States may begin chasing lucrative High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grants as early as July 10 by submitting “pre-applications” for up to $8 billion of economic stimulus funds. The Federal Railroad Administration released guidelines on June 17. “It will be illuminating to see which projects are ready to progress, on what time frame and at what cost,” says Donald M. Itzkoff, partner, Nossaman LLP, Washington, D.C. Detailed applications are due by Aug. 24 for grant categories called “Tracks” 1, 3 and 4 and Oct. 2 for “Track” 2. “These documents will be hundreds of pages long,” says Richard J. Peltz, senior
Officials say the catastrophic 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minnesota that killed 13 people revealed shortcomings in visual bridge-inspection techniques, particularly of gusset plates and other components. Mark Bagnard, lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, told attendees at the annual International Bridge Conference, held this year in Pittsburgh on June 14-17, that the state’s load ratings of bridges were inadequately measured and did not include gusset plates. As far back as 2003, photos showed the gusset plates were bowed. “Despite the photos, this bowing was not reported in either of two inspections.…One inspector actually saw
T op bridge contractors and designers have formed a group dedicated to better ways of funding and building bridges. Spearheaded by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the Bridge Policy and Promotion Council will promote alternative funding methods like private-public partnerships, as well as high-strength materials and high-tech building and inspection tools. “What we have attempted to do is to get key players...together under the banner of ARTBA to enhance the lobbying effort, get our thoughts into the legislation and influence the [six-year federal transportation] reauthorization,” says BPPC Chairman Robert Luffy, president and chief executive officer of Coraopolis,
Officials at the nation’s largest drinking-water association called for a new mechanism to fund water infrastructure that is generating buzz on Capitol Hill: a national infrastructure bank. Meeting for their yearly conference June 14-18 in San Diego, American Water Works Association officials announced they would work with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to push for legislation that would establish a bank to support water infrastructure projects. The current credit crunch has made it “hard for communities to access capital for critical infrastructure projects,” despite the infusion of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, said Michael Leonard, AWWA’s 2008-2009 president
House and Senate floor votes are the next steps for a $105.9-billion war funding bill that includes $4.5 billion for defense and nonmilitary construction. Conferees from the two chambers on June 11 reached agreement on the package, which focuses mainly on aid to continue the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the measure’s construction allocations is $2.8 billion for Dept. of Defense projects; of that, $751 million is for DOD hospitals. The conference agreement also contains $922 million for State Dept. embassies, including $736 million for facilities in Islamabad. The Army Corps of Engineers would receive $797 million under
The issue of jurisdiction for siting transmission lines continues to simmer. A federal appeals court ruled in February that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission lacked authority to overrule state decisions denying applications for new lines. FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff told a House panel on June 12 he disagreed with the appellate court’s ruling but said he had not decided yet whether to appeal it to the Supreme Court.
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) will ask the Government Accountability Office to do a study of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs multiyear construction program. “In some cases, VA’s infrastructure reflects yesterday’s priorities,” Akaka said. Since VA’s Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services program began in 2004, nine of its 58 identified projects have been finished, 20 are under construction, 12 are in design and 15 are in planning, Donald Orndorff, director of VA’s construction and facilities management office, told Akaka’s panel on June 10. As of June 5, VA had obligated only $27 million of its $1.1
Prospects have turned brighter for a major carbon-sequestration project. The Dept. of Energy announced on June 12 it had reached a “provisional agreement” with an industry group for the FutureGen project in Mattoon, Ill. DOE will provide $1.07 billion, including $1 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The FutureGen Alliance, which includes utility and coal companies, will add $400 million to $600 million. DOE will issue a record of decision for the project by mid-July. After that, a preliminary design and new cost estimate will be produced. A decision on whether to proceed will come in early 2010.
Criticism of “Buy American” provisions within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is intensifying in the U.S. and Canada. Canadian companies say they’re being hurt, and U.S. business interests worry Canada could impose retaliatory restrictions. The focus is ARRA’s estimated $280 billion, which states and localities administer, including billions of dollars for water and wastewater facilities and other infrastructure projects. Photo: Canadian Embassy/ Harry Skull Jr. Clinton, Cannon air the issue. The issue has reached Cabinet levels. At a joint press conference on June 13, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said, “People are worried about a rising tide of
The U.S. Supreme Court on June 15 refused to accept a case seeking to stop the federal government from building a fence along the U.S. border with Mexico, letting stand a lower-court ruling authorizing its construction.