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Ports-to-Plains Alliance


Former Gov. Ed Rendell: New Tolls on Interstates Ideal for Infrastructure Projects

Transportation Topics

December 8, 2016

WASHINGTON — Allowing states to establish tolling facilities on existing interstate highways would help finance large-scale infrastructure projects, the former governor of Pennsylvania argued while on a panel here on Dec. 8.

“You need to get the private sector involved. Private sector is not going to get involved without a reasonable rate of return. Tolling is a way to do that,” former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat and co-chairman of a group that advocates for more infrastructure funding, said. “Let the states toll if they want to toll.”

Rendell was responding to concerns raised by the majority of the transportation sector over a lack of funding to finance roadways and bridges. He was speaking at a summit hosted by The Atlantic at the Newseum.

On the flip side, the trucking industry is staunchly opposed to adding tolls on existing federal highways. “You toll existing roads and bridges, we’re going to fight that until the end,” American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear told Transport Topics this week.

Read on…


The Most Tax-Friendly States for Corporate Expansion

Site Selection Group Blog

October 25, 2016

I have found that economic incentives are an excellent way to offset a company’s tax obligations especially in states with excessive tax rates. Economic incentives have been used for decades to help level the playing field between low and high tax states competing for a project.

Tax conditions play a critical role in the site selection process for companies seeking a business-friendly tax climate for their operations. For 20 years in the site selection industry I have seen many companies eliminate states during the early-stage site selection process due to business climate factors such as corporate tax, income tax, property tax, unemployment insurance rates and sales taxes.

To help stay on top of the latest business tax conditions, I have always found The Tax Foundation to be one of the best business-tax monitoring resources in the United States. In its “2017 State Business Tax Climate Index,” the foundation identifies the best and worst states based on business tax climate and names a few states that have jumped up the rankings through revised tax policies.   Read on...


The prickly political path for new infrastructure investments


October 24, 2016

This article is the final in a seven-part series, “Keeping Rural America Competitive,” that Agri-Pulse is publishing to give readers some perspective on the history and status of America's infrastructure and improvements needed to help farmers and ranchers remain competitive, prosperous and enjoying a strong quality of life.

The pace of building new infrastructure and repairing the old is proceeding more robustly than most people observe, yet is also likely to quicken in the years ahead. What's more, the sources of infrastructure funding and what Americans mean by infrastructure are both destined to become more diverse.

Consider that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is promising a five-year, $275 billion infrastructure building campaign, and that her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, not to be outdone, is doubling down on Clinton's envisioned initiative. In addition, Congress and many state legislatures in recent years have started to up their antes for transportation and other infrastructure. All told, the prospect for significant improvements is brightening.

But promises from officials in big cities don't haul rice to the mill or hogs to the slaughter plant.

Like many farmers and others in agribusinesses, Bert Farrish, chief executive for Louisiana- and Arkansas-based Big River Rice and Grain, judges cargo-moving infrastructure in the arena where they operate. And, he says, “I would say it is woefully inadequate in a lot of areas. Certainly in our area, bridges and roads need substantial improvement.”

With world population now forecast to swell by 2.4 billion people by about 2050, Farrish says he knows the demand for commodities and the network to move them must keep growing. “Just think about increasing our crop yields that much to feed the world - how much more traffic is going to be on those little two-lane roads. They're already moving hundreds of millions of dollars with thousands of trucks constantly all year long. So it is going to take a revolution in policy and thinking about the infrastructure if we're going to be a part of the global solution to feeding a changing world,” he says.

To improve the infrastructure outlook, he says, “Our biggest challenge … is to communicate what the problem is to our elected representatives.” Most urban lawmakers, he believes, “have no feeling for what it's like to be in rural Iowa and need infrastructure improvements. They really don't understand Louisiana or Arkansas or Mississippi and the impact all of this agriculture has on the U.S. economy.”   Read on…


Next generation of infrastructure requires winning the talent war


October 17, 2016

This article is the sixth in a seven-part series, “Keeping Rural America Competitive,” that Agri-Pulse is publishing to give readers some perspective on the history and status of America's infrastructure and improvements needed to help farmers and ranchers remain competitive, prosperous and enjoying a strong quality of life.

