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Joint | March 4, 2015 | Committee Room | Joing Transportation

Full MP3 Audio File

I’d like to have better participation, but we’d better get started. We’re five minutes over time already. I’d like to introduce our Sergeants-at-Arms and our pages. From the House we have Sergeant-at-Arms Carlton Adams, ?? Addison and ?? Austin, and from the Senate, Steve McCabe and ?? Jefferies. We have pages: ?? Jones from the city of Enfield; Senator Angela Bryant. And we have a House page, Lauren Tribbet… in the back, Brian Kennedy; Representative Will Brisson. And we have one item on the agenda today, and we’re going to get started right away. I hope we get a few more members present in just a few minutes. We have Chief Deputy Secretary Nick Tennyson for DOT overview. This is one of our ice and snow days presentations that we skipped, and we can make it up today. Mr. Tennyson. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am Nick Tennyson, the Chief Deputy Secretary of NC DOT. I appreciate the opportunity to speak, and we have got a previously scheduled presentation that I am stepping in to fill. We have some ongoing analysis that I think is going to be worth the time to complete it, as opposed to bringing it to you partially, and so we appreciate the opportunity to go ahead and have this presentation today. The order of this of course is sort of as an overview, and so you’ve already embarked on some of the detail, but I think there’s value to going back through and looking at the broad sweep of the department’s responsibilities and letting you make comments on what you see, and I understand the rule of the committee is that any slide, any paragraph is fair game for questions, and so I’ll just… I suppose I’ll pause if I happen to see one that pops up. So the overview of the presentation, you can see talking about major functions of the DOT, including touching on the Board of Transportation, overview of the highway system, talking about the road-building process, operations and maintenance, and then some intermodal aspects of the department, which for this presentations purpose includes the DMV. The NC DOT employs about 12 thousand people. We have positions from the most basic aspect of maintaining the highways, all the way up through ferry captains, and I would add airplane pilots to that. It’s led by the Secretary of Transportation, who’s a member of the Governor’s cabinet and oversees all aspects of transportation in the state, which is an organizational structure that isn’t universal in the country, but there are others who share our breadth of involvement. Representative Torbett. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, Nick. I wanted to just jump down… archaeologists? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes sir. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Can you give me… what’s…? [SPEAKER CHANGES] We have historic preservation requirements for historic properties to make sure that we’re delineating properly and making sure that we are responsible in our work on the state’s infrastructure, and so from time to time it will require somebody who’s qualified in that capacity. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you so much. I’d never heard about that. [SPEAKER CHANGES] There’ll be no additional charge for that. So in any case… and I’m not a slide-reader, so I’m trying to avoid putting you through that, but if I go to fast, please stop me. So the Board of Transportation works with staff, is the policy-making body, and sets or makes decisions about transportation priorities and funding allocations within obviously the constraints of those funds furnished by the General Assembly. 19 members, all appointed by the Governor, allocated 1 to a division, and so you’ve heard about the 14 highway divisions, but then there are 5 at large areas of focus that are represented to make up the total of 19. At least

Members of the board must be registered in a different party than the Governor. No more than two may be in the same highway divisions, so that we don’t get a concentration, or an over concentration in any one division, and the Governor submits proposed appointees for review for a 30 day period or a minimum of a 30 day period before their appointment. So the highway system, as you’ve heard many, many times, 80,000 miles is the way I shorthand it, obviously for maybe my ego’s purpose, but the interstate makes up 1,300 miles of that, primary routes, 5,500 miles. North Carolina routes 8,000 in the secondary system, the, the roads that, that at least largely would be under county administration and a lot of states 60,000 miles of that system. And then along that system, again, as you’ve heard, 18,000 bridges, culverts, and pipes. It’s about 13,000 bridges isn’t it? I’m looking out for, 13, is that the right number? 13,000 bridges? What I’m gonna be talking about is for the most part related to the two portion of this slide that you’ve seen in the past, although there will be, obviously, some parts at the bottom too that we also touch on. So project development and, and this is a term of ours that I suppose you need to pause to think about a little bit, purpose and need of a project. So you have to identify the purpose and need before you go to, to build the project, and that is used to analyze the possible alternatives to that project. And always on the table is the no build alternative, but as we look at various projects that may be competing for, for the construction funding, we have to be aware of the purpose and need, and let’s just say thinking about an improvement of a route through our community versus a loop. They could both be for the same purpose and need of moving traffic from one side of the town to another. There may be an additional purpose that is served by the loop road or by the one through the town that couldn’t be served by the other kind of facilities, so again, identifying purpose and need is an important step and comes back later in the process. Route alternatives are evaluated to try to minimize the impact. The selection of a preferred alternative is a step, and then the completion of the environmental planning documents, which are either state level or what’s called NEPA, national level. And then determining the construction limits, and this is, this is a step that, that results in being able to understand exactly what property is gonna be needed, what, what the right of way limits will have to be is, is to determine what you need to do on the construction. Using these, these current systems, we have got extraordinarily long preconstruction times. This is a focus of, of work that we’re doing to try to shorten those times, including evaluating more carefully which of the projects go through national funding through, which things are funded using federal money, which things are funded using state money. And we think there’ll be some benefit from that, but just to give you the general sense of if you’ve got a great idea, this is the kind of lead time before that great idea moves into the contract letting phase. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative Ford had a question I think, mister chairman. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you mister chairman. Can you touch just briefly on the project delivery times on major 8 to 10, lining 5 to 8 and why the date, those times, at least to me seems to be somewhat expanded. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think that a lot of this has to do with setting time horizons that recognize that some of the approval authorities, some of the review authorities have got multiple jurisdictions that they’re trying to serve, and so you’re not necessarily getting everybody’s attention right when you’re done. So the, the step of moving through delineation of what the wetlands are will take time, will take site visits, will take all those kinds of, of activities, and then the question of when the authority that’s gonna review those, the core engineers in this case, is able to be responsive sometimes adds, adds time. It, it is just the, I say, I say the reality of some of this has to do with which process we choose to use, and we are going back and, and

Asking harder questions about how many of the things that we take through what's called the merger process and try to do with more focused planning documentation and I think that that'll yield some benefit, but right now as you add steps to make sure that you're fully disclosing and fully reviewing and fully evaluating the effect of the project and then you put the buffer in to make sure that it can be accomplished in sequence that that's where it goes. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] In the, for years I’ve heard about the possibility of parallel efforts or efforts running simultaneously to reduce the qualifying time and the paperwork, so to speak, that kind of thing. Have we taken any steps or do you see steps that we could gift DOT with and something [??] collapse that time to be more expeditious, I guess, or [??]? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I don’t want to identify any particular current issue, but an example of where we have done something that subsequently caused us additional review is the 485 project south of Charlotte where we identified that we could build an extra lane of pavement in advance of having to move forward to the next project and get it done under the current documentation and save money, and at the end of that process the question of whether or not that lane should be opened up or would be opened up has become somewhat a matter of contention and at least from my perspective that is reflective of the risk of doing things that are not fully in sequence. So all of that is to say, and I apologize for the long answer, that when we make a decisions to do things in parallel, we run the risk of one of those parallel tracks blowing up on us and perhaps invalidating the project or making it not possible to build and then all that money spent on that other parallel track goes out the window, and so I think that part of this question of 8-10 years is that it’s a pretty risk-averse schedule. It is a schedule based upon not wanting to have to explain to you and everybody else why the planning that we put into this alternative is no longer useful and no longer valuable. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Additional question? Representative Bumgardner? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I do have a question and that you mentioned 485 south of Charlotte. [SPEAKER CHANGES] That was a real mistake and I apologize. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Tell us about the resolution of the issue. [SPEAKER CHANGES] The resolution of the issue is that the 485 has been identified by the local planning area, the metropolitan planning organization for that area is being, to be eventually put into services as a managed or express lane, in this case I think an express lane, and to preserve the possibility of that, that limits the ways that we can treat that lane. In other words, we can’t open it up as just a general purpose lane and then put it into service as an express lane later. So the issue is back before the metropolitan planning organization in the Charlotte area. they’re to take a vote next month, well, no, actually this month on what their preference is. From comments that I have heard, I would expect them to be looking to try to put it in services as some sort of HOV lane, which would preserve the opportunity later to have it used as they originally intended. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So what you’re saying is there is no resolution yet. [SPEAKER CHANGES] There is no resolution yet, but they’re, and there is no resolution yet and we wouldn’t really be able to do a resolution of the actual putting it in service until April anyway and then August is a deadline when we have documentation that would allow us to open it up, so we can’t act until August at least, and the resolution is on its way through the various processes that have to be followed to do anything different. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Additional follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Explain to me how the MPO had this project on their STIP and how we got to the point where we are, we have a lane that no one’s using. [SPEAKER CHANGES] The process that was followed was to have a project that was a segment of an overall project between

