The Columbian reported, on Wednesday, the Washington State Senate passed a bill that conditionally authorizes tolling of the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River to generate revenue for its proposed replacement. SB 5765 passed by a vote of 32 to 16, and it will now undergo consideration by the House Transportation Committee. The measure permits Washington’s transportation commision to “enter into a bistate agreement with the Oregon state transportation commission regarding the mutual or joint setting, adjustment, and review of toll rates and exemptions. . . .” The article notes, “Tolling is expected to generate $1.2 billion of the bridge replacement program’s estimated $6 billion cost, with state and federal funds making up the rest.”
Washington State DOT (WSDOT) issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) directed to “consultants who wish to be evaluated and considered to provide Customer Service Operations Support” in regard to current and future toll facility operations. WSDOT’s Toll Division “is seeking ongoing toll program management and operations support that includes a range of tasks for day-to-day management support for Customer Service Operations.” WSDOT expects that an agreement, if one is ultimately awarded, would have a six-year term valued at approximately $3,830,000, and would include extension options. More information and the RFQ documentation is available online at https://wsdot.wa.gov/business-wsdot/contracting-opportunities/2023-toll-division-customer-service-operations-support.
Grupo ACS announced that its IRIDIUM subsidiary, acting though ACS Infrastructure Development, Inc., has reached an agreement to purchase a Shikun & Binui subsidiary’s entire 21.62-percent stake in Blueridge Transportation Group, which developed and operates the Drive288 express lanes in Houston. Once the purchase agreement is executed (it is “subject to the fulfillment of the usual conditions”), ACS will own 100 percent of the Texas SH 288 concession. “The price of the acquisition,” according to the announcement, “is US$450 million (approximately 391 million euros).”
Globes reported that Shikun & Binui “invested $100 million in the project, so that it will enjoy returns of more than four times its investment in just over five years. . . . Shikun & Binui did not detail the cash flow and profit that can be expected from the sale.”
These are some 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.
WRAL reported, on Wednesday, the North Carolina Senate Transportation Committee approved a bill (SB 354) that would address the state’s transportation funding deficit by, among other things, authorizing NCDOT and the turnpike authority (NCTA) to undertake more public-private partnership projects. Current law states that the agencies collectively may not engage in more than three P3-financed projects. SB 354 would raise that cap and permit the department and NCTA to enter into up to three agreements each. The bipartisan measure would also increase the state’s electric vehicle registration fee by $40; impose a new $90 annual registration fee for hybrid vehicles; remove a cap on the state’s vehicle purchase tax; and impose a new per-trip tax on ridesharing service. The bill will now undergo review in the Senate Finance Committee, where it is likely to be amended. One of the cosponsors acknowledged that the bill’s potential to increase the number of toll roads is not popular.
For its quest to widen a 42-mile stretch of I-75 in Lee and Collier counties, Florida DOT will need to find more than $2 billion, WGCU reported. Planners still need to secure funding to even design the nascent project, but FDOT official Joshua Jester said the roadway needs more lanes by 2045. The goal is to add both a north- and south-bound lane, plus express lanes north of Estero. Some interchanges also would be modified. FDOT said “it is studying” whether to impose tolls on the express lanes. The last widening on I-75 added a third lane in each direction about 15 years ago at a cost of roughly $500 million. The article also cited some interchange construction that is either currently underway or scheduled to begin in the fall of 2024.
SeeNews reported, “Croatia’s state-owned motorway management company Hrvatske Autoceste (HAC) said on Thursday that it has opened a tender for the introduction of a new electronic toll payment system estimated at 100 million euro ($109 million). The deadline for submitting bids in the tender is June 5, the company said in a statement. ‘The tender is available . . . on the European Union’s website for public procurement (Tenders Electronic Daily) and on the local website for public procurement of state gazette Narodne Novine (EOJN) and will last 60 days,’ HAC said.” (TRN inserted a link.)
Kapsch TrafficCom announced a “major update” of its Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) software. “The latest release features a reworked architecture that includes various deep learning elements, resulting in a significant performance boost. With the new ANPR software, an artificial intelligence software was trained to accurately and reliably identify number plates with hundreds of thousands of images in a [manner compliant with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)].” Kapsch’s Julia Azfar said the software upgrade was the product of a continuous improvement process that involves collaboration with partners and suppliers “to combine the latest technologies on the market with [Kapsch’s] own expertise in image processing and in artificial intelligence.” The new recognition software was trained through a process of manual image annotation. Kapsch obtained annotation workers in conjunction with its Vienna pilot project to introduce disadvantaged people to the job market or prepare them for new occupations.
