[beta] TRN Weekly Review: Week of May 12-18, 2019

GDOT Data Revealed Northwest Express Lanes Are Outperforming Expectations

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Georgia DOT’s latest Northwest Corridor express lanes traffic data revealed a dramatic improvement in I-75 corridor mobility. Among other things, “GDOT says the average speed on I-75 northbound from I-285 to I-575 at afternoon rush hour’s peak was 40 mph in April – twice the speed from April 2018, before the new lanes opened. GDOT also says rush hour has been reduced by an hour in the morning and in the afternoon.”

Poll Results Showed Majority of DC Area Residents Support Express Lanes Plan

The Washington Post reported, “A clear majority of Washington-area residents favor adding express toll lanes to Interstate 270 and Maryland’s part of the Capital Beltway, a centerpiece of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s traffic relief plans, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll. But support is uneven in the Maryland suburbs, and most residents regionwide say they are concerned about tolls being too expensive, the lanes failing to reduce traffic and nearby homes being destroyed by wider highways.”

According to The Post, the poll results also showed that a majority of Washington-area residents oppose congestion pricing, an idea broached in the DC council.

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West Virginia Turnpike Reported to Be Studying Possible Safety Upgrades

MetroNews reported, West Virginia Parkways Authority General Manager Greg Barr said the results of a comprehensive safety analysis “may be available when the Parkways Authority Board meets at its next regular public session June 13th.” The article noted that the authority recently reduced the speed limit on one accident-plagued segment of I-77, and it is contemplating additional safety measures including application of friction course material to the roadway surface and installation of “semi-rigid separation steel guardrail to reinforce the existing median.”

FDOT Opened Metro Jacksonville’s First Express Lanes

WJCT reported, FDOT’s  new I-295 express lanes (from I-95 to the Buckman Bridge in Jacksonville) were scheduled for opening on Saturday, although tolling will not begin until tomorrow, May 20. State transportation secretary Kevin Thibault said tolls will be charged only during peak travel times — defined as 6 AM to 10 AM, and 3 PM to 7 PM, Monday through Friday — and non-peak use will be free.

CTRMA’s Newest Tollway Neared Completion

KVUE reported that the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is wrapping up construction of SH 45SW and expects to open the new toll road “in a few weeks, weather permitting.” CTRMA executive director Mike Heiligenstein told KVUE toll funding made it possible for the $110 million, four-lane highway project to be built “in record time.”

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Connecticut Democrats Tweaked Toll Bill while Republicans Offered New Alternative

Hartford Courant reported, “The final version of the controversial tolls bill has not been publicly released, but a summary that was given to legislators shows a wide variety of elements that are being crafted into the final bill.” The bill’s provisions now reportedly include a state gasoline tax reduction of five cents a gallon over five years, automatic monthly E-ZPass account credits for low-income individuals and families, and an option to make cash E-ZPass account replenishments at convenience stores.

NBC News Connecticut reported that Republican lawmakers announced a new “five-step transportation plan” on Thursday, their latest alternative to the electronic toll plan presented by Governor Ned Lamont.

Supporters and Foes of Toll Road Expansion Pressured Florida’s Governor

CBS News Miami reported, “As [Florida Governor] Ron DeSantis considers a bill aimed at building or expanding three toll roads, he is facing pressure from both sides of the controversial issue.” The article noted that while environmentalists kicked off a series of protests around the state, the bill’s advocates “touted” the support of Craig Fugate, a former federal and state emergency management official, who said the state needs more hurricane evacuation routes.

Debate Intensified over SANDAG Transit and Congestion Pricing Plan

Del Mar Times reported, “New details of a controversial plan to prioritize rail over widening metro [San Diego] freeways are starting to emerge. . . . Officials with the San Diego Association of Governments told the Union-Tribune last week that the agency plans to run trains along highway corridors that travel as fast as 100 miles an hour. . . . At the same time, SANDAG plans to roll out so-called congestion pricing on those stretches of freeway, which would charge drivers a fluctuating toll based on traffic conditions. Experts say this ambitious, multi-billion-dollar proposal could be the first of its kind in the country.”

Surge in TEXpress Traffic and Tolls Attracted Officials’ Attention

NBC News Dallas-Fort Worth visited the LBJ Express and North Tarrant Express Traffic Management Center to observe traffic monitoring and toll adjustment operations. The article noted, “Recently, toll prices in TEXpress lanes have spiked higher than usual during peak hours. In some cases, commuters have reported them to be five times higher – or more – than during normal traffic.” Officials of TxDOT and the North Central Texas Council of Governments said they would meet and inquire into the rising cost of tolls.

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Oregon House Speaker Proposed Additional $700 Million in Transportation Spending

The Oregonian reported, House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) wants to spend $700 million — half of an Oregon tax surplus rebate called “the kicker” — on transportation projects, “including fully-funding a plan to widen and seismically retrofit a key bridge on Interstate 205 over the Willamette River. Kotek introduced a bill Thursday that outlined her plan to retain half of the state’s record kicker rebate, instead of sending the money back to taxpayers in 2020.”

New IL Tollway CEO Took a Neutral Stance on Proposed Route 53 Extension

Daily Herald reported, one of the toughest issues facing the Illinois Tollway’s new chief executive, Jose Alvarez, is what to do about the controversial proposal to extend Route 53 into Lake County (one aspect of the tollway-funded “Tri-County Access Study”). He told the newspaper he is neutral on the extension “for now,” and won’t immediately cancel the study. He added that he wants to “prioritize customer service and hopes to stabilize an agency that’s been churning for months.”

NTTA Chair Resigned to Accept Elective Office

CBS News Dallas-Fort Worth reports, Kenneth Barr, chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority board since 2011, stepped down yesterday because voters recently elected him to a county college board of trustees. According to the article, “Denton County Representative John Mahalik was elected Board Chairman to fulfill the remainder of Barr’s term, which ends in August.”

Uber Data Provided Insights for Seattle Congestion Pricing Researchers

Sightline Institute reported on how it used a new source of free data provided by Uber “to inform our research on how to structure an equitable and effective congestion pricing program for Seattle.” The resource reportedly “allows citizens and planners to examine average travel speeds on any road segment for any hour of the day in six cities where Uber operates,” and helps answer key questions about whether and how Seattle congestion pricing might work.

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