74 and 77 roughly is the outer limits of it. The middle segment which is that portion which has this, what’s been described extra lane, was being built and it was identified as a possibility of going ahead and doing work in the shoulder, I’m sorry in the median area, that ultimately would be part of this express lane project. And by doing so, we could save something on the order of 12 to 15 million dollars in terms of expected cost of remobilizing and just finishing the project and starting over. Additionally, the project that was being done between 77 and Ray Road, I believe is one of the termini, was originally scheduled not to be completed until December of 2016. In the process of developing it, getting it done as a design build project, it was a design build project, yes. The contractor managed to achieve time savings such that we finished the project two years early. So the quote extra lane wasn’t expected to be out there as an issue until 2016 at which time the next adjacent project is scheduled and at least in the draft ?? the adjacent project is scheduled to start during FY 2017. So that’s how we ended up with the additional pavement, apparently abused and not used. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up one more time. I understand how it’s easier, or it’s marginally harder to get mobilized and to add two lanes, if it costs X number of dollars to add a lane to an interstate. To add two lanes, if you have the room and all of the things being equal while you’re there and mobilized and working, it’s only, it only might be another 10 or 20% to add a whole nother lane. I understand that, but I’m trying to understand how this project came about. We built the lane. I don’t understand what if any input that local MPO had and now we have a lane that’s no one is using and we don’t have a decision yet and we’re trying to figure out what to do next. We have a lane and what are we going to do with it? And some people want to toll it, of course. And some people want to make it an HOV, of course. And some people just want to be able to drive to get from point A to B. That’s what I’m trying to get straight. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I’d be glad to talk to you additionally, at a different time, and bring along folks that would be, that had been present at the original decisions. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I’d like a briefing on that particular project, would be good. ?? DOT at some point. And just as a reminder, please use your red and green buttons. A thing to remember. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So, moving on from that slide. The first phase after we’ve decided we know we’re going to build it, is to survey and design the highway. You have to go out and confirm with the ?? list, to know what features you need to take into account for the design, what the bridges are going to need to handle, those issues. This slide I think just highlights the fact that there are a number of things that aren’t on the road surface that have to be taken into account. Utilities frequently end up being an issue for us, relocation of utilities or making sure we can provide them. Issues related to drainage and retaining walls are all questions that have to be determined and plans made. We’re looking for a cost-efficient design, to meet schedule and budget, and obviously minimizing the impacts to environment, homes and businesses. Then we move to the contract award stage. The contract information is prepared, we advertising project lettings. The lettings to which I’m referring now are those conducted centrally, which we do on a monthly basis. We advertise projects on a monthly basis. Projects handled at the division level could be advertised at other times. They’re on a different frequency. Bids are submitted by contractors, as you see, and then reviewed. The note at the bottom, we are in a position of accepting the lowest bidder that meets all the requirements. One of the things to note is that contractors can lose the right to be bidders.

For various issues that can arise in terms of their execution of projects that they’ve got underway or other kinds of matters that can move them off that list, so we do review those who are eligible to bid. Only those eligible to bid can submit those then and it moves through the process, and then again to sort of give you the laundry list of all the things that are involved in the construction work starting out with the surveying and then making sure that we’re, we got the construction area prepared and preserved and then moving through the construction finally ultimately digging through the marking signs and signals is the last phase, so. Our construction section provides a part for the contract administration. We’ve got about 600 highway, active highway-related projects right now, all sorts of areas of projects that we have under consideration or are actually actively involve, but the innovation flexibility, I would say that the design build process about which you’ll hear more if you haven’t heard plenty already is one of the things that’s been very helpful in terms of delivering some innovation externally in the department although I think our folks try to do their best to be as innovative and flexible as they can be on projects as well. So we talked about the preconstruction time, the new construction or the actual construction for projects varies based on the type of project and where it is and how we’re confronted with issues related to the actual construction, then moving to field operations the highway or the field operations are under the direction of the Chief Engineer, Mike Holder. There are 14 divisions and you’ve seen and the divisions were put in this configuration. Okay, now is it 20 years ago, 30 years ago, we have been through several iterations of how many divisions there are but we are now at 14. With construction, supervision of the construction and monitoring of progress and specifications, operations traffic management and maintenance. Obviously, our recent experience makes those snow plow the logical illustration for this. We do primary and secondary maintenance, again, that’s referring to the road systems that were described earlier with the interstate and then the primary routes, the about 7,000 miles and then the secondary being referred to here. We are doing substantial contracting with people to maintain some of this, mowing and other things, issues related to contracting and snow and ice removal, the range of contractors available has declined over time and we find that it’s harder to find people that are willing to submit to be part of our snow and ice removal on a contracting basis. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Mr. Chairman [??] [SPEAKER CHANGES] [??] [SPEAKER CHANGES] I don’t know if you can specifically speak to this or if you can direct me, is it a true statement that one of the divisions or some divisions have snow and ice contracts and the contractors get paid whether snow and ice events happen? Do we have contracts with contractors that get paid irregardless of whether we have snow and ice events? [SPEAKER CHANGES] We do, and may I recognize Mr. Holder for any more detailed answer to that or do you want to? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I can get with Mr. Holder, I just wanted to know if that’s a true statement. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Let me just say that one of the things about this reminds me of my days in the fleet. When I was in the navy the ship on which I served had 300 or so folks on board. If all we were required to do is stay in that ship, we’d have had 20 and so in a sense the other 280 were being paid just to be there whether or not we ever fought anybody. So the snow and ice issue, one of the alternatives of being able to try to deal with snow and ice is to have people on standby that you know you can call and they’ve got an obligation that they’re committing on their side has some value to it

