I am pleased to announce the promotion of Jim Webb, AICP, to Chief Executive Officer of The Goodman Corporation (TGC), as of January 2018. Jim has demonstrated great leadership since he came to TGC from the Houston-Galveston Area Council in 2012. He has rapidly absorbed significant knowledge regarding the TGC body of work, as well as the complex regulatory, procedural, and intergovernmental nuances which are essential to advancing infrastructure improvements. Internally, Jim has gained the trust of his fellow co-workers and provides the mentorship and guidance for their professional growth and advancement. Jim instills confidence in the TGC client base and has assumed a prominent role in the professional services community through his involvement in several leadership and advocacy groups to include the American Leadership Forum.
2018 has already proven to be an exciting and fast paced year for The Goodman Corporation!
By: Jim Webb, AICP
The new year has brought change in roles and responsibilities at TGC, including my being named the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). For nearly 40 years, TGC has planned and developed meaningful projects with Barry at the helm. Over this time period we have demonstrated significant value to our clients, delivering hundreds of projects and successfully pursuing over a billion dollars in funding. In my new role as CEO it is my mission to become the steward of TGC and to continue this level of success for the future. So, what does this mean for TGC, for our clients, and for our community partners?
Primarily, my objective is to focus on the continued refinement and expansion of our core services in the areas of planning, engineering, technical and environmental services, compliance, and funding pursuit. As the planning and engineering fields continue to evolve, it is important that we do as well. This means identifying methods to improve efficiency, exploring ways to provide additional services to our clients, and staying on the cutting edge of research and development to benefit our projects.
I will also continue to foster our culture of customer service and responsivity. To us, this means always being available and anticipating the future needs of our clients and their projects. Finally, the continued development of the positive and dynamic relationships that TGC has with our clients and community is very important to me. To this end, I invite all of you to always contact me directly if there is ever a need, question, or concern where we can help.
Barry, as President of TGC, will continue to assist me in meeting my responsibilities as CEO while being available for clients when needed. This transition will provide Barry the opportunity to concentrate his time on the areas of intergovernmental coordination, legal assistance, legislative coordination, and business development.
From the perspective of infrastructure funding, 2018 has also resulted in opportunity for our client base. On March 21st Congress passed and President Trump signed the $1.3 trillion 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill. The bill includes $2.525 billion in new funding for highway grants; $800 million in new funding for transit grants; a $232 million increase for Capital Investment Grants; a $446.6 million increase for Amtrak; and $1.5 billion for the National Infrastructure Investments (BUILD, formerly TIGER) grants program, which is $1 billion more than the FY 2017 enacted level. There are also significant funding opportunities for Aviation, State of Good Repair, and Economic Development.
The new spending bill also contains $90 billion in funding for disaster relief efforts, including $15 billion for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood mitigation projects. This language allows the City of Galveston to receive Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding based on pre-Hurricane Ike population levels. It also authorizes $10 million for the Ready Reserve Fleet port facility in Beaumont which was damaged by Hurricane Harvey, and $20 billion for rural infrastructure projects to include roads, public utilities, and broadband. This has already trickled down to the region with the announcement of approximately $130 million in Economic Development Administration funds being made available for infrastructure and planning projects with ties to flood mitigation, resiliency, and job creation.
Starting with the FY 2019 appropriations process, there will be continued discussion regarding a return to “congressionally directed funding,” or earmarking. Several of the components of this budget appear to allocate resources directly to individual projects, which had been disallowed in the past under the pretense that doing so functionally manifested those actions as earmarks. Prior to FY 2008, earmarking of congressionally appropriated funding was a common practice. However, when the “bridge to nowhere” became a rallying cry for pushback, this process was put on hold. This ten-year moratorium on earmarking has had mixed results. Most recently, both houses of Congress have indicated that earmarking may have benefits. Many worthwhile projects which might be totally funded through congressionally directed action, must now be piecemealed through discretionary programs driven through the executive branch or via existing formula programs.
