TRN Weekly Review: Week of April 9-15, 2023

I-77 Express Toll Revenue Increased 70 Percent In 2022

WFAE reported, the Cintra-led concession that operates the I-77 express lanes in metro Charlotte “generated more than $59 million in toll revenue in 2022, a nearly 70% increase from how much money the lanes produced a year earlier. The increase was mostly due to I-77 Mobility Partners being able to charge more money per trip. The price of the toll lanes is set, in part, by how much traffic is in the free lanes. In 2021, the average toll transaction was $1.20. In 2022, as more people returned to the office [following pandemic lockdowns] and congestion increased, the average toll jumped to $1.70.” Profit data is unavailable, according to the article, but it is known that operating revenue “is now well ahead of projections, even in spite of the pandemic.”

NJTA Proposes To Upgrade 3.5-Mile Segment Of Garden State Parkway

Patch (Toms River, NJ) reported, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA) has been accepting public comment on its preliminary design of proposed changes to a 3.5-mile stretch of the Garden State Parkway through Toms River. Crash statistics on the roadway exceed state averages, and the nearly 75-year-old highway does not meet current standards. “The project, which is still in preliminary stages, could begin construction in 2025 and the turnpike authority estimates four years for the work to be completed.”

Utah Appropriated Funds For Cottonwood Canyons Mobility Improvement Projects

The Salt Lake Tribune reported, a Utah supplemental appropriations bill (SB 2) signed last month allocates $150 million for alleviating traffic problems in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, popular outdoor recreation destinations near Salt Lake City. The funding, designated for creating “enhanced bus service, [cashless] tolling, a mobility hub, and resort bus stops,” becomes available in July, but Utah DOT won’t begin projects immediately. It will complete its Little Cottonwood Canyon environmental impact study — a record of decision is expected this summer — before deciding exactly how to spend the money. A project official said bus service improvements and mobility hub construction, tasks expected to take two years, must precede any tolling. Rather than toll canyon entrances, Utah DOT is currently inclined to charge only for personal vehicle entry into two popular ski resort areas.

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.

WSJ: Texas-Mexico Toll Bridges “Race To Expand As Trade Grows”

The Wall Street Journal reported, “Bridges across the Rio Grande that serve as international ports of entry between the U.S. and Mexico are racing to expand amid growing trade between the two countries, especially via Texas.” WSJ noted, “Although they serve as entries to the U.S. manned by the federal government, most of the international bridges are built and owned by the communities that surround them, and a few are privately owned. That means that revenue from the tolls vehicles pay to cross stays local, significantly bolstering the budgets of low-income border cities and counties.” The article looked at the financial and regulatory challenges presented by expansion projects and examined several now in progress.

FDOT, FTE And CFX Will Participate In Florida County’s “Transportation Summit”

Osceola News-Gazette reported, Osceola County, Florida, will host a “transportation summit” in Kissimmee on the morning of Tuesday, May 9. “Attendees will get to hear from the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX), the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 5, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise and MetroPlan Orlando . . . about ongoing road projects, future plans, and how these initiatives will ultimately impact the local road network, and drivers. With multiple billions of dollars in road projects in the planning, or even construction phase, later this year,” Osceola County has officially declared 2023 its “Year of Transportation.” More information about the summit and registration can be found at

Vermont Legislation Would Task DMV With Devising New EV Mileage Fee

VTDigger reported, Vermont’s annual omnibus transportation bill (H 479), which has cleared the House and is now under Senate review, would have the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a division of the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT), devise a mileage-based use fee for electric vehicles (EVs) by 2025. The fee is proposed to compensate for the loss of fuel tax revenue, which comprises more than 25 percent of state transportation funding. AOT officials have suggested that fees could be calculated from “odometer readings, which are already collected during annual vehicle inspections.” That proposal aligns with recommendations from a 2022 state study. Environmental groups, including the Vermont Sierra Club, oppose new EV fees because of their potential to discourage consumer adoption and frustrate efforts to meet state climate action goals. The article detailed arguments about potential inequities in the proposed system that are acknowledged by AOT officials. The legislation would also impose a higher annual registration fee for hybrid vehicles, and it urges progress toward creating a separate fee on energy dispensed through EV chargers.

Bay Area Pilot Program Reduces Tolls For Low-Income I-880 Express Lanes Users

Bay Area drivers with a FasTrak account and a household income at or below 200 percent of the poverty level are now eligible to participate in a pilot program to reduce or eliminate their charges for travel on the I-880 express lanes, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) announced. If traveling solo, a participant will get tolls reduced by half. The discount jumps to 75 percent for travel with one passenger, and there’s no charge when three or more people are in the car. Application materials are already available in four languages, and the MTC’s Bay Area Infrastructure Financing Authority affiliate, which is administering the pilot, is conducting community outreach to spread the word. The Express Lanes START project will run for 18 months, “with evaluation of the program results to cover the first 12 months of operations. Once the evaluation is complete, MTC will decide whether to continue the program.” The pilot involves the I-880 facility only, and so does not extend to the region’s toll bridges or other express lanes.

Oklahoma Turnpike Suspended All Work On Expansion Initiative

The Oklahoman reported, “The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority [OTA] notified its board and its consultants Tuesday that all work on its $5 billion ACCESS Oklahoma expansion plan [has been as of Friday, April 14] as the agency is confronted with multiple lawsuits and an [investigative] audit requested by Attorney General Genter Drummond. The agency previously halted work on the controversial Kickapoo Turnpike and parts of the toll road’s planned east-west connection and Tri-City connector.” OTA chief executive and Oklahoma DOT secretary Tim Gatz stated in a news release the lawsuits and audit have prevented the authority from going to the bond market for ACCESS Oklahoma funding, and it can no longer sustain the project by drawing on capital maintenance funds. He emphasized, however, that OTA “remains in a strong financial position in large part due to accounting practices and financial controls in place,” and the ACCESS Oklahoma program will eventually resume after bond financing is obtained. (an independent, professional community journalism organization) also covered the story.

