Composition of the Panel 10 nationally recognized experts. Diversity of expertise and experience: Transportation funding & finance, with emphasis on innovative finance (e.g. tolls) and public-private partnerships. Transportation planning & traffic engineering. Transportation policy, resource allocation & institutional strategy.
Meet the Expert Panel Cynthia J. Burbank [Reporter] 35 years with USDOT (FHWA since 1991). Recently retired from the position of Associate Administrator for Planning, Environment, and Realty for the Federal Highway Administration. At USDOT, received over 20 awards, including the SES Meritorious Executive Award (twice), the DOT Silver Medal (twice), and the Eisenhower Medal.
Meet the Expert Panel John Barna Executive Director, California Transportation Commission (CTC). Responsible for programming all State and Federal transportation funds in California. Approximately $2.5 - $3.0 billion annually. Oversees recently approved $19.9 billion transportation bond program. Former Deputy Secretary, California Business, Transportation & Housing Agency
Meet the Expert Panel Karen Hedlund Partner, Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott Specializes in the structuring of public-private partnerships and the creative financing of infrastructure projects. Over 30 years of experience advising state and local governments, financial institutions and private investors in the development of highways and toll roads, transit systems, airports, etc. Nationally-recognized for role in the development of federal and state legislation related to procurements and financing of public-private partnerships.
Meet the Expert Panel Dr. Ronald F. Kirby Director of Transportation Planning for the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). Over 30 years experience in transportation and related fields. Responsible for: Long-range planning for highway and public transportation systems in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region. Assessment of the air quality implications of transportation plans and programs.
Meet the Expert Panel Wally Kreutzen Currently CEO of the Orange County Great Park Conservancy, charged with turning the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station into one of Americas largest metropolitan parks. Formerly, served as CEO for the Transportation Corridor Agencies charged with building new urban toll roads in Orange County. Was responsible for all planning, construction, financing, and operations associated with three toll roads, now used by 290,000 drivers daily. The finance plan resulted in the issuance of over $2.7 billion in toll revenue bonds.
Meet the Expert Panel Steve Lockwood Principal Consultant with the firm PB Consult. Over 30 years experience in the transportation field. Internationally recognized expert on transport policy, finance and institutions, with extensive experience in policy and program development and technical applications. Formerly, Associate Administrator for Policy, FHWA.
Meet the Expert Panel David B. Miller President of Metro Transportation Group, Inc. Specializes in traffic engineering, transportation planning and signal system design. Over 36 years experience in traffic engineering and transportation planning. Has directed and managed over 2000 traffic impact studies for commercial, office, industrial, residential and recreational facilities throughout the U.S. and overseas.
Meet the Expert Panel Charles J. Nemmers, P.E. Since 1999, Director of the Transportation Infrastructure Center at the University of Missouri- Columbia. Moved to the University following a 32-year career with the Federal Highway Administration. At FHWA he served as Division Administrator in the states of Delaware, Georgia and New Jersey. In 1993 was named Director, FHWA Office of Engineering R&D.
Meet the Expert Panel Linda Wheeler Currently a transportation consultant, providing analysis of transportation issues, particularly funding. Retired from the Illinois Department of Transportation in 2003 after a 28 year career at the agency. Since 1991, responsible for IDOT's capital planning and programming, including five-year and annual capital programs for highways, transit, air and rail. Prior to 1991, held a variety of IDOT positions, including heading the Congressional affairs bureau and the public transit division.
Time is the enemy: Without a decision to move forward, the probability of success diminishes and will at some juncture pass the point of no return. Project costs escalate over time, making the funding challenge ever and ever greater. The large and highly visible Federal earmarks for the project are at risk the longer the region waits and as the atmosphere in Congress evolves.
Introductory Thoughts The perfect should not drive out the good: The best project in the world that is not financially feasible equates to no project at all. The goal should be to find the affordable option that goes the furthest in resolving congestion and safety challenges in the corridor.
Introductory Thoughts There is no simple or right answer: Different interests have expressed strong preferences for different project options and different funding plans. There is no option that will satisfy everyone.
Bridges across the Mississippi River near downtown St. Louis are a significant and persistent traffic bottleneck and safety problem. More river crossing capacity is critical when there is disruption for construction or traffic incidents.
Background Observations [contd.] This is a challenge of national and regional significance. Four Interstate highways converge in St. Louis. National security and other interests are threatened by the lack of redundancy.
Key Finding #1 The Martin Luther King (MLK) Bridge Coupler proposal appears to have merit. Less costly yet yields significant congestion relief and safety benefits. May meet river crossing needs, especially if connections to the Poplar Street Bridge are optimized. There are complications: Costs and benefits need refinement. A new EIS is required (more time, more money). A smaller but non-zero funding gap remains.
