Daily News Briefs, August 29, 2016

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RiverLink Account Numbers "Thrill" Kentucky Officials

The Courier-Journal (Louisville) reports that with several months remaining before the start of Ohio River Bridge project electronic tolling, more than 4,000 people and 100 businesses have already opened RiverLink transponder accounts. “We’re thrilled with the number of drivers who have already taken that first step of opening their accounts,” Megan McLain, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s innovative finance manager tells the newspaper.

Indiana Kentucky Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Report Suggests PA Turnpike's Annual Payments to PennDOT "May Not Be Legal," Due to NY Federal Court Ruling

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, “The decision in a federal case in New York state has thrown a new element into the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s attempt to get out from under a $450 million annual payment to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for public transit: The payments may not be legal.” In the New York case, a federal judge ruled that it is unconstitutional to transfer New York State Thruway Authority toll revenue collected from commercial truckers to maintain upstate canals. The P-G report adds, “The court decision comes at a time when turnpike officials have asked the state Legislature to reconsider the annual payment to PennDOT.” The PA Turnpike has annual debt payments of $600 million per year and, “As a result, the agency is reviewing all of its capital projects to determine which ones are needed and affordable. That report is expected next month,” the P-G adds.

Click here for a Post-Gazette report on the project review.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission


Workshop Will Focus on CFX's Role in Poinciana Parkway Extension

Orlando Sentinel reports (scroll down to the “Viviana Janer” heading) that Osceola County Commissioners “will be having a workshop to discuss the possibility of the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) building out the future phases of the Poinciana Parkway.” If CFX gets approval, it “will be able to accelerate the build out of the next segment which extends south from Marigold to Cypress Parkway at the Polk County line.”

Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) Florida


Tolling Opponents Take Aim at Cibolo Parkway Proposal

San Antonio Express-News (subscription may be required) reports on the controversy stirred up by opponents of the proposal to construct Cibolo Parkway, a seven-mile, tolled extension of FM 1103. The City of Cibolo, Guadalupe County, is exploring the possibility of entering into a public-private partnership with the Texas Turnpike Corporation to finance, build and operate the facility estimated to cost $125 million. Cibolo’s mayor, Allen Dunn, responded to one anti-toll group’s criticism of the project proposal in a recent memorandum to city council members.

P3 & Privatization Texas Texas Turnpike Corp.


MA Lawmakers Question Turnpike's New AET Rates and Data Collection

The Milford Daily News reports, “State Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) is taking the lead in questioning the rates and privacy of the Mass. Pike’s new All Electronic Tolling System by sending a letter to state transportation officials.” [Link added.] The letter (a copy is embedded in the article) is co-signed by ten other senators. Spilka writes, “[S]ome drivers will see increases while others will see decreases depending on where they enter and exit the turnpike. As you know, the Legislature has long advocated for toll equity and we are deeply concerned about the impact of any toll increases either overall or individually on our constituents.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike


AP Counts Continuing Costs of Bridgegate Scandal (Beyond the Dollars and Cents)

Associated Press notes that realigning the bridge’s traffic cones one September morning probably took only minutes, yet the repercussions of that action are still being felt three years later. AP reports the scandal has cost millions in taxpayer-funded legal fees, “completely altered the trajectory of Chris Christie’s career,” subjected public officials to criminal prosecution, undermined PANYNJ employee morale, and caused the agency’s search for a new CEO to drag on for more than a year.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


IL Tollway May Sue Railroad to Break Impasse over "Western Access" Project

Chicago Tribune reports, “Calling the railroad’s refusal to negotiate over a highway project just west of O’Hare International Airport ‘irresponsible,’” Illinois Tollway authority chairman Bob Schillerstrom is threatening to file suit against Canadian Pacific Railway before the US Surface Transportation Board. A lingering dispute over railroad property the tollway needs for its $3.5 billion project to extend I-390 and create a “western access” route to O’Hare could take years to resolve in litigation.

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway)


Iconic Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza May Give Way to Gantry

San Francisco Examiner reports, “Drivers are crashing into the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza more than ever before” in an article about the bridge district’s consideration of a plan to replace the toll plaza structure with a gantry that will support its upgraded electronic tolling hardware.