[SPEAKER CHANGES] We can talk about what value does and bring that point to bear. We are opting to go with those contracts in lieu of perhaps having the equipment or the personnel all the time to meet the need when it arises irregularly. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So you're saying there's a cost that's associated with that and hypothetically if the contract was a million dollars whether they are pro forma or not, but an analysis has been done, for say that million dollars. We can not have the staff or trucks on standby for that season. Is that-I mean I'm using that as a hypothetical number. There is a matrix that's being used to say-and I get with Mr. Holder, I just want to make sure that that is part of the equation. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I- [SPEAKER CHANGES] I'd be more than happy to follow up with him. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think that's certainly my expectation. I believe that we could demonstrate that and that's something that Mr. Holder would be better positioned. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Ford. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Mr. Chairman, I appreciate Senator Meredith's questions, but I would like for that answer to made available to the committee. That's very intriguing to me and quite honestly it's baffling when you've got private sector companies that have peak and slow seasons, and I just don't understand, unless there's geographical constraints that why, that service could be contracted out for a firm, that's going to be down during that time. [SPEAKER CHANGES] May I? If I keep this brief, but this is a topic on which we are focusing a lot of attention having just gone through the experience of not being able to get people to respond to our request for contractors. And among the reasons furnished are the risk for them for their equipment to operate in a more dangerous environment than they ordinarily operate on something they do with less experience than they might have. Let's just say they're putting a truck out there that they put a plow on that ordinarily doesn't have a plow on it and ordinarily the driver of that truck doesn't operate on snow. So they are opting not to put at risk the eight months when they could use that truck because somebody might wreck it during the one event that happens in the four months when they're not using it. Same thing with things like motor graders, they're expensive pieces of equipment, put it out there for whatever the contract amount is, put it out there at risk. Again some of this has to do with just a reduction in the number of contractors out there that happen during the 2008 period and some of it is all those risk factors. It is a topic on which we are focused now as well. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So I understand Senator Ford you'd like to have that information available about either the magnitude or the number or some information about the contractors we have with DOT? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Right. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes sir. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Make it available to the committee. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes sir. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Here's another one for Senator Ford, Representative Ford. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I assume the same thing. I assume that the same thing goes for mowing. We were told we have drought years and then we have a couple of summers ago it was extremely wet and the mowers that I see mow whether there's a foot of grass or no grass at all, they just mow anyway. Is it the same way-contracts set up for that? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I just need to defer that to Highway Division, to let you know how the contracts are set and what they triggers are for the various times when people provide the service. I didn't even mention a hot topic project on that one. Preservation of-let me just, at the risk of starting this. This is a function that is not something that I thought about much before I got in this position, but the pavement that we have out there has to be preserved. That once you take it past of a certain point of repair, you get into rebuilding it, and so the whole exercise in pavement preservation is a critical part of maintaining the road system that we have, and I say that as distinct from contract resurfacing, which is a project or a treatment that can improve the road surface and the customer satisfaction with that road, but does not fully meet the pavement preservation goals that I think we need to achieve. So again, at the risk of starting on another series, that's an important part of what the divisions are responsible for. And then the bridge

