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Ports-to-Plains Alliance

Wednesday
Jun062018

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…

Saturday
May192018

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.”

Friday
May182018

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.

Wednesday
May162018

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.

Thursday
May102018

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…

Wednesday
May092018

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.

Wednesday
May092018

Heartland Expressway Association Board Meeting - May 15, 2018, Brush, CO

Update on Colorado Highway 71 Truck Diversion Study

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Brush Municipal Building, 600 Edison St., Brush, CO

Open to All Interested Parties

For information call: Joe Kiely, Vice President of Operations

Ports-to-Plains Alliance

719-740-2240 ● joe.kiely@portstoplains.com

Wednesday
May092018

Colorado Senate sends transportation funding bill to the governor

by Colorado Politics

None of the Republicans in the state House supported it earlier in the day, but Senate Republicans collected a unanimous vote Thursday night to send a bill to the governor that will eventually put almost $3 billion into the state’s beleaguered transportation system.

Senate Bill 1 puts $495 million into roads, bridges and alternative transportation this year, $150 million next year then allows the state to borrow $2.3 billion to be repaid over the next 20 years, tapping the state general fund for $122.6 million a year. Granted, only about $50 million a year is new money, with the rest coming from previous legislation and existing tax dollars that go to the state highway department.

But it sounds good to advocates to finally see a legislative commitment to quick cash and ongoing money to a state transportation system the Colorado Department of Transportation says is in need of $9 billion in the next decade and $20 billion over the next 20 years.

”While the funding provided to transportation is short of where we could have been, politics is the art of the possible,” said Sandra Hagen Solin, who represents Fix Colorado Roads, the coalition driving the funding discussion for years. “Since the beginning, we’ve advocated from that point of view. Today, Senate Bill 1 passed a split legislature and is what was possible this year.

“And for that, we are grateful.”

Negotiations haven’t been this fruitful in recent memory, however you add up the money.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, has been at the forefront of negotiations for the past two sessions, Last year, Republicans on a Senate committee killed House Bill 1242, which Grantham co-sponsored, that would have asked Colorado votes to pass a half-cent sales tax. The compromise was announced to reporters in his office on Monday, with House Speaker Crisanta Duran at his side.

Read on…