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Federal Judge Refused To Halt VDOT-Transurban Express Lanes Construction

FFXnow reported, “Construction on the widening of the Capital Beltway (I-495) can continue while a lawsuit filed by McLean residents works its way through the court system,” according to a decision issued by US District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia. The judge declined to grant a preliminary injunction sought by the Northern Virginia Citizens Association (NOVA), a non-profit membership group, in connection with the lawsuit it filed late last month challenging the VDOT-Transurban 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension Project (495 NEXT). Transurban, which maintains that a supplemental environmental review sought by the plaintiffs is unnecessary, issued a statement saying, “We remain confident that this project is in compliance of all environmental regulations and associated requirements and approvals.”

Abertis Will Help Develop Satellite-Based Charging App Aimed At Controlling Travel Demand

According to Traffic Technology Today, “A new dawn for pay-per-mile tolling [RUC] . . . is approaching with the announcement [on April 12] that a satellite-based system to enable it is to be trialed in low emission zones in the cities of Munich, Germany, and Barcelona, Spain. The proposed [distance-based fee and travel demand management] solution, which will have a two-month pilot phase and will involve around 1,000 citizens who will be provided with a dedicated app, will test a demand-driven pricing strategy, where users will be informed on the payment defined by a fixed fee to access the low emission zone, and a variable fee depending on the number of miles traveled, the level of usage and congestion at the time of access.” Abertis Mobility Services will develop key components of the system in collaboration with IMMENSE, a project supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) to devise strategies for making urban transportation more sustainable.

An Abertis Mobility Services news release with additional information about the proposed system noted, “The company has experience in the implementation and operation of this type of schemes with the implementation of Road Usage Charging programs in the states of Washington, Utah, Oregon and Virginia in the United States through its subsidiary Emovis.”

MTA Police Apprehended Some Of The 9,000 Drivers Who Each Day Avoid Toll Payment

WNYW reported, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police enforcement action at the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge on Tuesday extended the agency’s crackdown on “ghost cars” — the popular local descriptor for vehicles whose owners use fraudulent tags or a variety of license plate blocking techniques to frustrate electronic tolling systems or otherwise evade identification. The driver of a new Mercedes-Benz displaying an allegedly fraudulent Georgia license tag was one of the alleged offenders stopped and arrested. “Law enforcement sources tell [WNYW] that lawmakers in Albany must step in and pass laws with serious consequences, so drivers won’t feel it’s worth it to cheat.” reported in detail on the results of recent MTA interdiction efforts, including the “enforcement blitzes” staged at the Verrazzano Bridge and at the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge on April 6. Over the two days, MTA Police impounded 63 vehicles whose owners had a combined total of $1.5 million in unpaid tolls and fines.

Abertis Group Board Has New Chair

In conjunction with Abertis Group’s March 28 general shareholders meeting, the board of directors announced it appointed Juan Santamaría Cases as chairman to replace Marcelino Fernández Verdes, whose term expired this year. (Santamaría is currently CEO of Grupo ACS, Abertis’ parent company, and HOCHTIEF, another ACS holding.) The board also decided to extend the term of Abertis CEO José Aljaro by three years. Shareholders approved a board-sponsored resolution to renew the terms of current directors as their terms expire this year. (The announcement contains a list of the directors.)

FHWA Invites Suggestions For Improving Transportation Project Environmental Reviews

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced it will be publishing a Request for Information this week for the purpose of  seeking public input on ways to make the environmental review process for surface transportation projects more efficient and effective. With funding and guidance from the Inflation Reduction Act, the administration is looking to “facilitate efficient and effective reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act and other Federal processes,” which could include “identifying new strategies that would mitigate environmental impacts and thereby reduce timeframes for environmental reviews.” FHWA will also invite feedback on the most helpful types of assistance for grantees, which program areas are most ripe for research, and the best ways to make its resources available. Upon publication, the RFI will be accessible, and comments will be accepted, through the website.

Fitch Said US Toll Roads Effectively Recovered From Pandemic By End Of 2022

According to the latest Fitch Ratings update of its U.S. Airports & Toll Roads Traffic Monitor, “The pandemic is effectively in the rear view mirror for traffic at U.S. airports and on toll roads.” In a news release on the update, Fitch noted, “The toll road sector was effectively fully recovered in 2022, ending the full year at 98% of 2019 levels. Throughout 2022, traffic on most facilities located in Florida, Texas and Oklahoma, and the California managed lanes along the SR-91 corridor exceeded 2019 levels. Lagging traffic recovery of 80%-90% on some facilities such as [San Joaquin Hills TCA’s 73 Toll and the South Jersey Transportation Authority’s Atlantic City Expressway] is potentially due to longer-term shifts in driving trends for work, leisure, and shopping activities, including a higher amount of working from home suppressing commuter traffic.” As for airports, Fitch found that average airport traffic across its entity portfolio was 92 percent of 2019 levels at the end of 4Q-2022; traffic improved gradually over the year; and “[d]emand continued to outweigh supply,” except for a “slower return in demand for international and business travel, and reduced hubbing activity.”

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