The Orange County (California) Transportation Authority (OCTA) announced “it is encouraging commuters to give up the solo drive and save time and money by sharing the ride, trying an alternate form of transportation, or working from home, during Rideshare Week 2022,” which it is observing today through Friday, October 7. “With more people returning to work as the pandemic wanes, we hope they’ll also consider safely sharing the ride to help ease traffic congestion,” said OCTA Chair and City of Orange Mayor Mark Murphy. “We encourage people to look at taking the bus or a train, or sharing the ride with co-workers, which benefits everybody with fewer cars on the road and better air quality for all.” OCTA said people who go online and pledge to try some alternative to solo car commuting this week are eligible to enter a drawing for fitness-related prizes.
The Virginia-Pilot editorial board praises local and state officials and Elizabeth River Crossings for agreeing to expand eligibility for the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels toll relief plan. It was recently announced that more Hampton Roads residents will qualify for the plan’s benefits in 2023. According to the editors, the new terms aren’t a perfect solution to the economic problems stemming from the state’s 2012 decision to put tunnel maintenance and operating responsibilities into private hands, but they will “provide meaningful help to low-income commuters and, by extension, the city of Portsmouth.”
KGO-TV reports, the next segment of US 101 express lanes under construction in San Mateo County won’t open until February or March 2023, according to a project manager’s latest report. “The contractor opted to do things out of sequence and as a result, had to actually take corrective actions that added time to the schedule,” says Leo Scott. Much of the remaining work takes place at night and involves installation and testing of the toll system. According to KGO, commuters stuck in traffic that has returned to pre-COVID levels are growing frustrated and want to know why the lanes can’t be opened temporarily during peak travel periods.
Sun Sentinel and CBS News Miami report, a segment of Florida’s Turnpike in Hollywood closed yesterday into this morning for the repair of the Sheridan Street overpass, which was damaged last week by a “tall vehicle.” The damage was severe enough that the overpass was closed and, on the recommendation of an FDOT inspector, an exterior beam had to be replaced.
NJ.com reported, on Tuesday, the New Jersey Turnpike board followed the lead of the South Jersey Transportation Authority by voting unanimously to award a $914 million contract for installation and operation of a turnkey AET system to TransCore. Turnpike authority spokesman Tom Feeney said the Garden State Parkway will likely be the first facility to undergo transition, probably three or four years from now. As for the turnpike itself, two options contemplated by the agreement are under consideration. “Either toll booths will come down and gantries will be installed to hold the new equipment in an AET system. Or the booths will stay up and TransCore will provide technology to run a system that provides both for E-ZPass and cash transactions.” The new contract’s pricing is similar to conversion cost estimates included in the turnpike authority’s current capital plan. A memorandum attached to the turnpike board’s September 27 agenda at PDF pages 96-99 discusses the process that led to TransCore’s selection and the terms of its contract.
Washington State DOT received two responses to its request for qualifications regarding the I-405, Brickyard to SR 527 Improvement Project. The submitters are Skanska USA Civil (with AECOM providing design services) and a Walsh-AECON Joint Venture that includes Parsons Transportation Group as designer. The project’s aim is to improve a congested, 4.5-mile segment of the interstate corridor around Bothell by, among other things, building an express toll lane in each direction that connects with the existing express lane facility. WSDOT estimates construction will cost $450 million to $525 million. It expects to issue an RFP in late October.
WOFL reported, on Tuesday, as Hurricane Ian grew in strength and approached the Florida coast, Governor Ron DeSantis (R) extended his suspension of toll collection to many highways, including the 125-mile Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) system. The Florida’s Turnpike mainline, I-4 Express, Osceola Parkway, Poinciana Parkway, Seminole Expressway and Wekiva Parkway were among the facilities covered by Governor Ron DeSantis’ updated suspension order. A Florida DOT web page has regularly updated information about the status of suspensions.
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.
The Washington Post reported, the first tolls were collected September 24 on the newly opened western section of the 66 Express Lanes. On Monday morning, September 26, peak-period Washington-bound solo commuters paid an average of $6.10 to use the facility. The highest toll paid was $6.50, but “[s]ome early risers drove those nine miles for $3.50.” The Post reckoned rates were slightly lower than those charged on I-66 inside the beltway, which is dynamically tolled by Virginia DOT. A spokeswoman for I-66 Express Mobility Partners, the facility’s concessionaire, said tolls are currently being adjusted every 30 minutes, adding, “As the system adjusts to live traffic conditions, the time period between changes in toll rates will decrease.”
Community Impact Newspaper reported, on Tuesday, Montgomery County, Texas, commissioners, sitting as the board of the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority (MCTRA), “unanimously approved a $7.3 million budget for fiscal year 2022-23 . . . that saw projected increases to collections revenue as well as increased maintenance and operations costs. In EZ Tag revenue alone, the system is expected to bring in $11.4 million, a 41% increase from FY 2021-22. . . .” The costs increase is due in part to a rise in payments owed the Harris County Toll Road Authority for its management of toll collection on MCTRA’s segment of the SH 249 tollway.