“People are critical to our future - manage this resource wisely!”  

That's the handwritten advice from Merdith Temple, a former acting commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in a memo outlining its Human Capital Strategic Plan for 2012-2017.

In order to continue to provide the best service to the nation, Temple wrote that the agency - charged with building and maintaining hundreds of dams, navigation channels and harbors - must “prevent talent loss; shape the workforce of the future, and win the war for talent.”

The report went on to outline a hiring “battleground” that's become far more challenging for employers in both the public and private sectors since the time this plan was released in 2012.

Consider some of these factors. Read on…


Colorado Corridor Signage for Ports-to-Plains and Heartland Expressway

The Ports-to-Plains Alliance is pleased to announce that the Colorado Department of Transportation is installing signage to identify the Ports-to-Plains and Heartland Expressway through eastern Colorado.  These corridors have been designated by Congress as High Priority Corridors on the National Highway System. 

In eastern Colorado, the designated Ports-to-Plains corridor is U.S. 287 between Limon and the Colorado/Oklahoma state line.  The Heartland Expressway is designated on Colorado Highway 71 between Limon and the Colorado/Nebraska state line.  Previous to Colorado beginning this installation the corridor is also signed in North Dakota and New Mexico.

The Ports-to-Plains Alliance purchased the signs that are being installed in Colorado.  Signage becomes more significant as trip planning programs such as Google Maps and Apple Maps use existing signage to identify routes on trip planning software used by millions of travelers and businesses. 

“The identification of the route on trip planning software provides an alternative for cars and trucks to traveling the congested portions of Interstate 25,” said Cathy Shull, Executive Director of Progressive 15, a member of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance Board of Directors. 

Gary Beedy of Genoa, also serves on the Ports-to-Plains Alliance Board of Directors commented, “We look forward to completing the installation of signage across all of eastern Colorado.  Rural communities will benefit from the signage identification of this corridor that is also identified by the Colorado State Freight Plan as a Colorado Freight Corridor.”

Barry Gore of Adams County Economic Development, Cathy Shull of Pro 15, Joe Kiely of Ports-to-Plains Alliance and Tyler Purvis of the City of Brush


Keeping up with the international competitors: How U.S. infrastructure stacks up


October 10, 2016

This article is the fifth in a seven-part series, “Keeping Rural America Competitive,” that Agri-Pulse is publishing to give readers some perspective on the history and status of America's infrastructure and improvements needed to help farmers and ranchers remain competitive, prosperous and enjoying a strong quality of life.

What is needed to ensure U.S. infrastructure remains robust and helps keep the country competitive in world markets?

The transportation systems in the United States, the world's largest economy, includes such titans that it's easy to be complacent. Consider, for example, that U.S. railroads move 1.9 billion tons of cargo a year, or about a fourth of the world's rail freight.

But while the trucking industry forecasts an encouraging 29 percent increase in truck freight tonnage by 2026, Texas A&M's Urban Mobility Scorecard declares that U.S. car and truck traffic, abetted by cheap fuel, is rebounding past pre-recession levels, and congestion cost drivers 7 billion extra hours in 2015, or about $160 billion in fuel alone. And that's not just a big city problem: For cities of less than 500,000 people, congestion is four times worse than it was in 1982.

Note, too, that the U.S. is far back in the pack of countries developing high-speed passenger trains, with nothing to compare with those running smoothly and safely at 150 to 200 miles per hour in China, Europe, Japan and elsewhere. South Korea recently started service on the first links of its $60 billion campaign to connect its major cities and Seoul's nearby cities in a high-speed passenger train network by 2025, cutting the travel time on the major cross-country routes to as little as a fourth of current commutes.

