Recap: Series Finale: Commemorating the Second Anniversary of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)
The U.S. DOT’s series finale to commemorate the second anniversary of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) featured an opening message from Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg. Speakers included Wes Moore, Governor, Maryland; Thomas Nissalke, Ph.D., Assistant General Manager of Planning and Development, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; and Christopher Puchalsky, Ph.D., Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, City of Philadelphia, Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability. The finale was hosted and moderated by U.S. DOT Volpe Center Director Anne D. Aylward.
The event was part of the U.S. DOT’s Project Delivery Center of Excellence’s thought leadership series on Delivering the Benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Wes Moore is the 63rd Governor of the state of Maryland. He is Maryland’s first Black governor in the state’s 246-year history and just the third African American elected governor in the history of the United States. Moore also served as CEO of the Robin Hood foundation for four years. During his tenure, the Robin Hood foundation distributed over $600 million toward lifting families out of poverty.
Previously, Moore built and launched a Baltimore-based business called BridgeEdU, which reinvented freshman year of college for underserved students to increase their likelihood of long-term success. He is also the author of several best-selling books including The Other Wes Moore, a story about the fragile nature of opportunity in America, and his latest book Five Days, which reflects on issues of race, equity, and opportunity.
Christopher Puchalsky, Ph.D., is a nationally recognized transportation expert with a passion for livable cities. He is the Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives at the City of Philadelphia's Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability. Previously, he designed engines for the Ford Motor Company and served as Director of Transportation Planning at Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
Puchalsky has sat on advisory panels for the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Transit Cooperative Research Program, and National Cooperative Highway Research Program.
Thomas Nissalke, Ph.D., is the Assistant General Manager of Planning and Development at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He oversees the planning, design, and construction of ATLNext, the airport’s 20-year, multibillion-dollar capital improvement program. In addition to managing ATLNext’s implementation, Nissalke is responsible for all airport planning and the ATL’s environmental compliance programs, environmental planning and federal grants, and regulations compliance.
Nissalke previously served as the Director of Planning and Environment for the Department of Aviation, in which he led the completion of the airport’s master plan in 2015. He began his career at ATL in 1995, performing airfield and airspace computer modeling.
This post provides a recap of the conversation. You can watch the full event video here.
Two Years of Infrastructure Transformation
Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg delivered the opening message for the finale of the thought leadership series. Reflecting on the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, she emphasized the importance of utilizing resources effectively for lasting community impact. Deputy Secretary Trottenberg highlighted successful projects, like the Arlene D. Williams Memorial Bridge Project, that were funded by such investments, acknowledging their job creation and community benefits. She stressed the challenge of timely and budget-friendly project delivery, praising the Project Delivery Center of Excellence for promoting successful models.
“I'm pleased to say that these past two years, many of us at U.S. DOT have gotten the chance to see firsthand how leaders like the ones we will hear from today are making the most of this infrastructure decade.”
Celebrating Partnership and Progress
Governor Moore focused on the significance of the Biden-Harris Administration's support for Maryland, particularly Baltimore, highlighting recent projects funded by the BIL. He discussed job creation, economic progress, and the transformative impact of partnerships between the state and federal government.
Governor Moore expressed gratitude toward the Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation for their continual support and partnership, emphasizing the importance of collaboration in achieving transformative goals for Maryland.
Economic Impact and Job Creation
Governor Moore shared the significant progress made in Maryland's economic landscape, citing the state’s reduced unemployment rates and improved economic rankings. He highlighted projects like the Frederick Douglas Tunnel as critical to Maryland’s progress.
Governor Moore noted that the tunnel is the single largest choke point along the Amtrak northeast corridor, with constant delays for over 24,000 daily passengers. He stressed the significant impact of the Biden Administration’s $4.7 billion investment to renovate the tunnel as critical in helping to reduce transit delays, improve the environment, and generate employment opportunities in Maryland.
“It's not enough to create good jobs. We need to create good-paying union jobs with high labor standards and that actually support job training,” he stressed, recognizing the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to creating unionized jobs and investing in workforce training programs as pivotal for Maryland's economic growth.
Governor Moore’s focus is on investing in Baltimore's development for the broader benefit of the state.
Creating Pathways for Career Success
In May, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that Baltimore would be one of the five workforce hubs in the nation. Earlier this month, Governor Moore announced Amtrak, Baltimore City, and the state of Maryland’s commitment to support the Baltimore Workforce Hub. Governor Moore mentioned this announcement during the finale event, emphasizing the commitment to add a diverse and skilled workforce. He stressed the need to create diverse pathways for students beyond traditional four-year colleges. His aim in Maryland is to provide opportunities for successful, sustainable careers that can “change the trajectory of a family” through various vocational options and the workforce hub.
Collaborative Partnerships for Progress
Moore also stressed the importance of collaboration and coordination between federal and state entities for achieving substantial outcomes. He noted the success achieved in the past two years with the BIL, while emphasizing the ongoing need for partnership and the potential for continued progress and prosperity with the Biden Administration's support.
“The only way you're going to get big things done is by listening and by collaborating. And you really don't need to look any further than the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to see what that actually looks like in practice.”
