[beta] TRN Weekly Review: Week of August 18-24, 2019

WSDOT Awarded $705 Million Express Lanes Contract to Flatiron-Lane JV

Washington State’s DOT (WSDOT) announced the award of its design/build contract for the I-405, Renton to Bellevue Widening and Express Toll Lanes project to a joint venture formed by Flatiron West and Lane Construction Corporation (Flatiron/Lane), which submitted the apparent best value proposal of $704,975,000. WSDOT said it expects to give Flatiron/Lane a notice to proceed on the first phase of design and construction later this year so that construction can start in early 2020. The project’s scope includes an extension of the current I-405 express lanes system, additional auxiliary lanes, interchange upgrades, an extension of King County’s Eastrail and “new infrastructure to support Sound Transit’s I-405 Stride Bus Rapid Transit system.”

$300 Million in Bridge Upgrades Were Added to Colorado DOT’s I-25 Express Project

Coloradoan reported, “A bridge at Northern Colorado’s busiest Interstate 25 interchange will get a complete overhaul, while another where a cyclist was killed will receive improvements not originally included in the North I-25 Express Lanes project. The [bridge work] will be funded thanks [to] more than $300 million awarded by the Colorado Transportation Commission last week. That amount matches the cost of the entire original project to add a toll lane more than 16 miles in both directions of I-25 from Johnstown to Fort Collins.”

These are just a few of the toll industry developments TRN covered last week. If you’re not a subscriber to Daily News Briefs, click here for a free, 14-day trial. Read the news as it happens every weekday morning.

Lawsuit Settlement Allowed $2.2 Billion NCDOT Toll Project to Proceed

WRAL reported, NCDOT and three environmental groups Thursday concluded a settlement of lawsuits delaying the department’s Complete 540 toll project. “The agreement . . . means the state can proceed with final permitting and project financing for the highway, known as the Triangle Expressway Southeast Extension. Construction . . . has been held up for years by environmental concerns, including an endangered mussel that forced state transportation officials to look at various alternative routes.”

E-470 Solicited P3 Proposals to Develop Former Toll Plaza Sites

The E-470 Public Highway Authority announced the release of a Request for Proposals “to invite the private sector to commercially develop four highly-visible sites with each site consisting of a northbound and southbound parcel. The public-private partnership would be implemented under a long-term ground lease agreement. Totaling more than 36 acres, the land and existing buildings were formerly used for cash toll collection until 2009 when E-470 became one of the first toll systems in the nation to convert to a non-stop, cashless system.” (RFP documents can be downloaded from BidNetDirect.com; more information about the sites and the proposal process is available at the project website, E-470Sites.com.)

Mobile MPO Tabled a Vote on Including the I-10 Bridge Project in Its 2020-2023 TIP

AL.com reported, “A unanimous vote [yesterday] by city leaders from across Mobile County temporarily removes the Interstate 10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project from a list of short-term local transportation priorities, creating uncertainty about its future but also giving the state a chance to look at alternatives to tolling. The vote by the Mobile Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) was to ‘table’ a decision on whether to include the $2.1 billion project within the group’s transportation planning document. . . .”

AL.com also reported that two Alabama state representatives (one of them, the House Speaker) who sit on the nine-member Toll Road, Bridge and Tunnel Authority said “they are keeping an ‘open mind’ toward the state’s proposed plans to finance a Mobile interstate bridge project with tolls.”

MDX Used Its Reprieve to Advance the Kendall Parkway Project

Miami Herald reported, “A judge saved the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, at least for now, and the toll agency is ready to use its reprieve to create momentum to build the 836 expressway into West Kendall.” MDX board members reportedly met Tuesday and decided they want to begin hiring firms to design the $1 billion Kendall Parkway. MDX executive director Javier Rodriguez said he will ask directors to approve a bidding process during a meeting this week. The newspaper noted, “Time may be short: MDX lawyers are waiting for the state to appeal an Aug. 9 lower court ruling that struck down a new law” that would have dissolved MDX and replaced it with a new agency.

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Can Maryland Afford Governor Hogan’s Latest Toll Reductions?

