation Research Institute that the cost of traffic congestion to commercial trucking operations tops $63 billion. Thomson also noted that traffic fatalities have sharply increased over the last several years, while the quality of U.S. transportation infrastructure continues to decline.

"We will need to invest over $1.2 trillion in our nation's infrastructure over the next decade just to catch up to where we should be," she emphasized.

Yet demands upon the transportation system will only increase as it is expected to be moving 70 million more people by 2045, with freight volumes increasing 40 percent and air traffic passenger volume going up 50 percent by that year as well, Thomson pointed out.

Read on…


Hale Wind Project finalized

Amarillo Globe-News

Xcel Energy announced Tuesday its formal purchase of the Hale Wind Project from NextEra Energy Resources.

Construction on the 478-megawatt wind farm in Hale County will begin later this month, according to Xcel officials. The cost of the project will be about $735 million. The deal was finalized about two weeks ago.

“Our community partners and landowners have worked very hard to make this happen, and we’re honored to play a role in building a wind farm that will bring significant economic benefits to this area for years to come,” said David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy – Texas, in a prepared statement.

Wanzek Construction, Xcel Energy’s contractor, will build the Hale Wind Project near Petersburg, which is about 30 miles south of Plainview and 100 miles south of Amarillo.

Construction activities will start during the next few weeks, and the first delivery of Vestas turbines is expected in October. The Hale Wind Project is expected to be in commercial operation next June, Xcel stated.

NextEra Energy Resources developed the project through a partnership with Hale County landowners. Xcel Energy announced in March 2017 that it had agreed to purchase the development as part of its 1,230-megawatt wind energy expansion initiative expected to deliver more than $2 billion in energy savings to Xcel’s customers in Texas and New Mexico during the next 30 years, according to the news release.

Xcel Energy has gained the necessary approvals from regulators in both Texas and New Mexico to move forward with the plan.

Read on…


America Seizes Control of Its Energy Destiny

The Ports-to-Plains Corridor connects this energy development across the region including the Permian Basin, Bakken, Eagle Ford and Niobrara.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Many Americans have likely noticed a spike in gas prices just as we enter the summer driving season, which is fairly typical due to the changeover from winter to summer crude oil. While higher prices are always a headache and a burden for families, the situation has yet to become as dire as many of the price spikes from decades past—and it likely never will. The days of the world’s biggest oil producers having the U.S. over a barrel, literally, are unlikely to return, thanks in large part to a renaissance in U.S. energy production that has been bolstered by the Trump administration’s emphasis on pro-growth energy policies.

Ten years ago, in June 2008, you and I were paying just over $4 per gallon for gasoline. Today, even with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, attempting to tamp down much of the global supply to push prices higher, American consumers are weathering the storm with gasoline hovering around $3 a gallon. This is far better than many European countries, where gas prices are well over $6 and rising.

We owe much of this to a dramatic energy renaissance in America that has given us greater control over our own supply. In a short period of time, our country has gone from a major energy importer to a major energy exporter of oil and natural gas. In fact, today the U.S. is the world’s top producer of these critical resources.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is proud of the role our Global Energy Institute has played in this remarkable turnaround. The Institute has fought misguided regulations, run effective policy campaigns, and mobilized our members at every level. It led efforts to lift the oil export ban, unleash production in previously restricted areas, and speed up the permitting process. And it has worked on behalf of the entire industry, uniting the sector behind a common strategy and moving all forms of energy forward.

Read on…


Nebraska receives $18.3 million grant for Heartland Expressway

This announcement moves forward another segment of the 2,300-mile corridor through the nine-state Ports-to-Plains Alliance region.

Currently, the portion of the project that is currently under construction is Junction L62A US 385 to Alliance. That leg of the project is expected to be completed by 2020 — which is the leg this grant is dedicated to. Following the completion of that leg, the next step will be construction on the stretch between Minatare and Angora Hill, which isn’t projected to begin until 2024.

Scottsbluff Star Herald

Nebraska has been selected as the recipient for an $18.3 million federal grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America.

This grant will be applied directly to the Heartland Expressway, specifically the corridor between Angora Hill and the Box Butte county line.

“I worked with Nebraskans — our state, local and community leaders — and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to bring this funding to our state,” said Sen. Deb Fischer in a press release announcing the grant. “This major investment, and several others announced today, will allow the Nebraska Department of Transportation to build and promote economic development that will grow Nebraska.”