He noted that Maryland will work with the Biden Administration to ensure that federal projects in Baltimore operate under the highest possible labor standards and the Maryland Department of Transportation’s commitment to project labor agreements for a number of strategic projects across the agency portfolio.
“It's partnership that really makes the difference in our work.”
Transformative Expansion: Concourse D Widening at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Thomas Nissalke shared his experience at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which handles approximately 104 million passengers annually. Nissalke discussed the Concourse D Widening project, made possible through a $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Overview of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: The Need for Concourse D Widening
Hartsfield-Jackson airport includes two terminals, five runways, and seven concourses housing 196 passenger boarding bridges. With passenger numbers soaring, the airport needed to widen its Concourse D from 60 feet to 99 feet to accommodate the increased passenger traffic.
The Concourse D Widening project plans to redesign the concourse to optimize space, increase passenger seating capacity, and accommodate larger aircraft. Nissalke noted that the redesign promises a more spacious concourse with increased ceiling height and ample ambient light, as well as increased space for amenities, restrooms, and hold rooms, ultimately improving overall customer experience and enhancing airline revenue.
Innovative Modular Construction Approach
Nissalke shared insights on the project’s phased modular construction approach to minimize gate losses and operational disruptions during the project's implementation. The innovative approach involves building 19 modules off site and then bringing them on site to an active operational environment. This modular method enables faster construction and fewer gate losses.
To further offset gate losses, the airport plans to construct four additional gates on Concourse E, facilitating airline operations while Concourse D undergoes expansion.
Commitment to Diversity
Nissalke also highlighted the airport’s commitment to involving minority and female-owned businesses, targeting approximately 40 percent of the project opportunities for these enterprises. “That will translate to something on the order of about 500 million dollars going to small minority and female business enterprises. And we're very, very excited about that.”
Transforming Roosevelt Boulevard: A Vision for Safety and Progress
Christopher Puchalsky shared insights from the City of Philadelphia’s approach to revitalizing Roosevelt Boulevard, emphasizing safety, community engagement, and economic empowerment as integral parts of the transformative program.
Creating a Unified Vision
Roosevelt Boulevard is a major thoroughfare in Philadelphia carrying significant traffic and transit ridership. However, the boulevard has an alarming record as one of the most dangerous roads in the United States due to its high fatalities. Between 2013 and 2017, it was the site of 2,846 crashes and 14 percent of all fatal crashes in Philadelphia.
“It is, or at least it was until we started making improvements, the most dangerous facility in America or pretty close to it, depending on the year. It was locally referred to as the Boulevard of Death.”
Puchalsky recognized the long-standing struggle to unite the city and regional authorities for a unified vision of how to improve the boulevard, noting failed planning attempts in the past. “We've known we need to do something for a time, but it's been hard to get the city and the region together on exactly what that something was.”
Thus, the City of Philadelphia conducted a detailed planning study before approval of the program grant. The planning process spanned several years and was vital in aligning diverse ideas with community values, securing funding, and aligning partnerships, both inside and outside government.
“It was really this planning study that allowed us to win the federal grant, and it's this work that we did ahead of time, not when the NOFO came out, not a few weeks ahead of time, but for an extended period ahead of time that really set us up for success.”
Implementing Change: Acting Now and Future Plans
Pulchalsky noted that the planning study revealed residents wanted to see more immediate, tangible solutions than a projected 2040 completion date. Thus, the program focused on both short-term and long-term improvements. More immediate actions included installing speed cameras, which resulted in a 93-percent reduction in speeding violations and a 27-percent reduction in fatalities and serious injury crashes on Roosevelt Boulevard. They also launched a bus rapid transit (BRT) light service, which reduced travel time and increased ridership. These actions provided more timely benefits to the community and addressed pressing safety concerns.
Pulchalsky also outlined the future improvements funded by the mega grant, including transit enhancements, pedestrian safety measures, and intersection realignments. This includes installing bus-only lanes along Roosevelt Boulevard to further enhance the BRT light service. Pulchalsky noted plans to improve transit options, realign problematic intersections, and reduce pedestrian crossing times and distance.
Community Empowerment and Economic Opportunities:
Pulchalsky also stressed the broader impact beyond infrastructure of the program’s plans. The program seeks to generate not just infrastructural improvements but also economic opportunities. It prioritizes job creation, workforce development, and economic empowerment for residents, highlighting efforts to create pathways to stable careers and generational wealth, especially for marginalized communities.
Stakeholder Engagement in the Series
The Delivering the Benefits of the BIL thought leadership series gathered over 2,600 unique attendees and was global in reach, with representatives from 24 countries. Aylward noted attendees represented “an extensive cross section of our transportation enterprise, including representatives from the federal government, state and local agencies, the private sector, MPOs, academia, nonprofit organizations, and tribal governments and organizations.”
U.S. DOT Volpe Center Director Aylward concluded the finale by noting that “BIL will continue to grow the economy, enhance our competitiveness, create new jobs, and make our transportation system safer and more sustainable, resilient, and just.”
View the event recording for the full discussion.
*The views of the speakers may not represent the views of U.S. DOT.
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Sponsored by the USDOT Project Delivery Center of Excellence
Hosted by the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, the Delivering the Benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law event series is sponsored by the new USDOT Project Delivery Center of Excellence.
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