Other parts of American infrastructure face big hurdles as well to remain competitive. In the West, water supplies and their pumping, transporting, and storage facilities will need a lot of innovation and investment in the years ahead to retain a competitive farming sector while satisfying urban water needs, says Michael Tiboris, water issues analyst for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The length of the extended drought in the Golden State can't be known, but the Southwest appears destined for drier, more volatile weather long term, with less rainfall and less snow in the Sierra Nevada, he says.

 “Almost all the irrigation water in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah goes to field crops and forage to provide feed for animals . . . and over 50 percent of crops in California are for feed and forage” for beef and dairy cattle and other animals. So both the region's big cities and its animal agriculture operations will face increased challenges for water infrastructure, Tiboris says. Fewer grazing acres and animals are most likely even as farmers shift more of their needs to shrinking supplies of groundwater. Read on…


No simple solutions: Paying for infrastructure to move the nation's cargo


October 3, 2016

This article is the fourth in a seven-part series that Agri-Pulse is publishing to give readers perspective on the history and status of the many parts of America's infrastructure and improvements needed to help farmers and ranchers remain competitive and prosperous.

The next time you bite into a piece of fruit, grill a steak, or spoon into a carton of yogurt, consider how the item got from the farm to your home - and who paid for the trip. Let's take a broad look at how the country finances the highways, runways, railroads, ports and river navigation structures, and who pays for the trucks, rail cars, ships and barges that move the nation's cargo. The answer is that we all pay, but in much more varied ways even than the country's assorted transport modes themselves.

Just how large is transportation infrastructure anyway? By way of total asset value, investments in all of those transport modes are about a fourth of all U.S. infrastructure investments as estimated in an analysis by the GailFosler Group, based on Congressional Budget Office data. The other three-fourths are for the whole gamut of schools, colleges, water and sewer systems, communications and electric power systems, and other utilities.

Also, national investment can be tallied as either government or private. For the benchmark year of 2004, GailFosler segregated infrastructure investment to about 15 percent by the federal government and the rest split at about 42 percent by private interests and a like share by state and local governments combined.

Where transportation infrastructure is concerned, the long-term national trend, whether provided by private industry or public agencies, has been toward recovering investment costs from those who are served - charging them freight fees and sundry special taxes and assessments on the cargos and/or the trucks, ships and barges used to move them. Also, often imposing special taxes and fees on the fuel that the carriers burn.

That trend has entered the big data era, too, when highly sophisticated ways to collect reimbursement for infrastructure spending is on the table: for example, metering miles traveled by cars and trucks and taxing them per mile - something that Oregon is already offering some drivers as an alternative to paying fuel taxes. Yet, some rural advocates complain that a “vehicle miles traveled” or VMT fee could unfairly disadvantage those in rural areas who often have to drive long distances to work. Read on…


Connectivity: Key to farmers and the future growth of rural communities


September 26, 2016

This article is the third in a seven-part series that Agri-Pulse will publish to give readers perspective on the history and status of the many parts of America's infrastructure and improvements needed to help farmers and ranchers remain competitive and prosperous.

When North Dakotan Gregg Halverson started farming in the late 1960s, he used to think more simplistically about connectivity and technology.

“It was more about putting the right tractor in front of the right implement at the right time to get the job done,” Halverson, the CEO of Black Gold Farms, recalls.

But as his family-owned potato operation has expanded, a need developed for high speed broadband to keep employees communicating from his Grand Forks office to farming operations in 12 states. Out in the field, his team needs to be connected to global positioning systems and other wireless systems to run their auto-steer tractors and transfer important data from each field.

“The amount of the data that we have to use in farming has expanded exponentially,” Halverson says, “And at some farms, we really struggle to make it work.”

“If my dad knew that we had a four-person IT (information technology) team working with a variety of different tools just to keep us connected, he'd probably be spinning in his grave,” Halverson says.

His experience mirrors some of the findings in the Federal Communications Commission 2016 Broadband Progress Report, which found that “while the nation continues to make progress in both fixed and wireless broadband deployment, many Americans still lack access to advanced, high-quality voice data, graphics and video offerings, especially in rural areas and on Tribal lands.”

Key findings in the report include: Read on…

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