In this issue:
By: Braithwaite Communications
- FAA Reauthorization
- Diesel Mitigation Plans Move Forward
- PA Budget Deadline Approaches; House GOP Plan Contains No Provision for State Police Funding by Locals
- PA’s Second Trillium CNG Station Open for Business in York
- Ground Breaks for New Jacksonville Transportation Hub
Both the House and Senate advanced their versions of the FAA Reauthorizations out of Committees this week, setting up the measure for votes in both chambers. The House and Senate bills vary in numerous ways and will require substantial compromise before a final bill can be sent to the President. The most notable disagreement is over air traffic control privatization, which has been championed by Chairman Bill Shuster for several years.
This is a developing story as of press time. We will have more extensive coverage in our next issue.
Diesel Mitigation Plans Move Forward
A The Florida and Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection recently held webinars regarding the Beneficiary Mitigation Plan, established as part of the VW emissions settlement plan.
The states are developing plans to use a portion ($2.9 billion) of the VW settlement slated for the reduction of diesel emissions, Florida stands to receive $152 million, and Pennsylvania $119 million under the settlement. The amount each state is due is based on the number of 2.0-liter diesel vehicles sold in each jurisdiction.
Pennsylvania has also held four of six listening sessions around the state. More information is available here: (http://www.dep.pa.gov/Business/Air/Volkswagen/Pages/Environmental-Mitigation-Trust-Agreement.aspx)
The list includes replacing or repowering large freight trucks, ferries and tugs, locomotive freight switches, airport ground support trucks, and other vehicles. The terms also allow augmenting funding under the federal Diesel Emission Reduction Act (“DERA”), a statute with goals and structure similar to the mitigation outlined in the settlement. Investment in charging stations and other infrastructure projects for zero emission vehicles is also permitted.
In late February, a federal court named a Trustee to oversee the distribution of funds from the $2.7 billion mitigation trust established as part of the VW emission settlement. The money will be spread among the states to fund programs aimed at reducing diesel emissions.
Under the terms of the settlement, the Trustee, Wilmington Trust N.A., approves a state as an eligible beneficiary; the state has 90 days to submit a mitigation plan for approval.
PA Budget Deadline Approaches; House GOP Contains No Provision for State Police Funding by Locals
The proposed House Republican spending plan for fiscal year 2017-18 contains no per capita fee local governments would have to pay for State Police protection. Democratic Governor Tom Wolf suggested a $25 per capita fee for communities, mostly rural, with no local or regional police departments. The Legislature faces a June 30 end-of-year fiscal deadline for budget approval.
Reacting to the House GOP budget plan, State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker said it fails to identify an alternative funding stream, resulting in a $91 million shortfall in the budget for the State Police.
“In the simplest terms, the drastic cuts as would negatively impact public safety,” Blocker said. “The budget would force the elimination of upcoming cadet classes and raise the possibility of trooper furloughs, immediately resulting in fewer troopers patrolling our highways and neighborhoods to prevent and address criminal behavior.”
Blocker noted that the department is currently 500 members below its full allotted complement. With more than 1,500 active-duty troopers soon eligible for retirement, it is more important than ever to continue to fund future cadet classes in order to attract a diverse group of qualified applicants to the state police.
Over recent years, increasing amounts of money from the Motor License Fund, established for roads and bridges, funds the State Police. Initially, the rationale for this allocation cited that troopers are on roads while on patrol.. This became a problem when the funding of the State Police significantly decreased the funding for road and bridge maintenance. PennDOT and local governments saw reductions in the resources they expected to invest in transportation projects.
With the approval of last year’s budget, the Legislature capped the portion of the funding going to the state police at $801 million, with a plan to decrease that amount by 4 percent until it reaches $500 million.
If that PennDOT gas money is not replaced, the State Police will lose $40 million next year, $105 million the following year and $294 million by 2021-22, according to a five-year economic forecast report done by the Legislature's Independent Fiscal Office.
“It’s still unclear whether the per capita fee will end up as part of the final budget plan,” said Buchanan’s Matt Fine, Advisor, Government Relations. “In fact, a lot of how lawmakers will bridge the gap in funding is still unclear as of this writing.”
Along these lines, Governor Wolf recently objected, but stopped short of saying he would veto a Senate Republican plan to borrow money in order to cover what could be a $1.5 billion shortfall when the fiscal year ends on June 30.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) said they are looking at a $31.8 billion overall spending number for FY 2017-18, which begins July 1.
PA’s Second Trillium CNG Station Open for Business in York
Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and rabbit transit in York, Pennsylvania, welcomed the commonwealth’s newest public compressed natural gas (CNG) station at a ribbon cutting on June 15. The new facility is the second public CNG station Love’s Trillium CNG designed, built and maintained for numerous transit authorities in Pennsylvania as part of a public-private partnership (P-3) PennDOT awarded to the company last year.
The P-3 project will provide CNG to more than 1,600 buses at transit agencies across Pennsylvania. rabbit transit has one CNG bus, and eight additional CNG buses will be delivered next month. The P-3 project benefits the public by providing cleaner air to the community and consumers with more public CNG facilities. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, the new station at 415 N. Zarfoss Drive is the second public CNG facility in York.
The new station in York was primarily built to meet the needs of rabbit transit’s growing fleet of CNG buses, but is also open to the public 24/7. The station provides service to vehicles of all sizes, including light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Six of the 29 facilities in the P-3 project will be open to the public. The first public facility opened in April in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, at the Cambria County Transit Authority. Another private facility for Mid Mon Valley Transit in Donora, Pennsylvania, opened this month.
“We’ve been excited about this partnership since before entering into the design stage, and it’s great to see everything coming to fruition at these station openings,” said Bill Cashmareck, managing director of Trillium CNG. “Our goal is to help companies meet their sustainability needs at a competitive cost, and it’s great to know this partnership benefits so many transit authorities, as well as other consumers.”
Ground Breaks for New Jacksonville Transportation Hub
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) broke ground on a $57 million Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center (JRTC), which will integrate all modes of transportation in the Northeast Florida region.
Officials at the groundbreaking said that the facility will also be able to accommodate driverless cars from Uber and other transportation companies.
“This is an enormously important development for the entire northeast Florida area,” said Buchanan’s Brett Bacot, Senior Advisor, Government Relations. “In the past, Jacksonville’s sheer geographic size has resulted in years of stops and starts in planning.”
The first phase of the project includes a 10,000 square-foot intercity bus terminal; currently under construction near the Convention Center Skyway Station. The intercity terminal will have a total of nine bus bays and parking areas for use by intercity carriers, such as the new JTA Flyer, as well as interstate Greyhound lines.
“The JTA will be connected to this facility along with Megabus, Skyway, soon to be the U2C, and last mile options such as Uber and Lyft will also be able to serve this facility,” JTA CEO Nathaniel Ford said. “And one day in the future, all of us will have the opportunity to see those driverless cars which will also be part of this development.”
The second phase of the project includes the construction of a 40,000 square-foot administration building which will house JTA’s administrative offices, as well as conference and board rooms. The Skyway, or U2C, will be integrated into the building’s framework.
The building will also feature a bus transfer facility with an enclosed passenger waiting area, an operator lounge and ticket vending machines. The facility will be ADA accessible, according to Ford, and will have a canopy-covered continuous platform connecting each bus bay.
A combination of federal, state and local funding will be used to complete the JRTC project. JTA estimates that everything should be built no later than November 2019.