Daily News Brief, July 29, 2016

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MTA 2017 Toll Hike Almost a Certainty

New York Daily News reports, “The MTA on Wednesday [July 27] issued a financial plan that includes an all but definite fare hike in 2017, with the aim of raising more than $300 million annually for a transit system struggling to provide reliable service. Just how the MTA comes up with a cash infusion — tweaking MetroCard and commuter rail prices as well as bridge and tunnel tolls — is up to agency officials.”

Poughkeepsie Journal also covers this story. Click here to see the financial plan presentation given to the MTA board at its July 27 meeting.

New York


TX Highway Spending to Hit Record Levels

Houston Chronicle reports, “State highway spending is poised to hit record levels in the next decade, as voter-approved money kicks in to start construction on some of the Houston area’s most sought-after freeway projects.” The report looks at the state’s Unified Transportation Program and adds, “Funding for the projects comes from a variety of sources, ranging from federal funds, state fuel tax revenues and even tolling.”

In a separate article, the Chronicle’s Dug Begley writes, “Texas’ 10-year plan for transportation, which reflects the state’s traditional mindset centered on road building rather than greater investment in alternative forms of commuter travel, is expected to send billions of dollars more to expand Houston-area highways. . . .”



VA Eyes Allowing Big Trucks in I-66 HOT Lanes outside the Beltway

The Washington Post reports, “Virginia transportation officials are now open to the possibility that tractor-trailers could use I-66 high-occupancy toll lanes outside the Capital Beltway, which would be a first for Virginia’s HOT lanes.” VDOT secretary Aubrey Layne told the Commonwealth Transportation Board this week, “People in the trucking industry are interested in the HOT lanes’ potential to improve travel times. . . .”

Virginia Washington (DC) Metro Region


VA Authorizes Use of I-66 Inside the Beltway Tolls for Carpooling and Transit Alternatives

The Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock (Robert Thomson) reports, “Virginia’s top policymaking panel on transportation gave unanimous approval [on July 28] to 10 programs supporters say will make travel easier when the rush-hour toll lanes open on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway next summer. State officials want these services — basically, programs that help people leave their cars behind for trips in the I-66 corridor — to be ready to go when the high-occupancy toll lanes are ready to launch.” The doctor adds that these toll-funded “the traffic-easing programs” are a unique feature of VDOT’s “Transform 66” program.


Registration for Ontario HOT Lanes Pilot Project Starts Next Week

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has announced that applications for permits to participate in Canada’s first HOT lanes pilot project can be submitted online at Ontario.ca/HOTLanes from August 1-21. During the project’s first term (September 15-December 31) the government will issue just 500 permits to volunteers willing to pay $180 (approximately US$137) to use HOT lanes (formerly HOV-only lanes) on Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Way. The announcement adds, “Ontario issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking innovative technologies to support tolling, compliance and performance monitoring of HOT lanes. The RFI closes on Aug. 22, 2016. . . .”



MA Lawmakers Likely to Pass Bill to Allow for VMT Pilot

MassLive.com reports, “Massachusetts could apply for federal funding to test whether to implement a tax on vehicle miles traveled under a provision that state senators inserted into a road and bridge funding bill.” The report adds, “While the amendment appears poised to pass the Legislature, it will face opposition from legislative Republicans.”

Massachusetts Road Use Charging (RUC-MBUF-VMT)


MA Turnpike E-ZPass Lane Closes for Repairs

WGGB-TV News (Springfield) reports that MassDOT closed the E-ZPass lane at its exit 6 interchange for repairs on July 27 after motorists complained “the green light wasn’t responding” to transponders. MassDOT’s Thomas Tinlin tells the station, “Every location in the Commonwealth is checked twice a day for the integrity, so situations like this don’t occur.” Tinlin encourages E-ZPass account holders who use the interchange to check their monthly statements for possible billing errors.



A "How To" on MassDOT E-ZPass Refunds

WWLP-TV News (Springfield) follows up on its report about E-ZPass transponder misreads at the Massachusetts Turnpike’s Exit 6 interchange and offers advice on “what you need to do to find out if the state owes you any money for E-ZPass tolls. First you may have to start in your car.”

E-ZPass Massachusetts


CTRMA and Motorists Face MoPac Delay

KTBC-TV News (Austin) reports, “Part of the MoPac Expressway was supposed to open this weekend but there has been another delay. The slow pace of construction has added to the frustration for those who use MoPac and for officials with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.” CTRMA now expects an August opening of the RM 2222 to Parmer lane segment, but a firm date has not been set.

In its report, KEYE-TV News notes, “A decrease in workers is the reason for the latest MoPac delay,” and at CTRMA’s July 27 board meeting, “the contractor got a reminder to get everything done or pay the consequences.”



MO Trucking Association: Enough about Tolling I-70 Already

St. Louis Post-Dispatch posts an op-ed by a Tom Crawford, CEO of the Missouri Trucking Association, who wonders aloud, “Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna is once again talking about tolling Interstate 70. Why does this keep happening?” Crawford writes, “Missouri voters have repeatedly rejected constitutional amendments to allow state toll roads, and Missouri’s Legislature passed legislation just this year to prohibit tolls on interstates. With the will of the people and the Legislature made clear, Missouri should stop discussing tolling as an option.”



MTC, Bay Area Planners to Invest in Easing Bay Bridge Commute and Alternatives

KGO-TV News (San Francisco) reports, “Bay Area transportation planners have approved $40 million in funding specifically to ease the Bay Bridge commute and alternatives. But the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is funding some temporary remedies, like added ferries and busses.” Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesperson Randy Rentschler tells the station, “These are things that we know work. We do these things during a BART strike, for example. We want to take those emergency matters and make them permanent.”



CT Columnist Says CDOT Is Trying to "Sell" Tolling to Get State Roads Repaired

GreenwichFreePress.com publishes a piece by transportation columnist Jim Cameron, who writes, “Make no mistake: our CDOT is engaged in a PR blitz to sell motorists on tolls while politicians won’t touch the issue. Nobody running for state office this year has the guts to tell voters that tolls or taxes are necessary and will be implemented as gas tax revenues fail to pay for needed road repairs.” Cameron adds, “There is no ‘free lunch’ and there is no free ride. Maintaining our highways is expensive and those costs should be borne by those who drive on them.”