Category Archives: Transportation

Spotlight on Large Urban Counties: Leadership in Action

Source: Katie Bess, Maeghan Gilmore, Jen Horton, Yael Lazarus, Kathy Nothstine, Rob Pressly, Kathy Rowings, Emmanuelle St. Jean, National Association of Counties (NACo), December 2013

From the summary:
Spotlight on Large Urban Counties: Leadership in Action ​highlights noteworthy initiatives of 23 of America’s large urban counties. Covering such topics as economic development, health, justice, resilience, technology, and transportation and infrastructure, the case studies featured here showcase how county officials have seized opportunities to not only meet critical needs, but to strengthen local communities and improve the outlook for growth.

Viewing these examples collectively, several themes emerge:
– Multi-Sector Partnerships. Counties are partnering with public agencies at all levels of government and collaborating with the private sector more than ever. Miami-Dade County helped to arrange a public-private partnership to develop the $904 million Port of Miami Tunnel, expected to ease congestion downtown and promote growth in port activity. Los Angeles County agencies teamed with the local transportation authority and area businesses to address child sex trafficking and provide specialized treatment for hundreds of young victims.
– Investments to Drive Economic Growth. Counties are placing a premium on catalytic public investments that will offer economic and community benefits for years to come. Hennepin County (Minn.) brokered a public-private partnership to develop a major mixed-use transit hub that will spur investments and change the landscape of downtown Minneapolis. Shelby County (Tenn.) is working with local governments, industry leaders and a host of other stakeholders to develop a long-term regional plan to guide infrastructure development and economic growth.
– Streamlined Services for Dependent Populations. Counties are working to better serve dependent populations who frequently cycle through county jails and health care facilities at high costs to the public. King County (Wash.) created a set of strategies to serve people living with mental illness and substance abuse, aimed at reducing unnecessary involvement in justice and emergency medical systems. Travis County (Texas) partnered with a nonprofit to serve inmates with addictions, reducing likelihood of recidivism and promoting long-term recovery.
– Youth Engagement. Counties are investing in young people to train a skilled workforce and engage youth in the community. For example, Multnomah County (Ore.) established an internship program to provide low-income and disadvantaged youth with quality employment opportunities. Douglas County (Neb.) developed a collaborative public art project that engages young artists and juvenile offenders.

States Move Forward With Transportation Projects Involving Public-Private Partnerships & Tolling

Source: Sean Slone, Council of State Governments, Knowledge Center, Sean Slone’s blog, November 13, 2013

From the Columbia River Crossing bridge project in the Pacific Northwest to the Illiana Expressway project in the nation’s midsection to Maryland’s Purple Line light rail project, a number of transportation projects that involve public-private partnerships (P3s) and/or tolling have been in the news of late. Meanwhile, a state Supreme Court decision in Virginia appears likely to pave the way for more tolls and P3s in that state. I also have updates on projects in a number of other states as well as links to recent related reports and articles.

Rethinking public–private space travel

Source: Chad Anderson, Space Policy, Volume 29, Issue 4, November 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
On May 24, 2012 SpaceX’s Dragon capsule was launched and in doing so became the first commercially built vehicle to berth with and carry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). It successfully completed its mission and returned to the Pacific Ocean on May 31, 2012. The docking of Dragon represented a historic moment where a commercial enterprise managed to achieve that which had previously only been accomplished by governments. “In the history of spaceflight – only four entities have launched a space capsule into orbit and successfully brought it back to Earth: the United States, Russia, China, and SpaceX”. While this is a monumental accomplishment for private industry, we cannot ignore the value of public–private partnerships and the role that government played in enabling this incredible achievement.

In this paper I will examine how public–private partnerships are enabling the development of the commercial space industry, viewed through the lens of the Rethinking Business Institutional Hybrid Framework put forward by University of Oxford professors Marc Ventresca and Alex Nichols in their Rethinking Business MBA course. I intend to demonstrate that the NASA versus Commercial Space argument is a false dichotomy and that only by working together can both sectors continue to push the boundaries of space travel and exploration. I plan to do this by first discussing how the NASA-SpaceX partnership came about and the reasoning behind it. I will then explore what a public–private partnership (PPP) is, as compared to other government privatization schemes, and explain why Space Act Agreements are significantly different from anything done previously. I will then analyze the impact of these agreements and outline their benefits in order to demonstrate the value they create, especially in areas of mutual value creation and economic development.

Out of Control: The Coast-to-Coast Failures of Outsourcing Public Services to For-Profit Corporations

Source: In The Public Interest, December 2013

From the abstract:
Eager for quick cash, state and local governments across America have for decades handed over control of critical public services and assets to corporations that promise to handle them better, faster and cheaper. Unfortunately for taxpayers, not only has outsourcing these services failed to keep this promise, but too often it undermines transparency, accountability, shared prosperity and competition – the underpinnings of democracy itself. As state legislatures soon reconvene, policy makers likely will consider more outsourcing proposals. Out of Control: The Coast-to-Coast Failures of Outsourcing Public Services to For-Profit Corporations serves as a cautionary tale for lawmakers and taxpayers alike.

