Strategic Economics and ARUP recently completed a study for the Grand Boulevard Initiative on infrastructure needs and financing mechanisms in the El Camino Real corridor, which stretches 43 miles from Daly City to San Jose, and falls under the jurisdiction of 19 cities, two counties, and multiple special districts and other agencies. The study provided us with an opportunity to think creatively about how cities and counties might benefit from working together to fund and implement infrastructure projects, and to explore emerging tools for financing infrastructure in infill and transit-oriented development (TOD) settings. My personal favorite part of the study was researching five emerging tools and strategies in the field of infrastructure finance that may have medium- to long-term potential to help pay for TOD and infill improvements:
- California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cap-and-trade program, which went into effect in 2013, will generate new revenues for investments that advance the state’s long-range climate goals. Sustainable Communities & Clean Transportation is one of three programs in which the state plans to focus investments, and could include funding for complete streets improvements, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, projects that increase transit mode share, and other types of infrastructure that contribute to the implementation of local and regional Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCSs).
- Corridor-level parking management strategies would set parking prices and manage parking demand across a transit corridor, including publicly-owned on- and off-street spaces. Revenue from parking fees throughout the corridor could be pooled to finance needed improvements at strategic locations, generating more revenue than a more localized approach. The city of Aurora in the Denver metro area conducted a “Strategic Parking Plan and Program Study” that lays out what this type of innovative parking management strategy would look like for the planned I-225 light rail corridor.
- Congestion pricing mechanisms are a type of user fee where drivers are charged higher fees at peak periods of demand in order to manage traffic congestion and encourage use of transit and other alternatives to driving. Fee revenues are typically used to cover the cost of operating, maintaining, and enforcing the program, and additional revenues can provide funding for transit or other mobility improvements that reduce traffic demand.
- Institutional investors – including pension plans, endowments, foundations, and insurance companies – are demonstrating an increasing interest in investing in infrastructure projects such as transportation, utilities, communications, renewable energy, and other assets. For example, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) has invested over $1 billion in international and domestic infrastructure since 2007, and in 2012 earmarked an additional $800 million for infrastructure investment within California.
- Several state departments of transportation, including those in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas, and Ohio, are conducting feasibility studies to explore the potential for integrating renewable energy technologies in highway right-of-ways. In the near-term, such projects may take the form of installing solar panels or wind turbines or planting biofuel crops (e.g., switchgrass) adjacent to the roadway. However, new technologies are emerging for embedding solar cells or other solar-energy-capturing technologies in the roadway itself, or harvesting the energy generated by road vibrations.
In addition to much more information on each of these tools, we also evaluated the amount of revenue that various value capture tools could generate (including infrastructure financing districts (IFDs) and assessment districts), and the potential to target regional grant funds. The report also details ARUP’s innovative new methodology for assessing roadway, water, sewer, storm drain, electricity, gas, and complete streets infrastructure needs at a regional level. Check out the study or Nadine’s recent presentation of our work at California APA!