FHWA responds to TOLLROADSnews' criticism of their toll data

April 16, 2012
By Peter Samuel

An FHWA spokesman has responded to our strong criticism of their toll 'facilities' data. In what follows they take a sentence from my criticism and comment. We've laid it out FHWA: with their quote and response, and EDITOR: is our response.

FHWA: "No mention of the Henry Hudson Bridge, the Tappan Zee Bridge, the Thruway, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, Queens-Midtown Tunnel, or any toll facility as such."  All these toll facilities are in fact included in the report.

EDITOR: they may be mentioned elsewhere but as I wrote they were not listed under the heading 'Toll Facilities' and 'New York' and they should have been.
 
FHWA: "Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Auth. is not a 'toll facility' nor a separate toll agency from MTA."  The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority is considered an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

EDITOR: you have it right now. Someone who knows what they are doing will not list an affiliate agency and the parent agency as if they are separate toll agencies. And someone with an elementary grasp of the english language will not list agencies under a heading 'facilities.'
 
FHWA: "Then the FHWA data manglers have a couple of mysterious toll facility listings: Palisades Interstate Park Comm. and Olympic Regional Development Auth."  These are from a partial listing of toll facilities, and may include facilities that no longer charge tolls.

EDITOR: so FHWA is publishing some kind of potted history of where there may once have been a toll facility? I can't find any history, even, showing Pallisades Interstate Parkway was ever tolled. Why not stick to listing facilities that currently toll?

We were wrong in saying flatly New York Olympic Regional Development Authority doesn't toll. FHWA does have a case. The park authority in far northern NY state was set up after the 1980 Winter Olympics to maintain the park and ski facilities and it maintains the summer-only road to the peak of Whiteface Mountain collecting what they call admission fee ($16/car) from motorists. It is similar to 'tolls' on roads up to Pikes Peak CO, and the top of Mount Washington WA.

FHWA: The information is reported by and collected from state departments of transportation (DOTs).  The process is explained at

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/tollpage/dataexpl.cfm

We compile toll information from State DOTs and others that may sometimes provide different names for toll facilities.  Accordingly, we have started using a Toll ID number to keep track of them.  See

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/hpms/fieldmanual/appendixd.cfm
 
EDITOR: If this data is coming from state DOTs then the job is being given to unsupervised interns or clerks. Who in Virginia DOT for example would class VDOT as in control of the Dulles Toll Road at the very time the local news is full of protests about the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority's sale of billions of dollars of Dulles Toll Road toll revenue bonds, and its plans to hike Dulles tolls two and three fold? And who in New Jersey DOT would think the Garden State Parkway is still run by the long defunct New Jersey Highway Authority? Or in Maryland DOT who would not list the state's long established toll authority?

FHWA: We suggest that in the future you check with us first before printing more errors or insults.  The FHWA works to educate and offer information in a professional and respectful manner and expects nothing less from others.

EDITOR: with the exception of Olympic Regional Development Authority the errors are all FHWA's. Publishing data as grossly inaccurate as you publish on tolls is unprofessional. Give up on the lame the-states-told-us-that excuse and produce better data. Then FHWA will deserve and will be accorded respect.

A suggestion to FHWA. Either (1) employ someone who knows something about tolls to help plan the toll data collection and vet the tolls data, or if that's too much (2) recognize data from state DOT interns etc is going to be problematic, compile and label it as a draft and invite corrections from people who know the industry.

This is a followup to our April 13 report here:

http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/5873

ADDITION: One state DOT official tells us he has been trying for years to get the FHWA's Office of Highway Statistics to print that state's correct fuel-tax rate, without success. He encourages us with Hunter S Thompson 's advice: "Show no mercy to these swine."

You understand why state DOTs might assign only lowly interns and clerks to FHWA data requests and pass it along unvetted.

TOLLROADSnews 2012-04-16 CORRECTION Olympic Regional Development Authority April 17 9:30

ADDITION Apr 17 10:00

 


Leave a comment: