[beta] TRN Weekly Review: Week of January 17-23, 2021

New I-69 Bridge Between Indiana And Kentucky Will Be Tolled

Inside INdiana Business reported on the Indiana Department of Transportation’s announcement that the planned bistate I-69 Ohio River Crossing (I-69 ORX) will be tolled, but the remaining span of the nearby US 41 bridge will remain toll-free. That decision, coupled with a confirmation of the new bridge’s preferred route, completed the draft environmental impact study conducted by INDOT and the State of Kentucky, its project partner. INDOT reportedly stated that publication of a final EIS and a Record of Decision will take place later this year, and construction of the bridge is projected to start after the final section of an I-69 extension between Martinsville and Indianapolis opens in late 2024.

Ohio Turnpike Announced It Will Invest $205 Million In Capital Improvements

The Ohio Turnpike’s January newsletter noted that the authority’s “robust” 2020 capital improvement program will be followed by another in 2021. “All told, a $205 million capital improvement program is planned for 2021,” according to chief engineer Tony Yacobucci. He cites last year’s accomplishments and lists continuing projects in the article.

These are 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.

Massachusetts Governor Signed Transportation Financing Bill With Some Revisions

“CommonWealth” Magazine reported, Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed a transportation bond bill into law after using his line item veto authority to strike several provisions that the legislature won’t be able to override. The law permits up to $16.5 billion in borrowing for a wide range of highway, bridge and transit projects. Baker eliminated a provision that would have prohibited increases in turnpike tolls to help pay for the construction of the Allston interchange project. He also struck a requirement that the state convene a congestion pricing study commission.

Utah Governor Acknowledged The Need For Tolling, RUC And Other Measures To Replace Gas Tax

Deseret News columnist Jay Evensen reported that the budget proposal submitted by Utah’s new governor, Spencer Cox (R), states that the diminishing gas tax will no longer support highway construction and maintenance needs, and it should be replaced by “a mix of alternatives such as direct mileage-based charges, congestion pricing, expanded tolling, registration fees and fuel taxes.” Cox told the columnist he knows change will be unpopular, but he plans to push for it anyway. He says motorists “won’t see any drastic moves . . . during the upcoming legislative session,” although “high-level discussions are underway.”

Wyoming Bill Proposes A Road Usage Charge Program

Cody Enterprise reported, Wyoming state lawmakers are considering a bill (HB 0037) that would impose a road usage charge to raise an estimated $123 million per year for Wyoming DOT and create a stable funding source that would eventually supplant the state’s fuel tax. The article noted that WYDOT currently has a $354 million annual budget deficit.

Oregon DOT Announced A New Phase Of Its RUC Pilot

Oregon DOT announced, “With support from a federal grant, ODOT is testing new ways to fund transportation projects at the city and county level using the state’s pay-per-mile system, OReGO. Portland-area drivers are being recruited now through early February to participate in OReGO’s Local Road Usage Charge Pilot,” which will test three potential funding models. Participants “can earn up to $450 if they plug a device into their vehicle . . . , drive that vehicle around the Portland Metro area, and answer questions about their experience.” The pilot will be in effect through late summer.

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Industry People Made News

The US Department of Transportation announced President Biden’s selection of key members of the department’s leadership team. Lana Hurdle, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs, will be acting secretary pending the Senate’s confirmation of secretary-designate Pete  Buttigieg, who had a committee hearing on Thursday and may get a confirmation vote this week.

The New York Times reported on former New York City transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg’s nomination to be USDOT deputy secretary.

“CommonWealth Magazine” reported that MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack was named deputy administrator of USDOT’s Federal Highway Administration. (She will assume the post and begin serving as acting FHWA administrator on Wednesday, January 27.) Jamey Tesler will fill the MassDOT vacancy in an acting capacity.

San José Spotlight reported that Nuria Fernandez, general manager and CEO of Santa Clara County’s Valley Transportation Authority, submitted her resignation on Tuesday in anticipation of being nominated to lead the Federal Transit Administration. (Fernandez has assumed the FTA deputy administrator role for now.) VTA general counsel Evelynn Tran will act as CEO on an interim basis.