Maryland Matters reported on a debate over Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s recently announced “third round of historic toll relief” and its potential consequences. According to Delegate Kathleen Dumais (D), the House majority leader, “We have an infrastructure problem. [For Hogan] to do a feel-good, ‘I’m going to cut tolls,’ without expressing how we’re going to make up [lost revenue] and continue with the infrastructure improvements that we need, it just makes no sense and is poor governance.” Administration representatives counter that the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) is on a sound financial footing and Hogan is fulfilling his pledge to “put money back into the pockets of hardworking Marylanders.”

Construction of NCDOT’s I-485 Express Lanes Began

“Roads & Bridges” Magazine reported, “Construction work has begun on the I-485 Express Lanes project . . . , which aims to offer drivers the option of more reliable travel times in the Charlotte area. According to the North Carolina DOT (NCDOT), the project will add an express lane in the median in each direction on I-485 between I-77 and U.S. 74 (Independence ​​Boulevard) to improve traffic flow in this critical transportation corridor. . . . The I-485 Express Lanes are part of a larger network of express lanes implemented by the North Carolina Turnpike Authority in the Charlotte area.”

New Brunswick Government Rejected City’s Toll Proposal

Global News reported, the provincial government of New Brunswick rejected a proposal by the City of St. John to toll “morning inbound commuters from the outlying communities.” A councillor who favors tolling reportedly said it was projected to bring the financially troubled city $10 million (approximately US$7.5 million) per year, and added, “Simply put, we have 18,000 cars a day that come in and out of the city that don’t pay their taxes in the city.”

NY Governor’s License Plate Replacement Plan Stirred Opposition

WRGB reported, “The cries are growing against Governor Cuomo’s plan to make new license plates — and make [car owners] pay extra for them. And now there is this from the NYS Thruway Authority, despite the Governor’s insistence that current plates may not work with EZ Pass. Officials at the Thruway Authority tell us there have been almost no problems reading the current plates at cashless tolling locations. In the meantime, members of Cuomo’s own party are coming out in droves to argue against the plan. . . .”

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New CRS Report Cited Tolls as One Solution for the US Highway Budget Shortfall

The Regulatory Review (a University of Pennsylvania online publication) covered the release of a recent Congressional Research Service report on the inadequacy of the current method of provisioning the federal Highway Trust Fund. According to the article, CRS recognizes some limits on tolling’s ability to close the entire funding gap but recommends the federal government relax limits on the tolling of interstate highways.

Unique Lawsuit Targets Designers and Builders of Collapsed FIU Bridge

Miami Herald  reported, a former police officer, among the first to respond to the 2018 pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University, “has filed what South Florida experts say may rank as a first-of-its-kind civil lawsuit. Her suit seeks compensation [for several injuries, including post-traumatic stress,] not from her employer but from the builders, engineers and architects who constructed the fatally flawed structure. . . .” According to the newspaper, “If successful, her case could potentially open the door to similar suits by first responders in the future. But it still has a long way to go and there is, experts say, an obvious line of defense: Dealing with death and disaster is just a part of the job for cops, firefighters and many emergency workers.” The article notes that at least 18 lawsuits are pending against 25 defendants involved in the bridge project.

German Lawmaker Proposed Using Truck Tolls to Support Rail Transport

Clean Energy Wire reported, “Germany should introduce a truck toll on all German roads and use the revenues to strengthen the country’s rail freight infrastructure, said conservative politician Andreas Jung (CDU) in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.” The article adds, “Rail transport group Allianz pro Schiene welcomed Jung’s proposal as an ‘important contribution to the transport transition and a strong signal ahead of the climate cabinet decisions in September.’ Until now, revenues from road traffic taxes and levies have only been used for road traffic, the organisation said in a press release. ‘It is a great step forward if the [conservative CDU/CSU alliance] abolishes this traditional principle.’”

UK Now Has More EV Charging Stations Than Gas Stations

TheNewsWheel.com reported, “The popularity of all-electric and hybrid electric vehicles shows no sign of slowing down, and the segment just passed a major milestone on the road to full adoption in Europe.” The article cited a Nissan research finding that “the UK is now home to more plug-in vehicle charging stations than traditional gas stations.” It added, “The expansion of the charging network in Britain comes after a widespread push by the government to reduce the country’s carbon footprint, especially in the heart of London,” where the congestion pricing zone now has only four gas stations compared with hundreds of electric charging locations.

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