The third tollroad in the greater Houston area will start construction of an Extension in Fort Bend County at a ceremony set for Feb 12. That is just weeks ahead of the planned opening of the main Westpark Toll Road in Harris County. Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) which operates the Sam Houston Tollway (Belt 8) and the Hardy Toll Road is near completion in construction of the Westpark Toll Road in its territory.
Macquarie, the major shareholders in 407ETR say that the company will "strongly contest" the provincial government's view that they are in "default" of their contract and need to get government approval for toll increases. They say 407ETR has "legal advice that its right to increase tolls is not subject to submission of a Change Request which must be approved or consented to by the Government."
US Sec Transport Norman Mineta recently announced release of a new economic indicator called the Transportation Services Index (TSI) which combines measures of the aggregate volumes of freight and passenger movement throughout the country. The New York Stock Exchange had the Sec do his stuff before he rang the opening bell, a daily ceremony that is regularly used to gain publicity for someone's cause.
The rail enthusiasts in northern Virginia want toll revenues to feed the yawning deficits of Dulles Rail - a proposed extension of the Metrorail from West Falls Church to Loudoun County beyond Dulles Airport. The rail line would be located most of the way in the median of the Dulles Access/Dulles Toll Road and the Dulles Greenway. The railers have introduced a bill in the state legislature to enable tolls to be increased to help support the rail losses. The project faces many hurdles. Property owners are resisting the special tax district.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has apparently given up on East River bridge tolls. City observers point out that his "city budget" or "January 2004 Financial Plan, Fiscal Years 2004-2008" as it is officially called no longer contains any out-year revenues from tolls. Just two years ago a similar document the Financial Plan, Fiscal Years 2002-2006 included on the revenue side $100m of new transport revenue in FY2004, $500m in FY2005 and $800m in FY2006.
Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich (Repub) is abolishing the Office of Smart Growth an important move in turning the state away from anti-road, anti-business policies. OSG was created by the former Gov Parris Glendening (Dem), the Univ MD political science professor who turned politician, raised a large war chest by promising to build roads, and then as governor became a radical green opposing all road improvements. OSG was quite ineffectual in its main objective of concentrating growth in established areas and reducing sprawl.
The Bush Administration's proposals on tolling as outlined in their "Fact Sheet" on reauthorization:
Modifies tolling provisions for Federal-aid highways. The Interstate System Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Pilot Program, established under TEA-21 to permit States to collect tolls on the Interstate for the purpose of reconstructing and rehabilitating Interstate highway corridors, is modified to ease the eligibility requirement for participation in the pilot program.
Autostrade SpA, Italy's largest tollster has accepted a six month delay in toll rate increases as part of an agreement with the national government to amend the control formulae. The 2.3% increase in tolls will go into effect July 1 instead of at the beginning of this year as originally proposed. The company has been in dispute with ANAS, the state toll motorway regulator about its application of a formula for toll rate increases. Tollsters in Italy set toll changes once a year according to a formula that is supposed to measure inflation, productivity, and the quality of service.
Virginia DOT hopes the whole state will be fully interoperable with the regional E-ZPass electronic toll system by year's end. TransCore is working on installing new software to enable the state's Smart Tag system to work as part of the east coast E-ZPass system. The first toll facilities to become interoperable will be the Dulles Greenway and Dulles Toll Road in northern Virginia and the Chesapeake Expressway in far southeast Virginia. They could go online doing transactions with E-ZPass transponders in the late summer or early fall.
A spokesman for the Toll Collect consortium in Berlin says the troubles are costing it $875m (E700m) in immediate losses this year and have jeopardized a similar capital outlay of $875m (E700m). Hans Burghardt Ziermann official spokesman for the tollster said this in an interview with the German magazine FOCUS. Ziermann was clearly attempting to get across the point that the group is already paying heavily for its non-performance in a context in which the government is demanding it agree to far higher penalties than are provided in its contract.