“Engineering News-Record” editors selected HNTB toll group executive Mary Jane O’Meara to receive ENR New England’s Legacy Award, given annually “to an individual in the region who has established a solid ‘legacy’ of lifetime service to the construction industry, their colleagues and to their community.”

InsideNoVa.com reported that Transurban North America will have a new president, Ms. Pierce Coffee, effective February 15. She will replace Jennifer Aument, who is departing Transurban to become chief executive of AECOM’s global transportation business.

AECOM also announced that Drew Jeter will take on leadership of the firm’s global program management business.

Minnesota DOT announced the appointment of Kim Collins as the department’s new deputy commissioner and chief administrative officer. “Collins succeeds Scott Peterson, who retired from MnDOT in January after 29 years in state service.

The SH 130 Concession Company named Doug Wilson (the former Elizabeth River Crossings chief executive) its new CEO. He succeeds Tyler Duvall, who remains with the company as chairman of the board.

WAVY reported that David Sullivan, Elizabeth River Crossings’ director of revenue, was named CEO of the toll tunnel operating company.

TxTag Rolled Out A Website Upgrade, Began Processing Backlogged Transactions

TxTag operations posted an “important message” Thursday to notify customers of the rollout of a website upgrade and other developments in the ongoing process of transition to a new toll system technology platform. Among other thing, customers were advised that months of toll transactions are only now being posted to their accounts, meaning many of them will see a wave of new charges. (Late fees won’t be assessed while the transition is in progress.)

KXAN covered the transition, following up on its December 2020 reporting that some customers have complaints about misdirected bills and delayed posting of charges.

Colorado DOT Responded To Critics Of Central 70 And Design-Build Delivery

The Gazette reported, Colorado DOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew said unanticipated costs for construction of the Central 70 project in Denver will add between $100 million and $150 million to the original $1.2 billion budget. (Thanks to a refinancing arrangement with the contractor, Kiewit Meridiam Partners, taxpayers will be on the hook for just $12 million.) During her appearance before a legislative budget committee, Lew discussed the refinancing burden facing Kiewit Meridiam and the design issues that drove up costs. That sparked some senatorial comment and criticism about the the design-build method CDOT followed in awarding the contract and a defense of the procurement by CDOT officials.

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MTA Moved Forward A Toll Hike Discussion While Postponing Any Fare Increases

Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Patrick Foye announced Monday that the authority has decided to postpone a transit fare increase for several months but “will move forward with a discussion and vote on recommended toll changes in February.” He cited as reasons for the postponement recent public outreach that revealed the extent of COVID-19’s impact on people who rely on transit services and optimism that the new administration and Congress will provide MTA with as much as $8 billion in additional federal aid.

PIKEPASS System Turned 30, Coinciding With OTA’s Advance To AET

Muskogee Phoenix reported on a milestone in the history of electronic toll collection. Thirty years ago — on January 1, 1991 — the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, under executive director Richard Ridings, launched PIKEPASS and became the first state agency to adopt an electronic collection system. In the article, Tim Gatz, OTA chief and ODOT secretary, discussed the agency’s leadership in ETC development and its plan to begin rolling out PlatePay, an all-electronic system, this year.

Government Financial Woes May Unlock New Opportunities For P3 Promoters

The New York Times reported on the possibility that state and local government financial hardships attributable to COVID-19 may open up new opportunities for private sector developers looking to partner with public agencies on infrastructure projects. The article noted that US state and local governments have been slower to embrace the P3 model than some of their overseas counterparts, but circumstances may change in view of the current economic distress.

Biden’s COVID-19 Relief Proposal Includes Significant Aid For Transportation Agencies

Transport Topics looked at aid provisions for transportation agencies in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, a package of emergency relief measures the Biden administration has proposed to Congress. The article noted that Democrats, in particular, welcomed the measure, but leadership hasn’t scheduled it for consideration yet.

Greece Received EU Approval For Tollway Project Funding

The European Commission announced that it has approved Greek public funding of €442 million (US$535.8 million) for the construction of the north section of the Central Greece Motorway. The Commission also approved government support estimated at €38 million (US$46 million) “to cover the operating and maintenance expenses of the section, in case the toll revenues are not sufficient.” The announcement noted that the approval will allow Greece to complete its segment of the E65 trans-European auto route.

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