Daily News Briefs, December 12, 2016

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MDX Toll Revenue Surges for a Second Year

Miami Herald reports that MDX toll revenue increased by $105 million (82 percent) in just 24 months. A fiscal year financial report released late last week by the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority “shows its system of five highways generated $235 million in toll revenue in the 12 months that ended July 1. That’s up 28 percent from 2015, when MDX expanded tolling to all of its exits on the Dolphin and Airport expressways.” In a statement to the newspaper, MDX’s Mario Diaz pointed out that the controversial “closing of the system” in late 2014 was accompanied by toll rate decreases that reduced expenses for many motorists. “Those who paid nothing are now paying something,” Diaz said. Another financial report highlight, the newspaper notes, is that MDX “enjoys a much stronger financial position than it did a few years ago. In 2014, it had about $12 of debt for every dollar of yearly operating revenue. . . . In 2016, MDX had $6.74 of debt for every dollar of operating revenue” even though its debt level ($1.6 billion) was constant.

Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX)


ITR Toll Rates Set to Climb in 2017 as State Subsidy for Transponder Users Ends

WNDU reports, “Rates on the Indiana Toll Road could more than double for some 80,000 users come 2017. The end of 2016 will mark the end of a state subsidy program that held down the costs of toll road travel for some customers for the past 10 and a half years. Users of the electronic transponder E-ZPass are today charged about half as much as a cash customer would be for the same trip. Up until now, the other half has been paid by the State of Indiana directly to the toll road operator. It is that subsidy program that is about to abruptly end.”

Indiana Indiana Toll Road Concession Company (ITRCC) Toll Rate Changes


WSDOT's SR 167 Extension Scheduled to Open

Kent Reporter covers the opening later this week of an SR 167 HOT lane expansion. “On Saturday, Dec. 17,” the newspaper reports, “the Washington State Department of Transportation will turn on a six-mile High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane extension, creating a nearly 14-mile continuous southbound stretch of HOT lanes from Renton to Pacific.” WSDOT official Jennifer Charlebois tells the newspaper, “We know HOT lane drivers have been eagerly waiting for this new extension to bring relief at a major bottleneck in Auburn, and we’re excited to bring this new option to them a few months earlier than planned.” [Link added.]

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


Blue Water Bridge Strike is Over

Detroit Free Press reports, “Workers on the Canadian side of the Blue Water Bridge who have been on strike for almost three weeks have reached a new agreement, the Public Service Alliance of Canada announced Friday [December 9].” BlackburnNews.com reports that the new five-year agreement gives unionized workers increases in wages and shift premiums, and additional leave benefits.

Canada Federal Bridge Corporation Ltd. (Canada) Ontario


CTRMA's North MoPac Express Lane is Saving Time, Meeting Projections

KXAN delves into current and projected traffic data and reports, “Nearly three months after the opening of Austin’s first express lane segment on North MoPac [link added], drive times on the freeway remain faster than before commuters had the option of the pay-to-drive lane. And projections for the next 20 years fall in line with that new pattern for both paying and non-paying commuters, an examination of public records shows.”

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Express Lanes


The $2.3 Billion I-4 Ultimate Project Will Confront "Big Jump" in Traffic

Orlando Sentinel reports, “Central Florida residents might hope that the rebuilding of Interstate 4 currently snarling traffic is a success and that by 2030 the region’s most disliked road treats motorists like a Swiss watch marking time. The Florida Department of Transportation anticipates that daily traffic on I-4 will jump from 188,000 vehicles now, along a stretch between [ ] Ivanhoe Boulevard and Princeton Street, to 230,000 in 2030.” The report adds, “Not to worry, according to the team building and maintaining the ‘I-4 Ultimate’ project; what is now multilane dysfunction will become a more satisfying experience after $2.3 billion worth of work. [Link added.] ‘When our team completes construction in 2021, the Orlando stretch will be a better-functioning highway,’ states I-4 Mobility Partners, a consortium.”

Florida Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)


Amending P3 Contract for the Proposed Houbolt Toll Bridge Raises Red Flags for Some Local Officials

Daily Southtown reports, “Will County and BNSF Railway officials said a 40-year agreement with CenterPoint Intermodal Center to build and operate the planned Houbolt toll bridge may give that company too much authority. The agreement has already been approved by the county, but an amendment is now proposed that further clarifies a geographical area in which the county would be prohibited from adding new truck routes.”