One notable misconception surrounding this process is that earmarking is the culprit for increasing the federal budget and deficit. In fact, earmarking can only occur within the appropriation limits for each federal program, and merely shifts decision making from the executive branch back to Congress. It can easily be argued that elected representatives can make better decisions regarding the allocation of federal funding in their district than the administration in Washington, DC. Regardless, the amount of discretionary spending available in any given fiscal year is less than one percent of the total federal budget. In our view, it is much better to have decisions regarding the expenditure of our federal tax dollars made at the local level.
The Administration’s much-hyped infrastructure bill was also announced a few months back, which proposed providing $200 billion in federal funding (achieved by cuts elsewhere in the budget) to be matched by local and state funds to equate to a $1.5 trillion package. The plan flips the federal-aid cost share standard on its head by proposing to offer 20% federal funding in exchange for an 80% local share commitment. The $200 billion is proposed to be doled out in the following way: $100 billion via a 20/80 matching program; $50 billion in rural block grants made directly to states; $20 billion for projects of “national significance;” $20 billion in loans; and $10 billion for federal office buildings. In addition to the infrastructure funding, the plan proposes several changes to the federal environmental and permitting process in an attempt to streamline and expedite project approvals. Preliminary documentation released indicates that these changes appear to be targeted to reduce the environmental process for large scale projects which routinely take two years or more to complete. Overall, the announcement is underwhelming but is consistent with what had been alluded to over the past six months.
What this plan certainly does not do is address the shortfall in the federal Highway Trust Fund, which has been bolstered recently by transfers from the general fund. This proposal is being described as “a program that sits on top of existing programs,” and does not propose to change funding mechanisms or modify previously programmed federal dollars. Hence renewed discussion regarding increasing the federal gas tax which, while gaining bi-partisan moderate support, has strong opposition from the Republican leadership. Note that the federal motor fuel tax was last raised in 1993 and sits at per gallon rates of 18.4 and 24.4 cents for gas and diesel, respectively. If indexed to inflation, these rates would now be 32 cents and 42 cents per gallon. One key thing to remember is that this is still a proposal which will require congressional action for anything to come of it. One positive aspect is that this proposal will stimulate additional discussion and deal-making related to solving the infrastructure crisis that persists in our country, now approaching a $2 trillion state of good repair backlog. As always, TGC will continue to monitor the discussion and will make our clients aware of news as it becomes available.
Planning Spotlight: Stakeholder Driven Performance Based Mobility Funding Strategy
By: Robert McHaney, AICP
In a world with more mobility needs than funding, communities across the nation are seeking to prioritize mobility investments that provide the greatest societal benefits and can attract outside sources of funding. These mobility needs include alternative mode improvements (bike paths, trails, etc.), intersection improvements, road diets, added capacity, new roadways, multi-use paths, bridge replacements, roadway reconstruction, and various transit improvements.
Through nearly 40 years of mobility planning and implementation, TGC understands that making tough mobility trade-off decisions and attracting outside funding can be difficult for the community, staff, and leadership. As a result, communities often develop transportation plans that are unachievable without support from funding partners, with many important mobility projects stuck in a “design concept” holding pattern for years. TGC understands that communities have a need for plans that are usable for both prioritizing projects and attracting funding.
TGC has been developing a planning practice that focuses on creating stakeholder-driven, performance-based mobility funding strategies. TGC staff includes several performance-based planning experts who continually monitor notice of funding announcements developed by the United States Department of Transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, state departments of transportation (DOTs), and non-profits to ensure evaluation factors used for prioritizing projects “speak to the grantors.” At the core of our practice we seek to shepherd projects from ideas to groundbreaking ceremonies by helping communities make wise decisions with public dollars. We are able to accomplish this through the attraction of outside funding, innovative finance, public/private partnerships, and the utilization of economic development tools.
Accordingly, TGC has developed and continually refines a planning practice that develops, prioritizes, and creates a funding and implementation strategy for projects using a performance-based process. TGC has assembled a team of engineering, environmental, economic, political, and transportation experts to analyze, prioritize, and develop projects in a way which will lead to funding and construction. The Stakeholder-Driven Performance Based Mobility Funding Strategy is a great compliment to a Capital Improvement Plan, Thoroughfare Plan, Parks Plan, Long-Range Plan, and other community planning efforts.
