News Wrap: $1.3B in N.J. Water Work Ok'd; MWBEs Transport Work Up; Data Center Planned (& More)
NEW JERSEY Gov. Chris Christie has authorized $1.28 billion in state financing for improvements to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure across the state. This includes $355 million aimed at protecting and enabling resiliency upgrades to infrastructure directly impacted by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
"There can be no compromise in protecting the vitality, integrity and resiliency of the state's water supply and wastewater systems, especially in areas that are vulnerable to floods," Christie said on Aug. 8. "This infrastructure must be rigorously maintained to ensure protection of public health and the environment."
The signed legislation will provide no-cost and low-cost loans through the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, an independent state financing agency, in partnership with the state Dept. of Environmental Protection.
The agency says that operators are, in many cases, using the trust's financing program for bridge loans and access to immediate funding pending disaster reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (see story, p. 19).
Sandy caused about $2.6 billion in damage to wastewater and drinking water infrastructure across the state, DEP says. Nearly 100 wastewater treatment plants serving some 3.5 million people in 21 counties reported impacts from the storm. These include the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission based in Newark, which serves 1.4 million people and was shut down due to major flooding of its treatment plant.
The commission is making ongoing pumping station repairs, which are expected to be completed by 2018. Work includes replacing electrical distribution equipment and switchgear.
Sandy-related project funding in this round includes $10.6 million to rehabilitate Passaic Valley's administration building and $96 million to replace and upgrade Middlesex County Utilities Authority wastewater treatment pump stations in Sayreville and Edison.
New York City
More Transport Work for MWBEs
New York City-area transportation agencies, anticipating robust capital programs and major projects in the next several years as they pursue infrastructure upgrades and resiliency measures, are vowing to meet or surpass state and federal requirements for participation of minority and women-owned firms.
There is also an increasing emphasis on cross-agency and cross-modal collaboration with the help of modern technology tools, said representatives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New Jersey Transit and other state and city transportation departments during a July 28 forum hosted by Professional Women in Construction.
"Two years ago, we were not as optimistic as we are today," said Joan McDonald, commissioner of the New York State Dept. of Transportation. By the end of summer, an estimated $550-million contract will be awarded for a cable-stayed replacement of the Kosciuszko Bridge eastbound span between Brooklyn and Manhattan—"the largest single contract in DOT history," she says. Overall, the agency's New York City-based region has 43 projects worth $2.4 billion under way, with $382 million allotted for M/WBE firms, McDonald added.
Michael Horodniceanu, president of MTA Capital Construction Co., said that due in large part to Superstorm Sandy, "there are many years of work ahead," with major projects such as the $500-million rehabilitation of the Sandy-damaged South Street Ferry station, a $200-million rehab of the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the construction of a $100-million concourse for the East Side Access project. M/WBE goals range from 10% to 17%.
The Port Authority just approved a 10-year capital plan of $27.6 billion, said Stephanie Dawson, acting chief operating officer. Besides such major projects as the LaGuardia central terminal replacement and the Goethals Bridge, she said the agency's midtown Manhattan bus terminal will undergo a $19-million short-term improvement, with a long-term plan to be announced.
Ronnie Hakim, executive director of New Jersey Transit, emphasized cross-agency collaboration. Aside from the agency's $1.2-billion fiscal 2015 capital plan, it is working with Amtrak on another $1-billion, 10-year capital program to improve the Northeast Corridor, she said. All area agencies must work together to expand trans-Hudson River capacity, Hakim added. In a nod to industry speculation of an extension of the No. 7 subway across the river, she looked at Horodniceanu and joked, "Michael, keep digging."
Polly Trottenberg, city Dept. of Transportation commissioner, said that the agency has awarded $65 million worth of contracts to MBEs. She emphasized Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero initiative was a "big priority" in the DOT's $6.3-billion, five-year capital plan, along with fixing "6,000 miles of intensely driven, cut-up roads." She added that the agency hopes to start deploying design-build project delivery. Major upcoming bids include a $260-million Belt Parkway rehabilitation.
Bill Fife, an aviation consultant and forum moderator, said there has been increased diversity over the years in transportation management. Gesturing to the panel, he noted: "Now the minority here is Michael [Horodniceanu]."
New York State
Investment Firm to Build $80M Data Center
Investment management firm BlackRock plans to build an $80-million, 31,000-sq-ft data center in Amherst, N.Y., according to local media. The firm reportedly chose the town for its close proximity to fiber-optic networks and access to low-cost utilities, says a recent FierceFinanceIT online story. BlackRock did not return calls for comment by press time.
The news follows several other announcements in the region relating to the fast-growing data center market. This includes tech firm QTS Realty Trust's purchase of McGraw Hill Financial Inc.'s 560,000-sq-ft data center in East Windsor, N.J., in June. MHFI is ENR New York's parent firm.
The $75-million deal included a 50-acre, 14.1-MW solar field, located adjacent to the center, which is one of the largest privately owned, net-metered solar facilities in the Western Hemisphere.