Daily News Briefs, August 26, 2016

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MA Lawmaker on Turnpike's AET Conversion: Why No Gantries around Springfield and Worcester?

WWLP News reports that MassDOT’s plan for post-AET-conversion tolling “seeks a revenue-neutral structure that conforms to the new geographic alignment of electronic toll-takers.” State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Berkshire County) plans to question the alignment — particularly  the lack of tolling points around Springfield and Worcester, the state’s second and third largest cities — at a September hearing. “We’re building a casino in Springfield,” Pignatelli says, suggesting the state will miss a revenue opportunity. “MassDOT officials have noted the gantry locations were determined by the Patrick administration and left unaddressed the philosophy behind leaving areas around the state’s second and third largest cities gantry-free,” according to the report.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike


MA Turnpike on the Balance between AET System Research Potential and Customer Privacy

Masslive.com reports, “Those E-ZPass transponders that you affix to your car to pay tolls electronically might look small but they — and the system that scans them built by Raytheon and designed to absorb information from them — pack plenty of data. ‘Your life story is in there,’ Peter Mills, the executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, told reporters at a recent summit on tolling.” MassDOT secretary Stephanie Pollack agrees that the state turnpike’s new AET system will provide “a rich mine of data” useful to transportation researchers, but tells MassLive.com, “Privacy comes first.”


Use of Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Tolls for Other Bridges Is Jeopardizing Proposal for $100 Million Bond

WVUE News reports that some local officials are objecting to the diversion of more than $1.5 million in toll revenue from the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway to non-causeway projects as they are being asked to vote to allow the causeway commission to raise $100 million in bond revenue for safety improvements. St. Tammany Parish Councilman Jacob Groby, who plans to vote against the bond proposal, tells the station, “You’ve got to ask yourself, is that right? I can tell you that the lion’s weight of this money is coming from St. Tammany. When is enough going to be enough?” (The St. Tammany and Jefferson Parish Councils must approve the proposal.)

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (Metro New Orleans)


Motorists Overestimate the Benefit of Using Express Lanes Says Texas A&M Professor

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Matt Kempner asks, “Is I-85’s new $13.95 toll worth it?” He notes, “Texas A&M professor Mark Burris despises sitting in gridlock and studies the surprisingly complicated issues around how much we’re willing to pay to save time and avoid traffic. One thing he and other researchers have noticed: We overestimate what we are getting from toll roads.” Kempner believes, “As toll prices rise, so should our expectations of what it is we are buying.”

State Road and Tollway Authority (Georgia)


CRRMA's Border Highway Could Soon Be Toll Free

KVIA News reports, “The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) [link added] has authorized its executive director to pursue a solution that would remove toll lanes from the Cesar Chavez Expressway, also known as the ‘Border Highway.’ In a letter to the Texas Department of Transportation, the CRRMA asks that the debt incurred on the Cesar Chavez toll project, be shifted to the new Border West Expressway, which will consist entirely of toll lanes.”

Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA)


KTA to Change Its Weather Alert Procedure after Mistaken Tornado Warning Tweet

KSNW News reports, “A KTA spokesperson said on [August 25] it will verify all tornado warnings from AccuWeather, a private forecasting company, with the National Weather Service (NWS) before it sends alerts to its customers. The change comes after the authority sent out a tweet on Wednesday night [August 24] that said there was a tornado warning near Lawrence on I-70. The NWS did not put out a tornado warning for that location.”

Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA)


State Board Approves OTA Bonds for Expansion Projects that Remain on Hold

Tulsa World reports, “The Council of Bond Oversight on Thursday [August 25] approved a bond package for turnpike expansions despite a plea from an attorney who has lodged a legal challenge before the state’s highest court. The council approved the sale of $480 million in bonds pending the resolution of litigation filed by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent, who attended the meeting.” The OTA has temporarily tabled a toll increase needed to pay for the expansions.

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


Group Called "Victims of Eminent Domain" Might Join Suit Against OTA

KOCO News reports that a group called Victims of Eminent Domain “might consider” joining a lawsuit filed against the OTA earlier this month over the way the agency is financing its proposed expansion projects. “We’re taking a legal approach, we have money and a law firm skilled in property law,” a group spokesman, Steven McGuire, told the station. He added that the lawsuit recently filed by Jerry Fent is giving the group time to prepare its own case. OTA spokesperson Jack Damrill tells the station that “the projects have been brought to a halt.”

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


Tennessee DUI Law Endangers Federal Road Funding

Associated Press reports, “When state lawmakers passed a new drunken driving law for people under the drinking age, they didn’t realize that the change would make Tennessee the only state to run afoul of federal zero-tolerance standards.” The report adds that “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says Tennessee will lose 8 percent of its federal road funding, or $60 million, if the state is found to be in noncompliance on Oct. 1.”



Bestpass Launches Two New Departments to Serve Expanding Customer Base

Bestpass, “a company that provides single-source payment and streamlined toll management services to commercial fleets, has launched two new departments – a dedicated Owner-Operator Customer Service team and a Fulfillment Center – to provide more efficient and cost-effective service to its expanding customer base, which currently exceeds 3,400 accounts with more than 230,000 active transponders.”


TX Transportation Commission Approves $70 Billion in New Projects

Houston Public Media reports, “The Texas Transportation Commission has approved $70 billion in new projects. The work will take place over the next ten years as part of TxDOT’s Unified Transportation Program. Officials say it’s the largest allocation in TxDOT’s history.” (The Sam Houston Tollway and the Grand Parkway are cited.)

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


WI Assembly Minority Leader Says Toll Roads Are a Funding Possibility

WIZM News reports, “Some of the Great Lakes states raise money by charging tolls on the highway. Wisconsin does not, but toll roads are still a possible way for the state to finance highway repairs, according to Assembly minority leader Peter Barca. But not everyone would approve the idea, Barca explains. ‘People have an option,’ the Kenosha Democrat said at a Democratic function in La Crosse on [August 23]. ‘You don’t have to take a toll road.’”



Bay Bridge Peak Traffic Starting Earlier

San Francisco Business Times reports, “A new analysis of local traffic patterns by KCBS has found that the busiest part of the morning commute on the Bay Bridge has now shifted to between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. as drivers try to cross the bridge into San Francisco earlier. Traffic data compiled by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission had conventionally held that the bridge’s busiest time was between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.” [Link modified.]

California Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)


I-77 Mobility Partners on the Hook for Culvert Repairs. Inspection Reports Cited.

WSOC News reports, “Any future repairs or replacements of the culverts on Interstate 77 when the toll-lane project is completed will be funded by I-77 Mobility Partners, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. This comes after [WSOC] obtained NCDOT bridge inspection reports that list the culverts and some bridge structures in fair and poor condition.”

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