December 2018 Government Affairs News:
USDOT BUILD Grants
Natural Gas Safety
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces $1.5 Billion in BUILD Transportation Grants to Revitalize Infrastructure Nationwide - December 11, 2018
WASHINGTON – On December 11, 2018, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced $1.5 billion in discretionary grant funding to 91 projects in 49 states and the District of Columbia. The grants are made through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Grants program and support road, rail, transit, and port infrastructure projects across the country. “BUILD transportation grants are major investments in road, rail, transit, and port projects that serve as a down payment on this administration’s commitment to America’s infrastructure,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
Demand for BUILD grants far exceeded available funds, and the locally-driven nature of the applications was clear in their volume and geographic diversity. 851 eligible applications from all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia were sent in response to the BUILD Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), nearly double the applications received in 2017. Overall, applicants in 2018 requested more than $10.9 billion in funding.
Project applications were evaluated by a team of 222 career staff in the Department and selected based on established criteria. The criteria included safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental protection, and state of good repair. Further criteria included innovation, such as projects supporting Connected or Autonomous Vehicles infrastructure, broadband service to underserved communities, as well as projects that demonstrate partnerships between the public and private sectors, and non-Federal revenue for transportation infrastructure investments. The Department prioritized rural projects that aligned with the criteria and addressed rural infrastructure needs. The grant announcements made today will contribute to the construction or refurbishment of over 200 bridges nationwide, from North Carolina to the refurbishment of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The BUILD Transportation Grants re-balance a ten-year, historical underinvestment in rural communities. Rural applications more than doubled from the previous year’s TIGER applications. Underinvestment in rural infrastructure has led to a decline in the routes that connect communities in rural America. In this round, in which 59 percent of the applications were for rural projects, 62 projects were awarded to rural grant applications.
Several selected projects will contribute to America’s energy independence. The Permian Basin projects and the Port Arthur Multimodal Rail Expansion and Berth Expansion Project will both contribute to the efficient transportation of domestic energy products. Border security infrastructure is also supported through BUILD Transportation grants, with projects such as the Calexico East Port of Entry Bridge Expansion in California making bridge improvements to accommodate freight traffic and improving other transportation facilities at the border crossing.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 appropriated $1.5 billion for BUILD Transportation grants. For this round of BUILD Transportation grants, the maximum grant award is $25 million for a single project, and no more than $150 million can be awarded to a single state. There is a $5 million minimum award for projects located in urban areas, and a $1 million minimum for rural projects.
More information about BUILD grants, including fact sheets on awarded projects, can be found here.
Here are 2 Massachusetts Projects that received BUILD grants:
Closing the Gap in New England: Western Massachusetts Freight Rail Upgrade, Massachusetts, $10,800,000 - The project will upgrade a section of the New England Central Railroad across Massachusetts to meet the 286,000 lbs. national standard. Project components include the installation of approximately 31 miles of continuous welded rail, replacement of ties and ballast, track surfacing, and strengthening approximately 20 bridges.
North Terminal Extension Project, Massachusetts, $15,406,403, The project will construct approximately 800 feet of additional bulkhead, backfill of the constructed bulkhead with clean material from maintenance harbor dredging, and extend three rail spurs to increase multimodal options.
ACEC/MA Letter sent to Governor Baker on H.4979. Similar letter were delivered to legislative leaders
ACEC/MA Executive Director Abbie Goodman testified on the bill before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy on December 11, 2018.
Gas Moratorium Impact on Development: Two state-ordered moratoriums on non-essential work against two gas companies are blocking the opening of new commercial and residential real estate properties that need gas connections, causing some economic issues. Columbia Gas of MA (NiSource) is barred from doing work until at least 12/1 as the state and contractors reconnect existing Merrimack Valley properties to natural gas, while National Grid is under a similar moratorium as labor lockout is in its 5th month.
NTSB Issues Gas Safety Recommendations In Response September 13 Merrimack Valley gas disaster
As federal investigators continue their probe into the Merrimack Valley gas disaster, on November 15 the National Transportation Safety Board issued a series of safety recommendations it classified as "urgent," The NTSB report included 4 recommendations for NiSource (parent co. of Columbia Gas), + 1 for the state, seeking elimination of the professional engineer licensure exemption for public utility work and a requirement for a PE's seal on public utility engineering drawings. NTSB's report recommends NiSource revise the engineering plan and constructability review process across all subsidiaries, review all records and documentation of natural gas systems, apply management of change processes to all changes to identify threats that could result in a common mode failure, and develop and implement control procedures during gas main modifications to mitigate risks. On 11/20, Governor Baker filed H.4979 to eliminate the PE exemption.
Link to the NTSB Report
See ACEC/MA's November 2018 Government Affairs Update for additional background.