Houston Chronicle reported, “Rather than follow the formula for toll rate escalations — which would have boosted tolls along Texas 249 and the Grand Parkway by nearly 10 percent — the Texas Transportation Commission opted this month to hit pause on its own rules for 2023. In a statement, officials called the increase required by current policies ‘unusually high.’ Last year, transportation officials blanched at a 6 percent increase, which they said existing policy required. This year, faced with the math requiring a 9.7 percent increase, officials opted to hold at the current level, but said a price increase still is possible at some point. It just will not happen automatically on Jan. 1, as of now.”
The Maine Turnpike Authority (MTA) announced that, weather permitting, the 67-year-old Exit 45 in South Portland would be closed this weekend to permit the completion of its conversion to a diamond interchange configuration, what MTA calls “a major milestone in the modernization of the highway.” MTA initated the redesign and construction project because of increased traffic volume and the need for higher overpass clearances. “The changeover will direct entering traffic to new toll plazas, now located on the two on-ramps. After the switch, and for several weeks, all traffic will travel non-stop through the former toll plaza. . . . Later in October, MTA plans to close Exit 45 again when crews will demolish and remove the old barrier toll booths.”
CBS News New York reported, Janno Lieber says it will now take until late 2023 or early 2024 to implement the Manhattan congestion pricing program. During an interview yesterday, the MTA chair and CEO blamed the latest in a string of delays on the need to address potential increases in Bronx traffic resulting from toll evasion and the related issue of toll exemptions. (Lieber believes toll rates can be structured to discourage truckers from routing through neighborhoods with high levels of air pollution.) Lieber also said MTA cannot predict when it will receive final federal environmental approval for the program.
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Washington State DOT issued an open invitation to participate in an October 6 virtual meeting of the I-405/SR 167 Corridor Program Executive Advisory Group. WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar and the project team “will provide updates on active and future construction, the program’s current financial outlook, the funding and tolling delivery process, and other program-related information including partnership updates from Sound Transit. The I-405/SR 167 Corridor Program includes more than 150 unique, coordinated multimodal projects,” express lanes construction included, “that enhance user experience and bring increased reliability to one of the state’s busiest corridors.”
Colorado Public Radio reported, the affordability and availability of housing in high-cost communities is a “large contributing factor to [Colorado DOT’s] current shortage of about 300 maintenance workers who fill potholes, fix guardrails, and, crucially, plow snow.” To supplement conventional coping methods, CDOT is turning to “workforce housing as a more permanent fix for its hiring problems. The agency is planning to spend $6.5 million on housing projects along the vital Interstate 70 corridor and in other housing-starved mountain towns.” John Lorme, the department’s maintenance and operations director, “wants to partner with other short-staffed state agencies and local governments to build micro-neighborhoods where government workers and their families could live for free, or at least at a reduced rate. CDOT and officials in the Town of Frisco, for example, are pursuing a project that will build 22 units of workforce housing.”
The Post-Journal reported, New York state legislation (A10711 and S8880) proposes to increase sanctions and penalties for purposefully “covering, defacing, and otherwise obscuring license plates to evade tolls and law enforcement.” Among other things, it would block any registration transaction, including a renewal, transfer or replacement, when the vehicle’s identification number is associated with a suspension imposed by a toll agency. The sponsors say scofflaws currently avoid a registration suspension “by simply reregistering the vehicle with a family member or friend.” The bill would also increase the fine for an obscured plate violation and empower police to confiscate obstructed and obscured plates.
Michigan DOT announced a five-year agreement with Electreon “to develop and work toward implementing a scalable wireless public in-road charging network for electric vehicles.” According to MDOT Director Paul Ajegba, “This agreement helps solidify Michigan as the U.S. leader in developing and implementing a wireless in-road charging network. . . . Ultimately, the research and work conducted on this project will help lead to large-scale deployment across Michigan and the U.S.” The agreement calls for the parties to “work collaboratively to develop best practices for a wireless electric road system (ERS) implementation and management and add strategic partners.” In February, Michigan DOT awarded an Electreon-led team a contract to design, test and implement a pilot in-road charging system along a one-mile segment of road in Detroit. The pilot is scheduled to be operational next year.
Reuters reported, during their market debut Thursday, Salik toll road system shares (SALIK.DU) rose 20 percent above the listing price “in a sign that investors still have appetite for local flotations despite skittish global markets. The company, which has 3.6 million vehicles registered on its system, raised 3.735 billion dirhams ($1.02 billion) by selling a 24.9% stake in its initial public offering (IPO), giving the company a market value of 15 billion dirhams [approximately US$4.08 billion].”