Daily News Briefs, April 27, 2017

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Illinois Tollway Staff Ask Board to Tighten Penalty and Collection Policies

Daily Herald reports, “For years, the [Illinois Tollway] had used three missed tolls in two years as the tipping point for drivers to be issued a notice and face fines of $20 per infraction. That policy was changed with little fanfare in 2016 to three missed tolls in one year. Now, tollway staff is recommending shrinking the policy further so just two violations in one year will initiate a notification.” That recommendation is just one of nine collection policy changes that authority staff will present to the tollway board at its meeting today, the newspaper notes. Staff estimate that the stricter enforcement policies could generate $43 million revenue.

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway) Scofflaws


Atlantia Looks for Merger Financing Capital as Abertis Awaits a "Concrete" Takeover Offer

Reuters reports this morning that Atlantia “has tapped a consortium of banks to finance an upcoming cash-and-share bid for Spanish rival Abertis,” sources “close to the matter” say. “Atlantia is set to hold a board meeting [today, April 27] and may give the green light to a formal bid for Abertis, another source said, cautioning no deal was certain.” The companies combined would create “an industry giant with a market value of more than 35 billion euros ($38.17 billion).”

Yesterday, April 26, Abertis “reported rising earnings . . . and said it had received no concrete offer from Italian rival Atlantia after the companies held preliminary talks on a possible takeover,” according to Reuters. Abertis’ CFO reportedly told participants in an earnings conference call, “No possible valuation has been specified, nor has any transaction price or other condition been set.” He added that Abertis is “a passive subject” and does not know whether a transaction will take place.

Mergers and Acquisitions


FBI Raids Several Offices of Houston-Based Engineering Firm and Laredo Government

Houston Chronicle reports, “A four-city FBI sweep targeted a Houston-based engineering company and a slew of local government offices in Laredo with daylong raids in an investigation still shrouded in mystery.” An attorney for Dannenbaum Engineering said the company had no idea what sparked the searches, and the newspaper adds that no arrests were made. It quotes an FBI spokesperson as saying, “Once we’re completed, I expect the business will go on as normal.” The Chronicle calls Dannenbaum “one of the most prolific engineering companies in Houston” and adds that Dannenbaum does extensive work with local government units, including the Harris County Toll Road Authority.

Houston Metro Area Texas


Nova Scotia Won't Toll Highways to Fund CDN$390 Million in Safety Improvements

CBC News  reports that Nova Scotia’s government “plans to spend $390 million [approximately US$286.4 million] over seven years to improve highways in Nova Scotia, and won’t be using tolls to pay for the work. The province said it will also seek federal money to help cover the cost of the projects, which involve twinning three sections of “100-series” provincial highways. “The government has decided against tolls because it said it did not hear ‘overwhelming support’ from the public for such an initiative.”

Canada Nova Scotia


Nova Scotia Plans Partial Elimination of Cobequid Pass Tolls by 2019

Amherst News and Citizen-Record reports that Nova Scotia’s Transportation Minister, Geoff MacLellan, announced that Highway 104-Cobequid Pass tolls will be eliminated for Nova Scotians, probably in 2019, but “there’s a strong possibility motorists from outside the province could continue paying to use the highway.”

Canada Nova Scotia


Still No Definite Completion Date for CTRMA's MoPac North Project

Austin American-Statesman reports, “There’s still not a hard end date for the $200 million project to add a tolled express lane on the north stretch of MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1), but contractors estimate more sections should be open by the end of summer,” Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority spokesman Steve Pustelnyk told board members at their April 26 meeting.

Austin (TX) Metro Area Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) North MoPac Express Lanes


Ruling Expected on Environmental Challenge to CTRMA's SH 45 SW Project

Community Impact Newspaper reports, “A local environmental group’s case against the transportation agency building the SH 45 SW toll road remains ongoing, and a ruling could be made this month, officials said. Despite receiving clearance to proceed with the project after a yearslong environmental study to ensure minimal impact to natural resources, the agency [CTRMA] is facing a legal challenge to the project in a federal district court.”

