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N.A. Cities Challenges and Potential Solutions

N.A. Cities Challenges and Potential Solutions

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Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner were key note speakers at the Canadian Council of Public Private Partnerships’ annual conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on November 18. Both spoke about the challenges their respective cities face at a time when their revenues are dwindling because of the COVID19 and the consequent economic downtown and how they plan to address these challenges. The issues that they face are similar to those with which many municipal and regional politicians must deal as the global pandemic continues its onslaught. In this environment both Miami-Dade County and the City of Houston have continued to move forward with P3 projects. (P3 is shorthand for public private partnership. The term “P3 project” is used to describe a legally binding contractual agreement between a public sector body, such as a government agency, and a private sector entity, such as a business.)
According to a 2019 census, Miami-Dade County has a population of over 2.5 million, making it the most populous county in Florida and the seventh-most populous county in the United States. It is also Florida’s third largest county in terms of land area, with 1,946 square miles (5,040 km). Miami-Dade County which faces a substantial economic downtown because of plummeting   tourist dollars in the face of the COVID19 pandemic is moving forward with a new transit plan and a new courthouse that are being executed under Public-Private Partnership (P3) delivery models.
In September 2020, Miami-Dade County selected Tutor Perini as the design-build contractor for the new Civil and Probate Courthouse. Tutor Perini is partnering with architect and designer HOK and Johnson Controls, the operator and maintenance provider. The project will provide for the design, construction, financing, operations and maintenance of the courthouse under a single contractual agreement.
The new courthouse facility will provide more than 600,000 square feet of space and services related to Civil and Probate Divisions of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, the Clerk of Courts and other related court partners and agencies. The project will include construction of over forty jury courtrooms; a parking area for over fifty vehicles; site development, including utility improvements to support the facility; hardscape/landscape; and road and traffic control improvements. The construction value is in excess of $260 million. Work began in January 2020. Completion is anticipated in early 2024. This new courthouse will replace the existing 90 year-old courthouse.
In November 2020, the Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously approved a resolution authorizing further discussions with Brightline, Florida East Coast Railway and the county to create a commuter rail system that would operate between downtown Miami and Aventura. This rail system could extend as far north as Jupiter if Brightline can arrange separate deals with Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., has been hit by major storms since 2017 including Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Tropical Storm Melda in 2018 as well as civil unrest this year. In 2017, the construction of a new 25-acre container yard began at the Port of Houston. The project, which was completed by private sector partner Terminal Link Texas in 2018, increased the stacking capacity by as much as 80 percent while enabling increased container freight activities and improved maintenance and repair operations. This new container yard is part of the Bayport Container Terminal which has the capacity to handle over 2 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent, a measure often used to describe the cargo capacity of container ships and terminals) across 376 acres as well as a 123-acre intermodal facility.  The port of Houston which operates the Barbours Cut container terminal as well as Bayport handles nearly 70 percent of all container cargo business along the Gulf Coast.
Another one of Houston’s P3 projects, the upgraded State Highway 288 (SH-288) which runs between downtown Houston and Freeport, was completed in mid-November. Started in 2016 and originally planned to be completed in mid-2019, the project was finished 18 months behind schedule because of Hurricane Harvey and construction delays. Tolls are adjusted on the basis of time of day and volume of traffic. This means that the higher the congestion, the higher the tolls during peak traffic periods. To reduce flooding, drainage has been installed along the entire route and detention ponds have been added.
During their presentations, both mayors conceded that one of the issues that has come to the forefront during the pandemic is the need for better internet connectivity.   Not only has COVID19 brought attention to the digital divide between rural and urban populations with respect to internet access but it has also revealed the differences in services between specific urban areas.
The overall challenge that all American cities face is that they cannot incur deficits so if additional funding is required they must seek resources from state and federal governments which have seen their resources stretched because of a downturn in revenues and the creation of substantial economic recovery packages.

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