Category Archives: government

TAP Grants Offer Bike and Pedestrian Projects Throughout NJ

New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) has received a record $23 million in federal funding in Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grants for local and regional bicycle and pedestrian projects.

The complete list of projects spans the entire state. The largest grant—nearly $8.5 million–went to the Delaware River Heritage Trail for a Route 130 Bypass from Fieldsboro to Florence in Burlington County.

There were 18 projects totaling $18.6 million in TAP grants, and 14 Safe Routes to School grants of $2.3 million. An additional $2.2 million was authorized for Safe Routes to School work administered by Transportation Management Associations (TMAs).

According to the state press release, the TAP program funds a variety of projects including:

  • The design and construction of on-road and off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized forms of transportation
  • Community improvement activities, such as streetscaping and corridor landscaping
  • Construction of scenic turnouts, overlooks and viewing areas

New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition is particularly happy with this TAP funding. According to a blog post by NJBWC executive director Cyndi Steiner, the organization’s advocacy efforts saved the state $12 million and the new routes will make pedestrians safer. Read more of what Steiner had to say and David Hutter’s story on NJBiz.com about the funding, projects and grant solicitations.

 

P3’s Bring Opportunity and Uncertainty

When Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill expanding the opportunities for Private-Public Partnerships (PPP or P3) projects, many expressed great hope that this opportunity—with the private companies assuming the financial risk and long-term maintenance of the project—can be the answer to the state’s infrastructure crisis, as well as a boon for construction jobs.

“We’ve seen many municipalities in New Jersey struggle to repair roads and bridges, build new borough facilities and redevelop their communities,” said Jack Kocsis, CEO of Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey. “This new law now gives them the means to cost-effectively finance much-needed construction projects.”

With the new legislation, a state or local government agency, as well as school districts, can contract with a private company for a project.

“It could be a local library, highway construction, transit-related, the whole raft of infrastructure,” Murphy said when he signed the bill at The College of New Jersey’s Campus Town development, a project built collaboratively with private-sector partners.

Previously New Jersey only allowed P3s with public colleges and universities.

“Democrats and Republicans alike recognize the tremendous benefits that can arise when public officials and private sector partners work together,” Murphy said. “By doing so, we give state, county, and local officials the much-needed flexibility they need to improve their communities while creating good-paying new jobs – in most cases good, union jobs – while leveraging private capital to invest in public infrastructure.”

At its best, a P3 is a win for all, saving municipalities money, getting vitally needed infrastructure upgrades or important community projects done sooner and creating jobs in the construction industry. But it doesn’t always go so smoothly. Not all projects are eligible for P3s and the contracts are complicated. The results have not always been as hoped either.

At least 30 other states had legislation for use of P3s in widespread projects, but many have run into trouble. In Texas, the private company that operated a toll road went bankrupt forcing the state to step in and assist in financing. In Chicago, a deal required taxpayers to reimburse the private company when parking meters didn’t produce expected revenues.

There have also been concerns about a lack of oversight with everything from potential environmental issues to transparency to ensure fair competition in bidding–would large companies, perhaps from out-of-state come in and do all the work, or could the high risk taken on by the private companies keep some from bidding at all?  Another big concern was labor protections. Most of these issues, however, were addressed during the legislative process and are reflected in the law.

“During the legislative hearings, UTCA (Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of New Jersey) was successful in obtaining important amendments to protect the interests of our industry. The Association has been working with our partners for several years on P3 legislation and thanks to that successful effort, New Jersey has an important new tool for financing infrastructure,” UTCA said in a statement following the bill signing in August.

Kocsis agreed that the key protections are in place.

“In addition, the new law contains strong, time-tested contractor and labor protections ACCNJ has promoted for decades,” he said. “Equally important, this P3 legislation will not replace traditional project delivery, but rather supplement existing procurement and project financing methods.”

It will take time, various projects-and likely some failures-to know how to use P3s most effectively and to the benefit of the public and all parties involved and to decide if the optimism was warranted and this type of partnership is, in fact, the best long-term answer.

By Chris Colabella & Kara Yorio

What’s in a Name?

No Matter What They’re Called, N.J. Business Incentive Programs Fuel Construction
By Chris Colabella

When Gov. Chris Christie signs the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, the state’s five current economic business incentive programs will be condensed into two – phasing out the popular BRRAG (Business Retention and Relocation Assistance Grant), BEIP (Business Employment Incentive Program), and Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program.

At press time, the initiative (Assembly No. 3680) is awaiting the governor’s signature (he has long said he will sign it), after being introduced in May by Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex), chairman of the state’s Economic and Commerce Development Committee, and passed by both the Assembly and Legislature by the end of June. The Act designates Grow New Jersey Assistance Program as the state’s business retention and attraction program, while ERG (Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant) would be New Jersey’s redevelopment incentive program.

Efforts to streamline business development in the state are led by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and aim, first and foremost, to retain and create jobs here. Under the Act, the newly defined programs encourage redevelopment of urban centers, suburban office parks and areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Regardless of what they are called, business incentive programs (read: grants and tax credits), which compel companies to expand or relocate here, translate to more work for New Jersey’s construction industry. These projects call for new buildings and site expansions, as well as new roads and other infrastructure projects.

In Assemblyman Coutinho’s own backyard of Essex County, the $444 million Prudential Office Towers project, located at Broad and Halsey streets in Newark, is being financed with the help of a $211 million tax credit from the Urban Transit Hub program. Prudential Financial said SJP Properties of Hoboken will begin construction on its new 20-story office tower and 55-foot-tall parking garage by the end of this summer.

Business incentive programs have been a lynchpin in the state’s economic development plan – a go-to tool in the toolbox, if you will, when a business announces its plan to leave the state.

When it works, it’s a win-win for the company and the state. In fact, Gov. Christie was on hand to help cut the ribbon at the official opening of Realogy Holdings Corp.’s new Madison Township headquarters on June 20.

Back in early 2012, the company had announced its decision to pack up and move from Parsippany to North Carolina. However, Gov. Christie and his economic development team stepped in to offer Realogy a $10.7 million BRRAG award, plus a $1.4 million sales tax exemption. The move convinced Realogy to stay in New Jersey and build its new global headquarters in Madison. A year later, the residential real estate franchise giant broke ground on its new 270,000-square-foot complex. Newark-based Tishman Construction Corporation of NJ headed up construction of the three-story office complex with parking garage.

Incidentally, BRRAG – which allows the state to give an annual corporate income tax credit of $3,000 per employee to businesses considering expansion or threatening to leave the state — has helped to create more than 100,000 jobs since it was first enacted 17 years ago. Realogy’s decision to stay in New Jersey kept 935 jobs from moving out of state. (And, those figures don’t even count the number of construction employees put to work thanks to the many projects which have resulted from incentives over the years.)

For now, existing tax and other business incentives associated with BRRAG, BEIP, etc. remain available to qualified companies. (Visit http://www.njeda.com for more information.) However, even when these programs are merged under different titles – namely Grow New Jersey and ERGG — construction companies should reap the benefits of state programs that provide businesses with capital – either in the form of grants or tax credits.

Regardless of what New Jersey calls the programs, once companies build, they will stay
— at least that’s what the State of New Jersey is counting on.

Chris Colabella is the president of CIS, Inc., New Jersey’s only local construction lead service. For more information, visit http://www.cisleads.com or call 800- to arrange for a free demo of CIS Leads.