TGC Expands in Environmental Expertise
By: Stephanie Kirschner, AICP
TGC has a long history of completing successful Categorical Exclusions (CE) for both the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for roadway, sidewalk, park and ride, and administration facilities, and has recently expanded its environmental expertise.
In the past year, TGC has completed numerous Preliminary National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Review documents for clients preparing submittals for discretionary grant opportunities. These documents provide information on existing conditions and a review of planned improvements through the lens of gaining NEPA approval. For relevant impact categories, background on NEPA and state and federal regulations is provided, as well as potential impacts or the anticipated need for additional analysis or agency coordination. The Preliminary NEPA Review is useful for ranking projects and identifying “red flags” that may impact cost and timeline for project completion.
TGC has also begun performing Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESA) in-house, for both individual parcel sites and multi-mile corridors in highly urbanized areas. TGC has successfully completed Phase I work for the City of Houston, which has additional specific requirements beyond that of the industry-accepted American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards.
Projects receiving state funding from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) are required to complete a Hazardous Materials Initial Site Assessment Report (ISA), which contains the same information as a Phase I ESA. TGC has been pre-certified by TxDOT to complete these reports.
These environmental documents are important to ensure the proper due diligence procedures are followed and liability is limited. Due diligence involves conducting a Phase I ESA in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) All Appropriate Inquiries Rule. Every project receiving federal funding requires at least an initial site assessment to determine if there is any known or potential hazardous waste within the proposed project limits, especially projects that include the purchase of new right-of-way, excavation, and/or structure demolition or modification.
Projects where excavation is anticipated to be over five feet in depth would benefit from a Phase I ESA to more accurately determine potential risks from past releases of hazardous materials. A key part of a Phase I ESA is the full review of local, state, and federal environmental records of sites within a defined radius from the project. A Phase I may result in findings of Recognized Environmental Conditions, which may in turn necessitate performing a limited subsurface investigation (Phase II) to obtain more definitive data on contamination that could impact construction.
TGC environmental experience includes:
• FHWA CEs for roadway and pedestrian improvements.
• FTA CEs for roadway and pedestrian improvements, trails, park and ride facilities, and intermodal facilities.
• Phase I ESAs for roadway and pedestrian improvements and facilities.
• Preliminary NEPA Reviews for roadway and pedestrian improvements, trails, bike facilities, and municipal buildings.
• Third party review of environmental documents.
TGC and Midtown
By: Mariana Raschke
Located in between Downtown and the Texas Medical District, Midtown Houston is a prime example of urban living. Midtown is a walkable community (rated as the most walkable neighborhood in Houston by walkscore.com) with a growing arts and entertainment scene. The success of the area is in large part due to the Midtown Redevelopment Authority (MRA) and the Midtown Management District (MMD). The two entities have been assisting the City of Houston in redeveloping and providing services to the community since 1995 and 2000, respectively. The MRA provides infrastructure improvements and public right-of-way enhancements through TIRZ funds, while the MMD supplements the MRA’s efforts by maintaining the infrastructure and amenities to enhance quality of life. Projects undertaken by the MRA include public parks, improved street lighting, landscaping enhancements, and capital improvements such as roadway reconstruction and underground utilities upgrades. In addition to supplementing the MRA, the MMD also fosters community spirit through events and marketing strategies; promotes public safety; attracts investment; enhances the District’s viability and image; and promotes the cultural arts and entertainment.
TGC has been assisting the MMD and MRA in the planning, financing, and implementation of Midtown’s federally-eligible capital program since 2003. To date, our partnership has yielded over $14 million in federal funding and has helped the District re-shape the urban environment. The awarded infrastructure projects include the following:
• Past Projects – Elgin Street, Gray Street, McGowen Street, and Holman Street.
• Ongoing Projects – Main Street and Caroline Street.
• Future Projects – Wheeler Street and Brazos Street.