LIHerald.com reported, the Nassau County (New York) Bridge Authority took another step toward converting the Atlantic Beach Bridge to all-electronic tolling in February when it entered into an implementation agreement with TRMI Systems Integration. The authority said it is also planning to “renovate, refurbish and paint the existing 70 plus year-old toll plaza structure, for safety improvements for our customers and employees and to support the new upcoming E-ZPass System.” Through Metropolitan Transportation Authority sponsorship, the authority will become an affiliate of the New York E-ZPass Customer Service Center and enjoy the benefits of the services it provides. Authority officials estimate the costs of conversion will reach $6 million. Obtaining the necessary funds was part of the reason they gave for imposing a January 1, 2023, toll increase that aroused some controversy, although it was the first increase since 2007.
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Plaquemine Post South reported, “The environmental study to determine the site of [a proposed new Mississippi River toll bridge in greater Baton Rouge] . . . could come earlier than expected. That environmental study could be completed by the first part of next year, [Louisiana transportation secretary] Dr. Eric Kalivoda said at last week’s meeting of the state Roads and Bridges Committee. Completion of the study [would] allow final selection of the location in early 2024 rather than summer.” The article also addressed continuing uncertainty over how much, if any, support the bridge project will get from the person voters elect in November to replace term-limited Governor John Bel Edwards (D). (Both the governor and the candidate he is endorsing, former state transportation secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson, strongly support the project.)
PennDOT announced that its Office of Public-Private Partnerships is accepting unsolicited proposals from the private sector through April 30. Twice each year, in October and April, the department accepts submissions related to “PennDOT-owned projects, infrastructure, and services,” as well as non-PennDOT assets controlled by other state transportation entities such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and transit authorities. PennDOT will entertain proposals for “innovative ways to deliver transportation projects across a variety of modes including roads, bridges, rail, aviation, and ports,” and for “more efficient models to manage existing transportation-related services and programs.” More information is available at https://www.dot18.pa.gov/p3/ppforms.nsf.
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) published a brief summary of its board’s regular monthly board meeting, held Tuesday. The document highlighted: approval of a $552,000 contract with Midstate Traffic Control, Inc., for fabrication and delivery of 13 toll gantries needed to complete the Turner Turnpike’s conversion to all-electronic tolling; conditional authorization of an increase in speed limits on sections of the H.E. Bailey, Cimarron and Muskogee Turnpikes from 75 MPH to 80 MPH; and a board briefing on OTA’s 2023 work zone safety campaign. According to the detailed April 4 meeting agenda, other business included approval of an increase (not to exceed $60,000) in OTA’s contract for the mail fulfillment of PIKEPASS transponder orders, and authorization to negotiate and execute “additional or amended miscellaneous task orders and special projects, governed by the TransCore Electronic Toll System Maintenance Agreement, in an aggregate amount not to exceed $13,995,877.”
Neology, the San Diego-based tolling and mobility technology provider, announced two new executive hires. John Miller, formerly associated with Kapsch TrafficCom, Schneider Electric and Telvent/Caseta, and Transurban, has joined Neology as vice president of product and technical delivery. According to the announcement, “Miller brings over 16 years of experience in building, deploying, and optimizing next-generation roadside, operational and commercial back-office solutions as a senior executive in product management and engineering.” Henrique Cordeiro is Neology’s new vice president of business development for North America. Formerly with Brisa’s A-to-Be, Cordeiro “has focused on the tolling, mobility and [ITS] landscape for the past seven years,” according to the release announcing his appointment. “We look forward to growing our business under Henrique’s leadership,” said Bradley Feldmann, Neology chair and CEO.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) announced his appointment of Julie Eiselt to the board of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority as a member at-large. Eiselt was a Charlotte City Council member for seven years before retiring at the end of 2022. Eiselt was also mayor pro-tem during the final five years of her term. She is a former bank executive.
BNamericas (subscription required for full access) reported, “Mexico will add five highway public-private partnerships (PPP) to the 2020-24 national infrastructure program (PNI), which includes 43 highways for 201bn pesos (US$10bn) so far. ‘Five new toll road proposals are being incorporated, which will be announced soon in due course. Right now they are in a stage of preparation,’ infrastructure, communications and transportation minister Jorge Nuño Lara . . . said during a press conference on Thursday [March 30]. Overall, the PNI involves 68 projects for 526bn pesos, which were presented in two packages in October and December 2020.” The article added, “Most of the PNI’s highways include amended concessions so companies can operate them for an extended period in exchange for new expansions or modernizations in a process known as desdoblamiento.”
Associated Press reported, “Nearly 43,000 people died in U.S. traffic crashes in 2021, the highest number in 16 years with deaths due to speeding and impaired or distracted driving on the rise. The 2021 final numbers, released Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, confirmed earlier estimates by the agency showing a 10.5% increase in deaths over 2020. That’s the highest number since 2005 and the largest percentage increase since 1975.” The data show substantial increases in deaths due to all major causes of fatal crashes, including distracted driving, unbelted passengers, alcohol-impaired driving and speeding.