Gloria Salinas, Managing Director, Economic Development
While massive infrastructure funding is up for debate in a future federal stimulus package, Dallas-based Jacobs, a global professional services provider, is moving forward on legacy infrastructure projects for the Dallas Region and across the state of Texas.
The projects create high-profile jobs that are a boost for morale and impact the Dallas Region, said Jacobs President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Pragada.
Jacobs’ North Texas infrastructure projects include architectural design and program management for phase two of Klyde Warren Park, which will expand Dallas’ deck park greenspace west over Woodall Rodgers Freeway toward Field Street; conceptual design and schematics for public transit on Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s (DART) Cotton Belt rail line (set to connect Plano to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport); Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport Terminal C renovation; and iconic Texas Department of Transportation highways, including the redevelopment of Interstate-30 in Dallas, Interstate-35 in downtown Austin, and Interstate-45 in downtown Houston.
“These are iconic programs that will change the face of Dallas,” Pragada said. “These projects are centered around the citizens and really impact the community.”
A federal infrastructure stimulus is a part of the government’s effort to bolster the economy during the pandemic. It aims to create jobs, reduce high unemployment, and restore economic growth while addressing dire structural needs across the nation.
During the last recession, the Dallas Region received more than $885 million from The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. With the infusion of capital, projects including the DFW Connector and DART Orange Line Rail were completed ahead of schedule.
“The Dallas Region has been a magnet for development and job growth, and we expect to recover from COVID-19’s economic effects even stronger,” said Matt Garcia, Senior Vice President of Public Policy for the DRC. “The Dallas Region will continue to be a highly sought out area of the country for individuals to work and enjoy a high quality of life. During this current round of infrastructure talks, it is important to make sure the Dallas Region is well-positioned to advocate not only for an aging system of roads and highways, but programs that improve pollution and air quality, access to water for a growing population, first mile and last mile connectivity, and increased green spaces.”
U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, representing Texas’ 30th Congressional District covering most of southern Dallas and the Dallas County suburbs of Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Duncanville, Lancaster, and a part of Grand Prairie, supports a federal infrastructure stimulus. She was a member of the Senior House Transportation Committee that worked on the previous relief package to ensured thousands of Dallas Region bus drivers, train operators, railroad workers, flight crews, airline ground workers, and airport workers, among others, remained employed and retained health and retirement benefits during the pandemic.
“Any federal infrastructure relief package must prioritize areas including highways, public transportation, water, and affordable housing,” said Congresswoman Johnson. “Additionally, given the current circumstances, we must also include spending for rural broadband internet, which has been a high priority of mine in the House Science, Technology, and Space Committee. [We need] internet connection for all K-12 schools, brownfields cleanup grants, and even childcare centers — all of which have been strained due to the coronavirus.”
For Jacobs, a global leader in water treatment, biotech, and pharmaceutical work for the past 70 years, next generation infrastructure projects for Smart Cities, an urban area that uses technology to manage resources and services, transcends communities and is essential to resiliency and people experiences, Pragada said.
“Pre-COVID, on a scale of one to 10, the velocity of smart elements in infrastructure design was about a six because a client’s ability to observe the need and interactions was limited,” Pragada said. “Now, that smart technology element is accelerating. Now, technology is a right-of-entry, and we need to have this in everything we do as a platform for resiliency.”
Jacobs has launched a pilot program to monitor wastewater streams to help its clients understand the impacts and spread of COVID-19 within their communities.
“When you think Smart City now, you have to pull back from the idea of flying taxis to thinking more about the individuals and companies that make up a city – what makes us resilient and how can we integrate tech to drive an increase in preparedness,” Pragada said.
While phase one of the government stimulus packages focused on keeping people compensated and businesses alive, Pragada said the nation now needs to think about keeping state and local governments running through a sustainable infrastructure stimulus that is not solely funded on user fees and gas taxes, which are suffering.
“Let’s put some energy around infrastructure,” Pragada said. “I believe states will get creative and get liquidity into the market.”
Congresswoman Johnson said she continues to rally fellow committee members and those in the House leadership around considerations of new investments in infrastructure.
“It is my belief that, if done in a comprehensive and bipartisan manner, proper federal infrastructure spending can lay the foundation for lasting economic prosperity,” Congresswoman Johnson said.