Austin (TX) Metro Area Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Issues of Law


DRJTBC Approves Contracts for I-78 Improvement Work

Lehighvalleylive.com reports, “The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission this week announced the approval of two contracts totaling $12.6 million for work on its 7-mile stretch of [Interstate 78]. . . . ‘While this isn’t a large project, it is strategically important,’ said Joe Resta, the commission’s executive director. The I-78 bridge is the commission’s most-used crossing and, he said, one of the most a heavily used trucking routes in the country.” The project’s scope includes overpass and underpass improvements and roadway restriping. [Link inserted.]

Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) New Jersey Pennsylvania


Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Toll Increase Is Coming

WDSU reports on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway toll increase scheduled to take effect May 6. Toll tag holders will pay an additional dollar ($3.00), and cash customers, two dollars more ($5.00). Causeway general manager Carlton Dufrechou explains why $100 million in improvements funded by the toll hike will make the bridge “safer and much more modern.”

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (Metro New Orleans) Louisiana Toll Rate Changes


Indiana City Touts $8 Million Investment in New Toll Bridge's Aesthetics

WAVE reports that the City of Jeffersonville, Indiana, is encouraging the public “to check out the Lewis and Clark Bridge from a pedestrian standpoint.” The toll bridge construction project included “$8 million in aesthetics for the Indiana side,” and the city’s mayor says, “We saw what a beautiful project this could be and a bridge is more things than just traveling across the road to get from point A to point B. Make it something pretty. Give people a reason to come visit, give people a reason to be proud.”

Indiana Kentucky Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Moody's Predicts Tolls Will Have a Greater Role in Closing the Highway Funding Gap

Moody’s Investors Service is out with a new report on toll roads (subscription required). “In light of stagnant federal funding and limited capacity for states to increase spending,” Moody’s says in a release, “toll roads will play an increasing role in addressing the funding gap for road and bridge infrastructure needs in the US. . . . Based on historical trends, Moody’s projects more toll roads and increased tolling in areas with existing traffic congestion and growing economies, population and per capita income.”

Infrastructure Investment Trends P3 & Privatization


Fitch Expects Toll Revenues to Grow Faster Than Traffic

Fitch Ratings released its latest US Transportation Trends special report, which concludes, “Southeast and Southwest [toll facilities] should continue to lead in traffic performance similar to 2016 thanks to moderate economic and population growth.” Director Tanya Langman adds in Fitch’s news release, “Toll road revenues are positioned to grow faster than traffic as many authorities implement policies of inflationary toll increases.” Overall, the report anticipates “healthy growth” in all major US transportation segments, “despite longer-term questions brought on by shifting economic, trade and fiscal policies.”

See the full report.


Survey Reveals Strong Irish Support for Tolling

Irish Independent reports, “Motorists would be prepared to support the introduction of a congestion charge to limit the number of cars in town and city centres, a survey of 10,000 people across 10 European countries has found. Two-thirds of Irish people said that the introduction of tolls was justified to reduce car use in built-up areas, and that they were also willing to pay tolls to fund new infrastructure.” These are some of the results from the first “European Mobilities Observatory” survey conducted by The Boston Consulting Group and Ipsos.

Congestion Pricing EU Ireland


ITR Cuts the Ribbon on Two Travel Plazas with a New Look

WNDU looks at the Indiana Toll Road’s two new Portage service plazas, “the first to be downsized from full service restaurant operations to ‘convenience stores.’” A state tourism official tells the station, ““When you say convenience store, I don’t think it does this place justice. It’s got a lot of food offerings and a lot of services so this is going to meet the traveling public’s needs a lot more than just a convenience store.”

Customer Service Experience Indiana Toll Road Concession Company (ITRCC)


KTA Says Creek Affected by Contractor's Sewage Spill Is Again Safe

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, “Water in the Shunga Creek in south Topeka is again safe, the Kansas Turnpike Authority said [on April 25]. Samples . . . indicated sewage levels in the creek had dropped to a safe level, nearly a week after sewage spilled into the creek during road construction” at an I-470 interchange.

Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA)