New Zealand's main road agency Transit New Zealand (transit means simply transport there) has announced a partnership contract with a group of six companies to jointly build and operate a toll motorway on State Route 1 in the northern part of the greater Auckland area.
The old saw about any publicity being good publicity may apply at 407ETR in Toronto. Traffic has been breaking records for the time of year, even while the pike was getting hell from teh government and much of the media. March traffic measured by vehicle-km traveled was 151m versus 138m in March of 2003 and 2002 - up almost 13%. Average weekday trips were 300k vs 285k last year, 10% up. (The difference is due to more weekdays this March.) February was also up strongly over the same month a year ago 301k vs 290k.
An AP report (2004-04-04) says: "Dr Jeffrey Runge head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said his agency is working to reduce traffic deaths overseas." That's good to know, since it is not doing that here in the US. A serious highway traffic agency would be out there with studies of the safety benefits of improved highways including conversion of arterials to expressways, construction of roundabouts in place of signals, truck/car segregation, and the like. They would study why tollroads are so much safer than free roads.
Despite opposition from some in the House Republican leadership Rep Mark Kennedy's pro-tolling FAST bill got to the floor of the House of Representatives April 2 and passed by a vote of 231 to 192. The bill allows tolling on interstate highways where this is used to finance construction of toll express or HOT (high occupancy free/toll others) lanes. Kennedy's bill requires the tolls be used in the corridor and that they be discontinued when the works are paid off. Kennedy has said he envisages the likelihood tolling will become permanent because other projects will arise to justify tolls.
The Democratic Party's main thinktank, the Democratic Leadership Council is urging relaxation of restrictions on tolls. It outlines growing highway congestion, then says: "But there is one source of relief that's on the table in Congress right now: relaxing the rules that now virtually prohibit states from using federal funds to build toll lanes and toll roads to reduce the really terrible traffic bottlenecks.
At a hearing 2004-04-01 of Virginia's advisory committee on toll lanes in the Washington Beltway major concern raised was over the developer requirement for no-compete commitments from the state. Fluor Corp the lead in the investor group which proposes to finance the toll express lanes said they would not proceed without assurance that the state won't build additional free capacity. The Beltway in Virginia is mostly 2x4 travel lanes though there are short sections in teh area of closespaced interchanges with additional collect-distributor lanes. Fluor would add 2x2 toll express lanes.
The Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay bridges were apparently two of ten original targets of Al Qaeda 9/11 2001. The British SUNDAY TIMES reported intelligence sources as revealing that interrogations of captured Jihadis and other sources indicate that two bridges on the west coast were on Osama bin Laden's target list of ten. Five planes were to be flown into east coast targets, which apparently included the White House and the Capitol as well as the three which were struck.
The Washington DC metro rail system faces a "systemic service meltdown condition as early as three years from now, its reliability falling, ridership loss... it's a death spiral." Those words of woe came from the system's chief executive Richard A White (WASH POST 2004-04-02). To maintain present levels of service the system needs $1.5b for maintenance on increasingly unreliable electrical systems, pumps and other running gear - much near 30 years old - and to buy the extra cars needed to run 8-car trains. And it has no funding for more than covering routine losses.