The Mississippi Senate has passed a toll enabling bill (SB2063) and action moves to the state house. The bill would authorize the state's controlling Mississippi (MS) Transportation Commission, or counties or other municipalities, by themselves or jointly, to construct toll roads or bridges, and authorize them to contract with others to do business building toll facilities, and authorize the issue of toll revenue bonds. Contracts for tolling with investor groups will provide for some control over toll rates, but the type of control is unspecified.
Cambell Newman campaigning to move congested traffic by sponsoring toll tunnelways has won election in Brisbane, the third city of Australia. Newman, the Liberal Party candidate handily defeated Labor which expressed skepticism about the tunnels idea.
Mayor-elect Newman said after his election that advancing the five tunnelways he proposed will be the major concern in his four year term of office. He says the first tunnel - a north-south link under the river and the central business district - will be open by the time of the next election in March 2008.
One of two groups contending for the right to build the Mitcham-Frankston Tollway on the eastern periphery of Melbourne Australia says it will finance the project with a public offering of stock. The ConnectEast consortium led by businesswoman Janet Holmes a Court, and including Holland, Alstom, Hyder and Theiss say they will rely heavily on "patient money" - equity capital - selling shares to the public as well as to institutional investors.
The Dominion Bond Rating Service Ltd in Toronto has removed 407 International owner of the Toronto tollroad from its "Under review" status. They have concluded that the tollster is in a strong legal position in rebuffing attempts by the new populist provincial administration to interfere in the setting of toll rates.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is qualifying contractors to bid on construction of a new Susquehanna River bridge in Harrisburg PA. It is part of the Turnpike's longterm widening and improvement plan costing upwards of $2b and intended eventually to provide for a third travel lane each direction plus hard shoulder each side, as well as more forgiving curvatures and improved site distances. The proposed Susquehanna bridge is at the heart of the Turnpike, within a stone's throw of its headquarters office building and within the Harrisburg metro area.
The WSA inhouse newsletter KEEPING TABS reports that people in Columbia SC, notably reporters there, recently began asking "Who is Wilbur Smith?" WSA has had its head office there in this modest sized (536k metro pop 2000) southern city for 30 years but the questions followed installation in recent weeks of an enormous sign "Wilbur Smith" in huge (2.4m 8ft high) white letters atop the parapet of the 20-storey building in which they are housed, and occupy 6 floors. In the past they just had a mention in the directory in the lobby.
San Antonio TX has a kind of toll agency with the appointment of the city's mayor Bill Thornton as its chairman. It's called the Bexar County Regional Mobility Authority. Under state legislation tolls can be levied by "regional mobility authorities" - surely one of the ugliest new phrases since they coined transportation corridor agency in southern California. The state governor appoints two board members and local government five. Thornton didn't get the toll authority off to a great start by telling the press he didn't like tolls!
The LOS ANGELES TIMES is reporting plans by the Orange County transport authority (OCTA) to take over the TCA tollroads. OCTA would dissolve the separate boards of the San Joaquin Hills (SJH) tollroad and the Foothill and Eastern (F&E) and combine their operations. Staff at the TCA which services both tollroads have recommended a merger because the F&E is profitable while the SJH seems to be a chronic loss-maker and risks eventual default on its borrowings.
A Federal Highways official has written that under present law tolls on interstate facilities cannot be used to fund rail. Robert Fonseca-Martinez, FHWA rep in Virginia wrote a letter dated Jan 28 2004 to the chief for program development at VDOT, Malcolm Kerley in response to an inquiry in connection with VA I-81 improvements during which rail enthusiasts had argued for toll profits to be used to subsidize rail operations. [A study found negligible freight was likely to move to rail.]
Jewel-Osco, the supermarket chain has sold 100k I-PASS toll taransponders for the Illinois Tollway in its first four months, more than the Tollway itself used to sell in a year. There are now 1.2m I-PASS transponders in use, up over 300k or 30% on this time last year. I-PASS has been available for ten years but only in the past two or three years has it really caught on. Sales out of the supermarkets currently account for two-thirds of the total.