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Part 6: Prioritizing Transportation Projects Receiving Stimulus Funding

by Paul Schmitz, on Jul 16, 2020 2:00:00 PM

Recovery written on the road

Working on the assumption that a stimulus bill will be passed, states then must decide how to prioritize the vast number of infrastructure projects on their dockets. Should projects that bring the most long-term value come before one that offers immediate economic relief? An important balancing act must take place to get the economy humming while ensuring that the funds are invested wisely. We asked our panel of experts for their thoughts on how to best prioritize projects and the importance of performance requirements and life cycle costs for projects receiving stimulus funding. Below are just a few responses we received however the full discussion can be found in our ebook, "The New Normal."   

Would you agree with a performance requirement for using infrastructure funding to reduce maintenance costs and better utilize funds?

We had 12 panelists respond to this question with the answers broken down as follows:

  • Agree – 75%
  • Disagree – 25%

How important is lifecycle cost analysis when determining how funding should be used? (Rate from 1-low to 10-high).

  • We had responses with importance ratings from 1 to 8, with an average value of 5.25

Expand on your response if possible.

  • Jeff Lackey (Vice President – TranSystems, Inc.)
    I think life cycle cost definitely needs to be part of the discussion. In addition, projects that provide expansion opportunity, spur development, and help ease pressure off annual state budgets are also prime candidates in my opinion.
  • Michael Mangione (Senior Vice President – WSP USA)
    A new bill should limit onerous state reporting requirements and analysis in order to use the funds. If projects are identified in the state's STIP, the federal government should allow it. A new bill should not create significant paperwork, staffing and requirements for the states when the labor would be better used in the delivery of projects at all levels and areas.
  • Wendy McBay (Vice President Marketing – Tensar) The point of utilizing a performance requirement with federal funding is so that we can be the best stewards of those funds and of our country's future. Instead of focusing on short-term fixes that will not stand the test of time, solutions with a long-term performance requirement will ensure that the states and counties invest in the best solutions for the future. This ties in with the need for Lifecycle Analysis as well. Looking at only the initial construction cost of a project can limit the exploration of longer-term solutions. In some cases, however, such as the case with Tensar's solutions, you can achieve higher performance and longer life, without paying a higher price up front.

From an agency perspective, how will you prioritize projects to receive funding from a possible stimulus package?

  • Randell Iwasaki (Executive Director – Contra Costa Transportation Authority)
    In addition to being the county transportation planning agency, we are also the congestion management agency for Contra Costa – funding many projects aimed at reducing traffic in our county. We have reviewed our quarterly status reports that are updated on an on-going basis. We have pulled all projects with a NEPA document. We took a look at their “shovel readiness” and pulled all projects that are 65 percent designed started to figure out what it will take to get them ready to go to construction. We have also reviewed our rules and regulations to determine if we can modify the procurement process to not have to prepare a set of plans, etc. and advertise as a service contract. Some of the project examples are as follows: Interstate 680 serves as major commute artery for the entire county feeding both Silicon Valley and Oakland/San Francisco employment areas. There are two projects that are a priority on this corridor: an Interstate 680 Northbound HOV/Express lane project that is currently in the environmental phase (if stimulus dollars could be used for design, this would be a huge benefit); and completing the Interstate 680/Highway 4 Interchange project, which is currently handling a significantly higher amount of traffic than it was ever designed to accommodate. We also have a project ready to go on the Interstate 80 corridor to upgrade the Interstate 80/San Pablo Dam Road interchange by replacing the overpass that spans Interstate 80. This is a vital freight corridor for the State, and the low height of the overpass has resulted in it actually being hit by freight trucks. This project is at 65 percent designed and has a capital funding deficit of approximately $80 million. We also have a pedestrian/bicycle overcrossing 100 percent designed and ready to go to construction adjacent to the largest employment center in the county – which would help reduce traffic weight times and conflicts where a bicycle and pedestrian trail crosses a major intersection. Since this project currently only has a CEQA document, it more than likely won’t be eligible for federal dollars unless the State acts on the single document legislation mentioned above.

From the responses this week, the majority (75%) of panelists would agree that a performance requirement should be put in place when infrastructure funding is used to reduce maintenance costs and better utilize funds. 

How has COVID-19 impacted transportation construction? We have the full discussion from our expert panelists, including lessons learned and preparation advice in our eBook, "The New Normal." This free resource shares all the insights we gathered covering these following key areas:

  • Immediate and long-term implications for transportation construction
  • Funding for public infrastructure
  • Lessons learned
  • Key takeaways and action steps to prepare for possible stimulus funding

Get Your Copy Now:

Download "The New Normal"

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Topics:InfrastructurePublic Workshighways