Illinois P3 & Privatization


Cobb County Commissioners to Vote on Added Funding for Proposed Ramp to I-75 Reversible Toll Lanes

The Marietta Daily Journal reports, “Cobb [County] commissioners on Tuesday [December 13] will vote on increasing the county’s funding for a proposed ramp onto the reversible toll lanes under construction along Interstate 75 at Akers Mill Road.” Local officials and transportation agencies (including the State Road and Tollway Authority) have been working for several months to find enough funds for the project.

Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority (GA)


Business Insider Starts Special Series on the "Autonomous Future"

Business Insider kicks off a series of special reports on “the autonomous future” with “an exclusive interview with General Motors CEO Mary Barra about how autonomous vehicles will disrupt legacy car companies, and how Barra is preparing for them.”

Self-Driving Vehicles


PA Turnpike Implements Sweeping Changes to Prepare for Winter Storms

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the PA Turnpike has implemented a series of recommendations “to improve the agency’s preparation and response to” snowstorms in the wake of a storm last year that left hundreds stranded on the road for more than 24 hours. “Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said in an interview the changes were centered on three areas: internal practices and procedures for deploying equipment, manpower and supplies; improving relationships with state agencies such as police, emergency management and transportation; and customer needs and communications,” the newspaper reports.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)


NY Thruway Wraps Up $7.2 Million Project

Associated Press reports, “New York state has completed $7.2 million in work on the New York State Thruway between Schenectady and Amsterdam.” The report adds, “The project entailed the replacement of more than 17 miles of asphalt along with various safety upgrades in both directions of the Thruway. A new containment fence was installed to reduce the risk of falling rock.”

New York State Thruway Authority


Tacoma Narrows Bridge Advisory Committee Recommends Holding the Line on Toll Rates

The News Tribune reports, “The Tacoma Narrows Bridge citizen advisory committee has an early holiday gift for bridge users: No toll increases in 2017. If the state Transportation Commission . . . accepts the committee’s recommendation, it would mark the second year in a row bridge tolls haven’t risen. The last time tolls went up was by 50 cents on July 1, 2015. A second 50-cent increase was planned for this past summer, but that was suspended after the Legislature allocated $2.5 million in gas tax revenues to help cover the bridge’s debt service.”

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


WI Senate Democrat Leader is Skeptical of Tolling

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “The highest ranking Senate Democrat [Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse)] says she is skeptical of using toll roads as the solution to the state’s road funding woes.” The report adds, “In a year-end interview this week, Shilling said some other Democrats might be willing to accept toll roads but she was reluctant to do so.” The report also notes that if tolling were to emerge as a funding option, the plan would need support from both Republicans and Democrats.



Maine Turnpike's York Toll Plaza Project Delayed Further by State Environmental Agency Public Review

Seacoastonline.com reports that Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection has decided to grant the Town of York’s request for a public hearing on the Maine Turnpike Authority’s controversial plan to relocate the York toll plaza, “setting in place a process that could forestall the project by as much as six months.” The town favors installation of an all-electronic tolling (AET) system as an alternative to MTA’s plan for the plaza. The article quotes an environmental agency official as stating that an “open and transparent review” of AET “would be most advantageous.”

Maine Turnpike Authority


Columnist Pokes Fun, Hits Toronto Mayor Tory's Toll Plan

The Globe and Mail publishes a column by Andrew Clark, who offers a few, uh, novel ideas for implementing Toronto Mayor John Tory’s toll plan, including a “word toll” and a “reverse toll lottery.” In the end, Clark argues, “The road to hell is already paved with good intentions. We don’t need it lined by toll booths.”



Two Sault Ste. Marie City Councillors Push for Truck Tolls

SooToday.com reports, “With city staff signaling that they’re looking at user fees as a principal tool to balance unfairly high tax ratios on industrial and commercial properties, Ward 1 councillors Paul Christian and Steve Butland are talking about establishing toll collection stations for large commercial vehicles at all entry points to the city. In a resolution to be presented to City Council [today, December 12], Christian and Butland lament the province’s unwillingness to share in the rising cost of maintaining Black Road and other city thoroughfares that function as connecting links to provincial highways or border crossings.”