Daily News Brief, August 19, 2016

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From Our Crackerjack Overseas Bureau: 25 Toll Plaza Workers Canned or Suspended in Scam; A Standing Vigil; Roaming Buffalos; and a Toll Collector Beating

Tough week? Trust us, things could always be worse . . .

The Herald (Zimbabwe) reports that all 25 employees of a toll plaza were suspended and seven were discharged “for stealing toll fees, in a scam that could be happening at other toll sites. . . .” In testimony before a parliamentary committee, a toll collection company official rejected the suggestion that business procedures are flawed. “You might call it a flaw but we see it as a challenge,” she said. (Yeah, a challenge. That’s the ticket.)

Taipei Times reported that former toll collectors displaced by 2013 freeway AET conversions started an around-the-clock standing vigil on Monday to air severance pay and job replacement grievances. By Tuesday night, the workers reached a preliminary agreement with the government (and presumably went off to sit on the job).

The Pune Mirror (India) reports that a toll collector on the Pune-Solapur Highway has complained that he was beaten up and threatened with a pistol for attempting to, gasp, collect a toll. The suspects: a uniformed police inspector and four motoring companions.

The Tribune (India) reports that a motorist on the NH-1 toll highway says he was about to cross the Doraha flyover when “a buffalo suddenly appeared in front of my car. As I was caught unawares, I applied sudden brakes. . . . [T]here is no control over the stray animals that appear out of nowhere.”


Mass Pike Readies to Demolish Toll Plazas, Fill in Tunnels in Advance of AET Conversion

MassLive.com reports, “As Massachusetts transportation officials prepare to go to a completely cashless tolling system, allowing drivers to pay tolls at highway speeds as they sail under technologically wired metal gantries, they’re also getting ready to rip out the toll plazas.”

MassLive.com also reports, “The switch to all electronic tolling on the Massachusetts Turnpike means the toll plazas are coming down. It also means the tunnels underneath them will be filled in and eliminated.” (Cue the Jimmy Hoffa jokes.)

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts


NET RMA Holds Groundbreaking for Segment of Toll Loop 49

Tyler Morning Telegraph staffs the groundbreaking ceremony for Segment 4 of Toll Loop 49, reporting that, “Segment 4 – also known as the Lindale Relief Route – has been a much anticipated addition of the Toll 49 system and will allow U.S. Highway 69 traffic to access the toll road north of Lindale. Construction on the project began in July and is expected to be complete in 2018.”

Meanwhile, KLTV News (Tyler) reports that an accident victim’s kin is still calling on NET RMA to prioritize safety improvements on an existing segment of the highway.

North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority (NET RMA) Texas


Newspaper Hits I-405 HOT Lanes and Polls Readers

The Herald (Everett) reports, “Almost a year into the toll lane adventure on I-405, we’re still stuck in traffic. All that construction and $484 million bought drivers a chance to meditate, plow through their podcast backlogs, and ponder their life choices as they stare at the bumper 3 feet ahead of them.” With that in mind, the newspaper adds that its readers’ poll found that “Fifty-seven percent had the same answer: get rid of the tolls and have ordinary HOV lanes.”

Washington State Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


WSDOT HOT Lanes Contractor Condenses 30 Days of Lane Closures to Three Days

ConstructionEquipmentGuide.com reports, “Fighting traffic can sometimes seem like an upstream battle. With that in mind, contractors say they’ve found a way to condense 30 nights of highway lane closures into less than three days of labor, working nonstop to finish a fish passageway while repaving about one mile of State Route 167.” [Link added.] The site adds, “The project is part of a roughly two-year plan to expand the State Route 167 high occupancy toll, or HOT, lanes.”

Washington State Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


GDOT Commissioner McMurray Talks Up I-75 Toll Lanes

Marietta Daily Journal reports that GDOT commissioner Russell McMurry is optimistic about the I-75 toll lanes project in Cobb County. “The $834 million, 30-mile toll lanes will be transformational in relieving traffic congestion, McMurry said, by giving drivers the option of using the lanes during the busiest times of the day. Express bus service will also be able to use the lanes, another benefit of the project.” McMurray made the remarks during an August 18 event celebrating GDOT’s one-hundredth anniversary.

Georgia Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) State Road and Tollway Authority (Georgia)


CA Lawmakers Introduce Funding Bill and Propose New Office of Transportation Inspector General

Antioch Herald reports, “State Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) and State Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose) presented a $7.4-billion transportation plan late Wednesday [August 17], which includes an increase of 17 cents per gallon in the state gas tax, to help pay for it. The plan would also increase the tax on diesel by 30 cents per gallon and introduce a $165 annual fee on electric cars. The Frazier-Beall plan also includes streamlining the environmental process for repairing existing transportation infrastructure and a new Office of Transportation inspector general to oversee spending.”



With an Election Looming, Indiana Legislative Panel Will Craft Transportation Funding Measure in Secret

The Journal Gazette (Ft. Wayne) reports, “A special committee tasked with recommending stable, long-term road funding options to the legislature will likely craft its plan behind closed doors in executive session – a departure from precedent. Some of the options involve raising gas taxes, tolling existing or new roadways and moving to a per-mile usage fee – things the committee might not be comfortable discussing in public right before an election.”



Governor Christie Follows Obama Model, Signs Executive Order to Fund Transportation Projects

NJBIZ.com reports, “With the state’s Transportation Trust Fund just ‘days away from exhausting all of its available funds,’ Gov. Chris Christie issued an executive order [on August 17] allowing the state treasurer to dip into the general fund to help pay for necessary road projects.”

New Jersey


Mid-Bay Bridge Authority Board Approves Traffic and Revenue Study

Northwest Florida Daily News (Ft. Walton Beach) reports, “The Mid-Bay Bridge Authority took another step toward reviewing its toll structure on [August 18]. All five members of the board voted in favor of spending around $36,000 to contract with Jacobs Engineering to study if traffic and revenue numbers support some sort of toll reduction.”

Florida Mid-Bay Bridge Authority


TxDOT Considers US 290 Off-Peak HOV Lanes for Carpools, Buses

Houston Chronicle reports that TxDOT is considering a plan for off-peak HOV lanes along U.S. 290, “solving what had been a contentious change in plans for U.S. 290.” The report adds, “The change would come by dedicating the inner-most lane during off-peak times to carpools and Metropolitan Transit Authority buses during peak travel periods.”



Mr. Roadshow Seeks Nickname for "Nasty Stretch" of the Bay Area's I-580

The Mercury News’ Mr. Roadshow and a reader ponder nicknames for well-known regional highways and wonder how best to tag I-580 in wake of new express lanes that, apparently, don’t deliver for all motorists.



Progress on Tappan Zee Amazes Some Drivers

News 12 Westchester reports, “Progress is being made in the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge with the latest installation of hanging cables. The installation of the cables, which are used to support the center span, comes a month after a construction crane collapsed at the Rockland County end of the new bridge.” The report adds, “Drivers who use the bridge say they are amazed at how smoothly the work is moving along.”

Governor Mario Cuomo Bridge (Tappan Zee Replacement Bridge) New York New York State Thruway Authority