Key Finding #2 The panel is highly skeptical about the viability of the toll bridge option as a strategy to close the project funding gap. Tolls are a useful strategy to pay for very large projects, but….in this case the panel is very skeptical: -Multiple adjacent free bridge options. -Diversion to free bridges would limit revenue of a toll bridge, and undermine congestion relief on the Poplar Street Bridge. -Socioeconomic conditions are not favorable. -No comparable situations where a new toll bridge is being developed in close proximity of multiple parallel free bridges. -Current level of congestion (and expected future traffic growth) in St. Louis is not severe enough. Tolls cannot be completely ruled out, but approximately 2 years would be needed to develop and evaluate, with no guarantee of success. It would be unwise to Aput all eggs in the tolling basket,@ i.e., to spend 2 years pursuing this option while ignoring other, more viable, possibilities.
Key Finding #3 There are congestion and safety problems because of geometric deficiencies on the ramps to and from the Poplar Street Bridge and the connections of major routes to other bridges. Optimizing existing facilities should be a top priority, and should not be forgotten in the quest for a new bridge. I-44/55 ramps on the Poplar Street Bridge. Access to Eads Bridge. I-64/55/70 tri-level interchange.
Key Finding #4 Committed revenue sources are not yet adequate to finance a new bridge and related improvements, although the funding gap varies considerably among the options. Other revenue sources that could be considered: -Bridge naming rights; -A benefit-based contribution from the regional business community; and, -A regional transportation tax. While the panel is skeptical that a new bridge could be financed on tolls alone, tolls might yield meaningful revenues. Tolling of multiple bridges would be most productive, but would likely encounter strong public opposition in the near term.
Key Finding #5 Time is the enemy. Moving forward with either a new toll bridge or the MLK Coupler option will require at least two more years C even using accelerated methods. -For the MLK Coupler, an EIS will take a least two years. -For a toll bridge options, a number of steps would be required: Commissioning refined traffic forecasting; Achieving agreement among Illinois, Missouri, and the East-West Gateway Council (EWGC) on tolling parameters and common data sets; Developing concession documents, including final technical requirements and long-term operation and maintenance standards; Issuing a Request for Proposals to potential concessionaires; Retaining independent professional legal and financial advisors to the states on contract terms and concessionaire proposals; and, Careful negotiations with interested concessionaires (if any). -Improvements to the approaches to Poplar Street Bridge and other connecting roads in Illinois might be done faster.
Key Finding #6 Numbers do matter: all parties need to agree upon common data and assumptions, and to be clearer about the scope of the related improvements. IDOT, MoDOTand EWGC should agree on traffic volumes and trends, reasonable growth forecasts, common analysis years, and comparable toll diversion rates. There needs to be consistency and clarity in the definition of the project, making it easier to compare project alternatives.
Key Finding #7 The bridges work as a system Solving the financial problem must also solve the transportation problem: Considering the bridges as a system is essential to evaluating tolling options, as well as other revenue enhancing options. Beyond the analytical need, there is also a need to manage the bridges as a system of crossings.
Option #1: Dual-Track Pursue a phased, dual track, Arisk management@ approach. Simultaneously, Missouri and Illinois could refine and advance the analysis for both the toll bridge and MLK Coupler, to the point of a decision in about 2 years. Advantage: if the toll option proves infeasible, there would not be a loss of two (or more) years in schedule and cost escalation, since the Coupler project would have completed its environmental process. Disadvantage: the two analyses would be expensive, with the investment grade toll studies alone costing an additional $500K or more and the EIS likely to cost several million dollars. The tolling analysis should consider a significant discount for local commuters. This addresses equity concerns, although it could significantly reduce the potential revenues from a toll bridge.
Option #2: Focus on the MLK Coupler Given the risks and limitations of the toll bridge option, the region could concentrate efforts on completing an EIS for the MLK Coupler and identifying additional revenues needed to build it. Advantages: Funding gap is small, relieves Poplar Street Bridge as much as a toll bridge. Disadvantage: Feasibility is not fully known, cost estimates are preliminary.
Option #3: Adopt a phased approach This option would initially focus on moving forward with the improvements to the existing facilities while undertaking a longer- term effort to develop a wider array of bridge financing resources. Phase 1: Improvements to existing facilities: Tri-level interchange, IL-3 relocation, fixing Poplar Bridge ramps on the Missouri side, etc. The region could seek legislative authority to use the $239 in Federal earmarks for these improvements while the region takes the time needed to decide on a new bridge. Phase 2: Seek consensus on bridge and funding for it. Would entail a longer-term effort to develop a wider array of bridge financing resources --- beyond existing state resources and toll revenues. These resources might include additional Federal aid as well as a broader array of state and local revenue sources such as those discussed above.
Conclusion Under Federal law, both EWGC and the states have authority and responsibility for resolving this issue. While the challenges are significant, the panel believes there are viable alternatives to address the related local, regional, and national issues. There is sufficient information available for the region=s decision- makers to come to closure relatively quickly on a plan of action.