Out of Control: The Coast-to-Coast Failures of Outsourcing Public Services to For-Profit Corporations

Penfield aims to privatize plow route

Source: WHAM, December 4, 2013

Penfield’s town operators could soon have a lighter load, but that’s not what they want….LaFountain added that the town has been using contractors for various jobs related to other departments. The town could save approximately $6,000 by using a contractor, according to LaFountain. … Penfield has 17 plow routes. The change would impact one for this year, according to LaFountain….
Web Essay: Keep snowplowing in town workers’ hands
Source: Flo Tripi – CSEA Western Region president, Democrat and Chronicle, November 13, 2013

…Penfield residents deserve the high quality and reliable services that Penfield highway workers provide. With town employees caring for our streets, residents never have to worry about being stuck in their driveways, unable to go to work, to school, or anywhere else they need to be. Our town workers are professional, efficient and the best people for the job. Penfield employees provide quality, timely service when residents need those services the most. Penfield residents: Do not let the Town Board make a terrible mistake by privatizing your snow plow service….

Inmates saving money for Palm Beach County cities / Wellington, Greenacres, Lake Worth, Royal Palm say free labor from work camps safe, sensible

Source: Willie Howard, Palm Beach Post, December 1, 2013

Those crews you see cleaning city parks, mowing cemeteries and picking up trash along streets and drainage canals might not be what you think. In four Palm Beach County cities, they’re not municipal employees. They are prison inmates. They report to work in nondescript vans wearing light blue jumpsuits with white stripes down the legs and orange safety vests with the letters “DC” on the back, and they are under the control of the Florida Department of Corrections. And some work for free….

…State prison inmates who have completed part of their sentences are often moved to lower security work camps and road prisons, where they are required work for no wages as part of their sentences. In addition to providing low-cost labor for Greenacres, Lake Worth, Wellington and Royal Palm Beach, crews of inmates work on state roads for FDOT and perform a variety of maintenance jobs for the South Florida Water Management District….

Private Toll Road Investors Shift Revenue Risk to States

Source: David Mildenberg, Bloomberg, November 27, 2013

Companies that build private toll roads are pressing states to assume more financial risk of traffic not meeting expectations, a change that benefits the operators while threatening to increase taxpayer costs. Illinois and Indiana are among states offering set payments instead of the right to keep toll revenue, the standard financing method in the past. A similar approach is being used in Florida to expand highways in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, and by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for a bridge to Staten Island. The new financing arrangement decreases the risk for operators, which include Madrid-based Ferrovial SA and Sydney-based Macquarie Atlas Roads Group, after at least 11 private U.S. toll projects since 1995 have struggled financially due to traffic not meeting projections….

…States are agreeing to make regular payments, often on a monthly or annual basis, provided toll-road operators build and maintain projects according to the contracts they negotiated. Under the arrangements, states receive toll revenue and have to augment it with money from their operating budgets should traffic fail to generate enough to cover costs. The terms typically call for the states to take over the roads after several decades….

Stop the privatization of Broome County Transit

Source: Molly McGrath, Pipe Dream, November 25, 2013

…. The Broome County Legislature’s plan for the privatization of BC Transit will drastically impact these residents, transit workers and off-campus students who rely on buses for transport to campus. Privatization must be stopped, and it is our duty as students to voice our disagreement with the Broome County Legislature. … In Schuyler County, the privatization of the transit system led to increased fares, the cutting of essential bus routes and reliance on Tompkins County in order to continue service.

All flood-damaged Colorado roads to open before Dec. 1 repair deadline

Source: Monte Whaley, Denver Post, November 20, 2013

The last two Colorado highways closed by the September floods will be back in business ahead of the Dec. 1 deadline set by Gov. John Hickenlooper. … Hickenlooper credited government-private partnerships for the quick fixes that will get people back into their communities. “The united effort of the Colorado Department of Transportation and its road repair partners has been remarkable,” said Hickenlooper. “After the flooding we faced the daunting task of restoring 485 miles of damaged or destroyed highways. CDOT, the Colorado State Patrol, the National Guard and local governments have worked around the clock to reconnect Colorado’s communities.” CDOT picked four contracting firms to work with state crews to repair the damaged roads while the state accessed $450 million in federal funds to pay for the work. …

Drop in Traffic Takes Toll on Investors in Private Roads

Source: Ryan Dezember and Emily Glazer, Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2013

…The Beach Express bridge, in Orange Beach, Ala., served 2.3 million vehicles last year. Its owner, American Roads LLC, couldn’t meet debt obligations and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this July…. Global investment firms such as Australia’s Macquarie Group Ltd. and Spain’s Ferrovial SA assembled toll-road deals, often financing them with heavy debt based on assumptions that rising toll receipts would cover payments. But the financial crisis and recession defied assumptions. U.S. driving peaked at 3 trillion miles in 2007, then started on its largest decline since World War II, federal data show. The housing bust crimped development plans along new roads, helping render traffic forecasts inaccurate. In the Beach Express’s case, a consulting firm hired by Macquarie projected traffic would hit 11 million vehicles this year on the bridge, which Macquarie packaged with the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel’s operator and three Alabama toll roads to create what would become American Roads. …

…A company that has had a deal to operate toll roads around Austin, Texas, since 2007, SH 130 Concession Co., recently consulted restructuring lawyers as it contends with a roughly $1.1 billion debt load and low cash, say people familiar with the company. In 2006, Indiana granted a 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road to a firm created by units of Macquarie and Ferrovial, whose joint bid of $3.85 billion was twice the value that state-paid consultants had calculated for the lease, state records show…