Last week, bridge officials made a presentation on the status of their toll system replacement project.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD)


Woman Chases Cat on Busy Tollway. Experts Suggest This Is Not Good. (Video Included.)

Associated Press reports, “Highway experts say a cat chase on a busy Houston-area tollway should serve as a warning about what not to do when animals get loose in traffic. Tuesday’s surveillance video from the Harris County Tollway Authority shows an unidentified woman trying to trap a cat on a road full of cars and trucks. She appears unaware of the danger around her and the darting cat.” (The video is worth 21 seconds of your life.)


Lake of the Ozarks Bridge Commission Eyes Plan to Eliminate Tolls

Lake News Online reports, “After two traffic studies and a plea from the business community to give locals a break, the Lake of the Ozarks Community Bridge Commission has voted to extend off-season rates by two months – all while setting in motion a plan to pay off the toll bridge in the next 10 years, potentially ending tolls in 2026 if not sooner.”

Lake of the Ozarks Community Bridge Corporation Missouri


Parish Official Proposes Voter Referendum on Causeway Bridge Toll Hike

WDSU News  reports, “Jefferson Parish Council member Chris Roberts said the public needs to decide whether Causeway Bridge tolls should increase to fund safety improvements.”

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (Metro New Orleans)


TX Senator Nichols on "Growing Anti-Toll Sentiment:" People Need the Facts.

Quorum Report, via Houston Chronicle reports, “A key lawmaker [Senator Robert Nichols, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee] is arguing that an additional $38 billion in transportation funding should be no reason for lawmakers to toss toll roads out as a transportation option next session.” The report quotes Nichols as telling a group of county officials, “What I’m concerned about is losing the tools. The No. 1 priority I’ve got is that we don’t lose these tools because there is a growing anti-toll sentiment out there without knowing the facts.” (A subscription is required for access to the full article.)



Dr. Gridlock on Inside-the-Beltway HOT Lanes Plan

The Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock takes on reader’s questions about VDOT’s plans for HOT lanes inside the Capital Beltway, noting at one point that, well, things are complicated.

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Washington (DC) Metro Region


OTA's Toll Increase and Expansion Plans Earn Editorial Support

Tulsa World editorial editor Wayne Greene makes the case for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s three-phase, $900 million toll hike meant to finance new projects, arguing, in the end, “There are no free roads. The latest round of toll roads — and the toll increases that come with them — will allow Tulsa and Oklahoma to prosper, and we should all be willing to bear the cost.”

Muskogee Phoenix editors aren’t exactly thrilled, but do concede, “We, however, recognize that toll roads — though a form of tax — may be one of the most straightforward types of tax.”

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


Two Giant Holes on FL Turnpike Repaired over Weekend

Miami Herald reports, “Monday morning commuters won’t have to worry about the two giant holes that opened up over the weekend in the southbound lanes of Florida’s Turnpike near Hard Rock Stadium.” Chad Huff, a turnpike spokesman, tells the newspaper, “It’s a true testament to the roadway maintenance people and contractors who got it done in such a quick fashion. Everything is back to normal.”

Florida Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE)


Fitch Affirms Rating of MDTA Revenue Bonds

Fitch Ratings, on Friday, August 26, “affirmed Maryland Transportation Authority’s . . . approximately $2.3 billion of outstanding transportation facilities project revenue bonds at ‘AA-‘. The Rating Outlook is revised to Positive from Stable.”

Investment Ratings Maryland Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA)


Crime Beat: PANYNJ Police Snag Another Scofflaw. Rocket Launcher Seized at Peace Bridge.

NJ.com reports that port authority police arrested a young woman who tried and failed to cross the Goethals Bridge without paying the toll on August 26. Police say it wasn’t her first attempt: they discovered she owes PANYNJ almost $7,000 in tolls and fees.

Niagara Gazette reports that contraband weapons recently seized by law enforcement officials at the Peace Bridge included “a non-working rocket launcher and grenades.”

Crime Beat PANYNJ Scofflaws