As the Biden administration begins to address climate change, transit authorities throughout the country will benefit from funding.
Clean air is a major component of sustainability, so increased funding will flow to public transit authorities in an effort to reduce the number of automobiles on roadways. Major initiatives at the local levels of government will provide hundreds of contracting opportunities as public officials attempt to make public transportation more convenient, economical, and attractive.
Here are a few examples of what to expect over the next few years.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on February 17 provided new information related to the 2021 Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program. Approximately $889 million for new transportation projects will be available. Evaluation criteria will steer funding decisions to projects that address climate change. Program officials will look for projects that support clean air and incentives to reduce vehicle-miles-traveled. Funding requests also will be evaluated by whether or not projects are structured to include good-paying jobs, enhanced safety, and/or the purchase of transformative technology.
The Virginia Railway Express (VRE), like most other transit authorities, continues to work through plans that include the impacts of COVID-19. Its fiscal 2022 budget, which is effective July 1, 2021, has a recommended amount of $89.7 million. The budget allocates $24.9 million of the federal COVID-19 funding.
VRE’s FY 2022-2027 Capital Improvements Plan includes projects at 13 stations, including many projects which involve platform extensions to handle longer trains. Future plans include five new stations, expansion of a maintenance and storage facility, 300 new parking spaces, and a pedestrian tunnel that accesses the station platform from the current parking facility.
Projects at the Crystal City Station have an allocated total of $50.1 million with construction start dates in the 2022 budget year. Plans include relocating and expanding the station and making track modifications in Arlington County. The relocated station will support simultaneous boarding of two full-length trains and improve station access and customer convenience.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has a capital program for fiscal years 2021-2032. A few of the many projects include construction of a new consolidated employee and storage facility at SEPTA’s Midvale Complex in Philadelphia at a cost of $23 million. Projects will include improving accessibility and upgrading a functional facility for power, track, bridges, and buildings.
The budget will include improvements to the Ardmore Transportation Center. Construction will begin in the 2022 budget year, and approximately $26 million is allocated. Projects include construction of an accessible multi-level parking garage, site improvements, and enhanced vehicle and pedestrian access.
Future plans call for a new multimodal transportation center in Paoli, Chester County, at a cost of $50 million.
The Spokane Transit Authority (STA) has budgeted $306,000 for capital program management software and information systems. STA will spend $1.8 million to replace and upgrade in-vehicle stationary communications systems, $7 million to update hardware and software for fare collection systems, and $432,000 to secure access to facilities. Enhancements will be made to telecommunication infrastructure which will allow additional bandwidth as new facilities integrate with Smart Bus capabilities.
The Nashville Metro Transit Authority plans to spend $48.3 million for design of a secondary transit hub in downtown Nashville and $50 million for the planning, land acquisition, design, and construction of neighborhood transit centers throughout Davidson County. Another $4 million is earmarked to redevelop the Music City Star Donelson Station, new parking spaces, sidewalks, and related infrastructure. The transit authority has budgeted $2 million to evaluate the multimodal facilities on Dickerson Pike Corridor.
A $16 billion Transportation Bond Bill that was signed into law in January authorizes funding across all modes of transportation. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) will receive $5.1 billion from that program to continue its modernization program.
The bill also provides:
$3 billion for Transit System Modernization Investments. This covers MBTA bus and Green Line upgrades, electrification of sections of the Fairmount and Stoughton commuter rail lines, and extending the Blue Line to the Massachusetts General Hospital Station on the Red Line.
• $760 million to support the Regional Transit Authorities and Rail & Transit’s Mobility Assistance Program and Rail improvements.
• $595 million for Green Line Extension.
• $825 million for South Coast Rail.
• $100 million for four new programs to provide financial assistance for municipalities seeking to improve infrastructure, such as bus lanes, bus signal prioritization projects, and connectivity.
• $50 million for planning, design, engineering, and construction of the proposed East-West rail project.
In November 2019, voters in the Houston area approved a $3.5 billion bond to support a METRONext Moving Forward Plan. The objective is to relieve traffic and meet projected growth. The funding will create 75 miles of bus rapid transit routes and add 16 miles of light rail.
The city of Austin received voter approval for a $7.1 billion public transportation expansion project called Project Connect. It will add two light rail lines, a new commuter rail line, and an expansion of the area’s rapid bus service.
The Mississippi Transportation Commission has announced $10.2 million in funding for multimodal transportation projects throughout the state.
Funding allocated for transit projects will support various types of projects at the following authorities in Mississippi:
• Coast Transit Authority, $480,000.
• D.J. Transit, Inc., $41,277.
• Natchez Transit System, $39,829.
• NRoute Transit Commission, $31,913.
• Mississippi Band of Choctaw Transit, $31,358.
• Mississippi Valley State University Mass Transit, $39,617.
• Starkville – Mississippi State University Area Rapid Transit (SMART), $38,114.
• Mississippian Railway, $297,000.
• Mississippi Delta Railroad, $400,000.
• Port of Bienville Railroad, $400,000.
• Yellow Creek Port Access Railroad, $246,400.
To keep up with growing populations and demand, transit authorities are adding new routes and lines and are working diligently to improve every aspect of the rider experience. Contractors should monitor transit authorities for all kinds of opportunities in the coming years.
Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.