Daily News Briefs, April 26, 2017

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With $27 Million Contract Award, OTA Advances Turner Turnpike Project

Tulsa World reports, “The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority awarded a $27.1 million contract on Tuesday [April 25] to Sherwood Construction to kick off the widening of the Turner Turnpike to six lanes between the Bristow area and Tulsa. The project involves about three miles of work. . . . Construction is scheduled to start Aug. 8, said Jack Damrill, OTA spokesman.”

Oklahoma Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


Illinois Tollway Gathers Public Input Prior to Vote on Huge Increase in Tri-State Tollway Project Budget

The Doings (via Chicago Tribune) reports, “More than 100 people attended a meeting . . . to hear and share input about the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority plan to reconstruct the central portion of the Tri-State tollway.” The meeting, the article notes, was one in a series leading up to tomorrow’s tollway authority board vote on a proposal to increase the original Tri-State project budget from $1.9 billion to approximately $4 billion to allow for construction of more lanes.

Daily Herald takes a close look at the proposal to turn “a utilitarian $1.9 billion reconstruction of the [Tri-State tollway, I-294)] into a robust $4 billion makeover.”

Chicago Metro Area Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway)


MassDOT Announces End of E-ZPass Incentive for Toll-by-Plate Customers

MassLive.com reports, “Those who have made it this far without the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s favorite gadget — the E-ZPass transponder — are running out of time [to] take advantage of an incentive. . . .” MassDOT announced that a “grace period” will end on May 8 during which it has allowed legacy pay-by-plate customers who convert to E-ZPass to pay outstanding bills at the discounted transponder toll rate.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) E-ZPass Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT)


Gas Tax Revenue Forestalls Tacoma Narrows Bridge Toll Increase

The News Tribune reports, “State lawmakers have approved a plan they say could keep the Tacoma Narrows bridge toll flat through mid-2019.” The article adds that a temporary $5 million transfer of gas tax funds to the bridge account could prevent a toll increase from occurring through mid-year 2019.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


Think Tank Critiques California's New Road Funding Law, Recommends VMT Tax and Tolling

The Press-Enterprise reports that Next 10, a California think tank, maintains, “A newly passed transportation funding bill [SB 1] that raises California’s gasoline tax by 12 cents a gallon isn’t a long-term fix for the state’s crumbling roads.” According to the newspaper, a report released by the nonpartisan group calls SB 1 a good start, but says its funding level ($52.4 billion) “falls short of a current $137 billion deferred maintenance deficit. . . .” Next 10 notes that California fuel sales are consistently dropping even as motorists log record numbers of vehicle-miles-traveled, and so it recommends “taxing drivers based on the number of miles driven and building toll roads funded through public-private partnerships.”

California P3 & Privatization RUC & VMT Programs


Colorado DOT Says HOV Bill Could Jeopardize I-25 Express Lane Project

Reporter-Herald notes, “Colorado Department of Transportation officials say [a new bill, HB17-1348] could put the north Interstate 25 expansion project in jeopardy. The measure “would reduce the required number of occupants in high-occupancy vehicle lanes on north I-25 from three people to two, beginning July 1, 2018,” and lead to a major reduction in the toll revenue expected to be paid by users of a proposed new express lane facility scheduled to begin construction next year.

Colorado Department of Transportation Express Lanes


Garden State Parkway's Northern Interchanges Won't Have Express E-ZPass Lanes

An NJ.com reader wants to know if high-speed E-ZPass lanes will be coming to northern interchanges on the Garden State Parkway. The answer the website gets from NJ Turnpike spokesman Tom Feeney is “no.” Feeney explains, “There are a lot of factors relating to the geometry of the road and the volume of traffic at those toll plazas that would present significant challenges. Adding express lanes at the three plazas would not be a simple matter.”

E-ZPass New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA)


Massachusetts Toll Plaza Reconstruction Work Is on Track for 2017 Completion

MassLive.com reports, “Work across the state on reconstruction of [turnpike] toll plazas is expected to wrap up by the end of this year,” and MassDOT expects the last of the remaining pre-AET toll plazas, at the Sumner Tunnel in East Boston, to be completely demolished by May 8.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Massachusetts Turnpike


Aides Sketch Likely Outline of Trump Infrastructure Program

Bloomberg reports on the emerging Trump infrastructure development program, noting that the administration “is looking ‘very carefully’ at Australia’s model for financing roads, bridges and other public projects,” according to a co-chair of the president’s infrastructure task force. (He also gives a favorable nod to the Indiana Toll Road privatization deal.) Bloomberg adds that transportation secretary Elaine Chao says the administration will have a legislative package on infrastructure ready “in the coming months,” and “[t]he plan will rely on public funding and public-private partnerships, . . . and financing may also come from repatriation of overseas earnings planned for upcoming tax legislation.”

Infrastructure Investment Trends P3 & Privatization


Trump Immigration Policies Blamed for Toll Revenue Drop at Some Border Crossings

El Paso Times reports, “A notable drop in northbound crossings, as well as toll revenues, at two international bridges may signal that the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies are discouraging visa-holders from crossing the border legally, some believe.” Officials say they “can’t attribute the drop in crossings to any one factor, [but] several people told the Times they fear losing their privileges even if they do nothing wrong.”

Mexico Texas


Prominent Longmeadow Parkway Supporter Stung by His Own Bumblebee Joke

Northwest Herald reports, “A judge’s order to halt work on the Longmeadow Parkway road project over the possible presence of an endangered bumblebee has resulted in two headaches for [Algonquin, IL] Village President John Schmitt. The first . . . is the halt itself, and wondering whether the judge will extend the halt order this Friday [April 28]. The other is a Facebook post by the mayor that he called “self-deprecating fun,” but project foes interpreted as ridicule of their opposition to the toll bridge and highway project. There are now public calls for the mayor to resign.

Illinois Kane County (IL) DOT


Newspaper Gets Comment and Usage Data on New SRTA Reversible Express Lanes

Henry Herald asked readers to comment on the reversible I-75 South Metro Express Lanes that opened in January. “Despite a substantial amount of positive responses,” the majority of comments were negative, the newspaper reports, especially in regard to the impact on congestion. However, an SRTA spokesperson tells the Herald that, in the first two months of full operation, the toll lanes saw a weekday average of 4,970 trips. “For the entire month of February, there were 101,847 trips made, and for the entire month of March, there were 151,630 trips,” she added.

Atlanta (GA) Metro Region Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority (GA)


Police Stop Intoxicated Wrong-Way Driver on SH 249

KTRK reports that a resourceful Harris County deputy constable stopped a wrong-way driver (who later admitted he was DUI) early Sunday morning, April 23, on Texas 249. The precinct constable tells the station, “There’s no doubt in my mind that if you were in the 249 Beltway 8 area, one of our deputies probably saved your life.” (The report includes incident video.)

Crime Beat Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) Houston Metro Area


NCDOT Starts Pick-up of Hazardous I-77 Lane Markers

WCNC reports that the North Carolina Department of Transportation has started to clean up the lane markers that have caused serious damage to some cars traveling through the I-77 Express construction zone. The station talks to one motorist whose car needed $4,500 in repairs after being damaged by lane marker debris in October 2016.

I-77 Express Lanes (NC) North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)


Survey Results Show Small Majority in BC Favor Tolling

CBC News reports on Vote Compass response data regarding the toll issue in British Columbia’s election. “A majority of respondents . . . said the cost of new bridges in the Lower Mainland should be paid for by user tolls, but people who live south of the Fraser [River, the area where most tolling occurs] were less likely to agree. Overall, a slim majority either agreed or strongly agreed users of new bridges in the Lower Mainland should pay for them.” (Vote Compass makes non-random, but weighted measures of civic attitudes.)

British Columbia Canada


Fitch Assigns Ratings to PANYNJ Notes

Fitch Ratings announced the assignment of ratings to several Port Authority of New York and New Jersey notes, including approximately $1 billion in new money and refunding consolidated bonds. Fitch noted, “The Rating Outlook on the long-term obligations is Stable.”

Investment Ratings PANYNJ