Activities and you’ve heard a presentation or a presentation’s been made recently on bridges and I’m sure will be again, so moving to the intermodal section, the railroads of North Carolina operate 3,300 miles of track, 3,834 at grade public crossings state wide. We do our very best to try to keep people and/or vehicles out of those areas at times they should not be there and unfortunately we don’t have that full compliance with the warnings and the signage and all the requests that we make, so it’s still a challenge and as far as I know there’s a challenge everywhere. There are two class one and 21 short line railroad operators. The short lines are a critical important part of the economic development question for the state for those industries, services looking for rail services, the short lines provide the kind of connectivity that’s gonna deliver the sort of last mile services to their facilities, and then for passenger rail we have two trains, or two services that run under the name Piedmont, the two round trips between Charlotte and Raliegh, and then the Carolinian which is an Amtrak designated train which is also running on the same route, Charlotte, Raleigh, but then runs on to New York City. One of the things that again you find when you start to look at issues related to rail is the whole question of how do you get more service if you need it. Our service to New York City is very substantial ridership but the choke point that exists on the rail, the actual capacity of the rail system, which from the north of there limits what we can do. So even if we wanted to get another service, it would be very difficult to get it squeezed in on the current route that’s available, on the CXSA line. Aviation, interesting illustration selection here and this is to point out that we use aviation for photogrammatry so that when we have a disaster that we need to identify the scope we have the aviation group. I’m reasonably certain that in the not very distant future we’ll do this with unmanned aerial systems. That is not on the slide. There is not a reference to that because our aviation department doesn’t operate unmanned aerial systems. We do have aircraft. We do have involvement in the UAS program through our relationship with the next generation aviation technology project endgap and beyond that and more importantly, we have state system planning, airport aviation system development and non-state aircraft that we operate. You can see on the slide that aviation commercial airports and the general aviation airports add about $26 billion to the economy and I have been impressed at the level of involvement and activity that is around general aviation airports. They are significant to the communities they serve, certainly, and I think as a group significant for the state. We also under our transit Deputy Secretary, we have our public transportation section which is involved in administrating the state and federal grants to the various operators. These are county, municipality owned, or the creation and authority in some cases that are for multiple counties or multiple jurisdictions. You can see that we’ve had a substantial increase in ridership and that there are about 5,000 people that are employed in the operation of these systems across the state. The ferries we are the largest state owned system on the East Coast, second largest in the nation. I say that with full awareness that the Washington state system is the largest and provides service to something on the order of 14 million passengers a year. We are doing well with our service with 2 million passengers and we are looking for ways to provide better service all the time. It, I’m sorry. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Ford. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Sir, if you could provide me with the budget size for the ferry division. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes, sir, I will. It’s about $48 million on an annual budget for the operating cost of ferry system, but I’ll

Speaker changes: follow up Mr.Chair Speaker changes:follow up Speaker changes:is that 100 % subsided by state Speaker changes:that's the line item operating cost ?? here are two that produces i believe that's something on there 2 million dollars Speaker changes:follow up by 99% subsided by state Speaker changes:i think you don't understand why u would choose that particular word it is funding that is provided by the very system Speaker changes:?? Speaker changes:?? well taken Speaker changes:senator ?? any comments Speaker changes:the final piece that we are pointed to do up have basic pedestrian division the department involved in this aspect of transportation is normally making sure trying to make that practices cross the state we have done much better job in my opinion from again speaking from normal perspective from ?? not looking obstacle in the galleries to look us in transportation ?? pedestrian systems what we ?? got mike system plan from that bike plan place of funding dedicating funding too trying to make things happen in the past trying to built ?? some more time served fairly substantial barrier i also I'm in conversation with my three children finding how it is critical to them think about issues like this in places like over there ?? kind of help that needed to help localities make the best plans taken they taken me ?? i was interim commissioner of DMV for three months should not have forgotten that was next p on the slides,8. vehicles registered in north Carolina seven million drivers the challenge with this institution is always regulator and service provider ?? the necessary functions of DMV and other regulators regulating drivers and operators we are ?? in north Carolina

As you can see, last year $7 million worth of stolen vehicles recovered. I think that’s it. Yes, sir. I’m sorry. [SPEAKER CHANGES] [??] Getting back to the effects of pedestrian subsidizing or not subsidizing, as we build roads, for example, and we incorporate sidewalks, is there any kind of a set fee, code, charge to put up that sidewalk for pedestrian use? Do we toll the people who walk on the sidewalk and do we somehow manage those individuals who manage to walk on the sidewalk to recoup some of those funds? [SPEAKER CHANGES] You can imagine that I’m trying to be less expansive in my answers and so no is the answer that I would offer. [SPEAKER CHANGES] [??] [SPEAKER CHANGES] Are there other questions from the committee? Okay. I believe that completes our agenda for the day. Thank you, Mr. Tennison. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] We’re adjourned. [background chatter and crosstalk begins] [SPEAKER CHANGES] [??] [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative I apologize for asking [??] question [??] . [SPEAKER CHANGES] That’s fine. [SPEAKER CHANGES] No, I know it’s not and I apologize and let you know that we should probably end the discussion. [SPEAKER CHANGES] We’re kinda having fun this morning. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I need to talk to you about the [??] [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I [??] [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes, sir. [audio cuts off]