The Heartland Expressway, a 500-mile stretch of highway connecting Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota, was originally brainstormed in the 1980s. Construction began in the 90s, and nearly 30 years later, the Panhandle is receiving work on its section of the Expressway,

“This announcement follows a historic commitment from the State of Nebraska to build the 21st-century infrastructure system we need to grow our state,” said Gov. Pete Ricketts in a press release Tuesday. “Along with Sen. Fischer’s Build Nebraska Act and our Transportation Innovation Act, this grant will help us fulfill Gov. Orr’s vision for expanding our state’s expressway system. I am pleased that the Trump Administration recognized the innovative approach by the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) to modernize our infrastructure to improve safety and drive economic growth in rural Nebraska.”

“It (funding) helps to provide that certainty and demonstrate that it’s an idea that’s taken hold,” said Doug Hoevet, District 5 engineer with Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Read on…


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

“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.”


Highway Trust Fund is on fumes and time is running out

"That’s why the American Trucking Associations is calling on Congress to endorse the Build America Fund — our solution to fund the modernization of our deteriorating network of roads and bridges. The BAF would be supported with a federal fuel usage fee built into the price of wholesale transportation fuels collected at the terminal rack, phased in at a nickel per year over four years. The fee would be indexed to both inflation and improvements in fuel efficiency, with a five percent annual cap."

It’s Infrastructure Week, and if potholes, watermain breaks and failing bridges from coast to coast aren’t enough to motivate Congress into action, then maybe another piece of dire news will: America is once again hurtling toward a highway funding cliff that should sound alarms for lawmakers, particularly budget hawks. 

For decades, we have relied on the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) — which is financed primarily by the federal fuel tax that we all pay at the pump — to help repair and maintain our nation’s roads and bridges.  And for decades, this funding mechanism has received broad bipartisan support as the most efficient and effective way to fund and maintain our nation’s roads and bridges. 

But the federal fuel tax has remained flat since 1993, and the HTF, unable to keep pace with demands, is now running on fumes. Estimates show the U.S. will need about $20 billion annually — in addition to current projected user fee revenue — to avoid reductions in highway, transit and safety investments.  If no action is taken by 2020, the Highway Trust Fund will be flat broke.

At that point, lawmakers face some very difficult choices.  They can raid the general treasury — Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars — to keep the Highway Trust Fund afloat, as has been done several times since 2008. That option relies on us borrowing more money from overseas, driving up our national debt at the expense of future generations.  Alternatively, they could allow the HTF to fail, causing the cancellation or delay of critical transportation projects and throwing hundreds of thousands of people out of work.  This would force states to do Congress’ job, starting with the cancelation of projects even earlier than 2020 given all the uncertainty.

Read on…

Chris Spear is president and CEO of American Trucking Associations.


Small Businesses Need Infrastructure Improvements to Keep Growing | U.S. Chamber of Commerce

During Infrastructure Week, let's remember the importance of good infrastructure to small businesses.

Here in Kentucky, our state’s small businesses employ nearly 700,000 people, which is 45.7% of the workforce. Our small business, Advanced Electrical Systems, Inc. (AES), relies on close to 300 employees who power our projects, from running two million feet of wire in the new Omni Louisville Hotel to installing LED lighting for Toyota’s new paint facility.

Nationwide, small businesses create over 60% of the net new jobs and account for just under 50% of private sector employment. Small businesses rightly deserve recognition for their role in driving our economy, but I have great hope that serious attention will be paid to the need for investment in our nation’s infrastructure. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the United States faces an infrastructure deficit of $2.0 trillion over the next 10 years. That means structurally deficient bridges, aging water system, and power disruptions, and much more. A crumbling infrastructure translates into headwinds for main street small businesses and for our economy. ASCE’s study, Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future, identified a $4.0 trillion loss to our gross domestic product and costs American families $3,400 annually.

The good news is that there is bipartisan acknowledgment of the infrastructure crisis. We know that every $1 billion invested in infrastructure creates 28,500 direct and indirect jobs. As a contractor who has worked on numerous state projects, I know first hand that infrastructure improvements can provide as much as an eight-to-one return on investment.

Now is the time to support small business and take action on removing a serious barrier to further growth and prosperity. I urge all lawmakers to come together in a bipartisan fashion and take action to address this infrastructure crisis and move forward infrastructure legislation that will allow main street business and their communities to thrive.

Link to Original Article

James Strange, III
Vice President, Advanced Electrical Systems, Inc.

James Strange, III, is the Vice President at Advanced Electrical Systems, Inc. in Louisville, KY and is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Council.


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…