In this issue:

  • Fast-moving Tax Bill Creates Uncertainties for Infrastructure Plan
  • Katharine Eagan Kellerman Named CEO of Port Authority of Allegheny County
  • King of Prussia Rail Project Chugging Along
  • Latest Compressed Natural Gas Facility Opens in PA as Part of P3
  • PA House Transportation Committee Holds Hearing on Clean Transportation Infrastructure
  • HART Moves Closer to Self-Driving Shuttle Service in Downtown Tampa

Fast-moving Tax Bill Creates Uncertainties for Infrastructure Plan

As the GOP works to resolve its House and Senate tax bills, the legislation’s impact on President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan is far from certain. While the House eliminates the deduction on tax-exempt private activity bonds, the Senate bill retains the provision. According to The Hill, Transportation Secretary Elaine Cho has said lawmakers would “fix” the eliminated PAB deduction.

The tax bills stand to influence infrastructure on many other fronts, including changes in advance refunding bonds, electrical vehicle credits, wind tax credits and tax deductions for sport stadiums. Meanwhile, the group Problem Solvers Caucus is working on a bipartisan report that could work as the foundation of a future infrastructure plan from the Trump administration. The group says its goals align relatively closely with President Trump, and the administration reportedly has a 70-page document outlining its priorities in an infrastructure overhaul.

“We’re not going to get any clarity on the PAB issue or any other tax plan changes impacting infrastructure until the House and Senate hash this out in conference,” said Chuck Kolling at Buchanan. “We’re paying very close attention to how this plays out and will provide an update as soon as these bills are reconciled.”

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Katherine Eagan Kellerman Named CEO of Port Authority of Allegheny County

The Port Authority of Allegheny County announced Katharine Eagan Kellerman will serve as the new CEO beginning in January, 2018. After working for transit agencies in Baltimore and Dallas, she was most recently the leader of the transit authority in Tampa, FL. Kellerman was selected among more than 40 applicants, calling the position “a public servant’s dream come true,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“With her transportation background and stellar track record, no one is better suited to shepherd the transit innovations taking place in Pittsburgh right now,” said Rhea Law, Chair of the Buchanan Florida Offices. “I have personal experience working with Katharine in Florida and anticipate that our firm will continue to have a good relationship with her as she moves into this new position in Pittsburgh.”

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King of Prussia Rail Project Chugging along

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is continuing to develop plans and working to address concerns for the King of Prussia Rail Project, which would connect the region’s largest metro employment zone outside city limits with downtown Philadelphia.

SEPTA recently presented environmental impact study results at a Montgomery County Commissioners meeting and held three public comment hearings in King of Prussia. Based on feedback from neighbors along the rail’s proposed route, SEPTA is considering shifting the path the line takes along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, adding as much as $75 million to the $1.1 billion project.

The line would connect Center City Philadelphia with the King of Prussia Mall, the King of Prussia Business Park, Valley Forge Casino Resort and Valley Forge National Park.

SEPTA says it hopes to finalize a route and get approval for the project in early 2018. If funding is secured, the line could be operational as early as 2018, SEPTA said.

“This rail line would be a significant infrastructure improvement over the busses that currently serve the area via congested highways,” said Buchanan’s Debby Stark. “So far, SEPTA has done a good job accommodating neighbors’ concerns to move forward with a project that would offer considerable economic growth for the region.”

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Latest Compressed Natural Gas Facility Opens in PA as Part of P3

The seventh Pennsylvania compressed natural gas station driven by public private partnerships recently opened in Beaver County. As state transit agencies convert diesel and paratransit busses to CNG, Trillium CNG is designing, building, financing and will operate and maintain CNG fueling stations at 29 public transit agency sites through a 20-year, $84.5 million P3 agreement.

Using the P3 procurement mechanism allows the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to install the fueling stations faster than if a traditional procurement mechanism were used for each site, resulting in significant estimated capital cost savings of more than $46 million. PennDOT will receive a 15 percent royalty, excluding taxes, for each gallon of fuel sold to the public at public sites, which will be used to support the cost of the project, according to a Wolf administration press release announcing the most recent opening.

“P3s like this are great opportunities for transportation and infrastructure organizations to work with governments to improve service and reduce costs,” said Andrew Giorgione at Buchanan. “We’ve seen these collaborations work time and again and are always seeking new connections between public and private entities.”

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PA House Transportation Committee Holds Hearing on Clean Transportation Infrastructure

The Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee held a hearing recently to discuss H.B. 1446 (M.Quinn-R- Montgomery). According to a memorandum on the bill, the legislation would shift PA transportation systems to cleaner, more efficient resources to address the growing popularity of electric and natural gas vehicles. This would include establishing a state goal of expanding electric transportation usage by at least 50 percent over baseline forecasts by 2030.

At the hearing, Roger Cohen, Director of Policy at the Department of Transportation, said he “supports the spirit of the legislation.” He did bring up concerns about existing Federal Highway Code regulations in regards to a provision of the legislation that would create alternate fueling stations at rest stops on interstate highways, according to reporting from PA Environment Digest Blog.

“We’re keeping a close eye on this bill as it makes its way through committee,” said Kim Pizzingrilli, Chair of Pennsylvania Government Relations at Buchanan. “We’re seeing opportunities for P3s, like the CNG stations. This bill would expand those opportunities considerably and create a better infrastructure of clean transportation support throughout the state for fleets and providers.”

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HART Moves Closer to Self-Driving Shuttle Service in Downtown Tampa

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) is moving forward with a project to have the Marion Street Transitway in the City of Tampa served by autonomous vehicles. It is the first continuously operated shared autonomous project in the U.S. that includes public roads and mixed traffic. The project will operate two electric self-driving vehicles on a half-mile stretch of downtown Tampa. It will cross eight signalized intersections and an active railroad.

HART recently selected Stantec to provide the Autonomous Mobility Services. According to Mass Transit Magazine, the company will provide program and project management and related infrastructure planning and design. Coast Autonomous will provide the shuttles, and Quest Corporation will coordinate public outreach and coordination efforts.

“This is a big step for autonomous vehicles in the public transportation sector,” said Brett Bacot in Buchanan’s Tallahassee office. “We’re undoubtedly going to see more and more opportunities for providers with capabilities in the autonomous vehicle space to do work with state and local transportation groups. These early projects will serve as a bellwether for how future projects play out.”

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