Daily News Briefs, December 13, 2016

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After 30 Years, a Proposed $500 Million Project to Link the Sawgrass Expressway, FL Turnpike and I-95 Advances

Sun-Sentinel reports, “A 30-year roadblock has been cleared and a link between the Sawgrass Expressway, Florida’s Turnpike and Interstate 95, through the heart of Deerfield Beach, is a step closer to reality. The Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization has voted in favor of an 18-point plan to expand Southwest 10th Street. It includes sunken express lanes down the middle of Southwest 10th Street, with higher local access roads running parallel.” The report adds, “Some estimates have the unfunded connection taking at least eight years to build at a cost of more than $500 million. Gerry O’Reilly, District Four secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, has said he will find the money.”

Florida Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE)


Fitch Releases "Peer Review of U.S. Toll Roads" Report

Fitch Ratings announced the release of a new report, “Peer Review of U.S. Toll Roads, Attribute Assessments, Metrics, and Ratings.” In its news release, Fitch said, “Some U.S. toll road projects may be in line for upward rating activity heading into 2017. . . . Fitch has observed positive operating performance trends across the sector among toll road projects in states like Florida, Maryland and California. Favorable growth and near completion of sizable projects in some cases led Fitch to take eight positive and zero negative actions on its rated U.S. toll roads during the last 12 months. That said, Fitch maintains a Stable Outlook on more than 90% of its rated toll road projects so dramatic rating changes in the coming months are unlikely.”


Traffic Is Climbing on NC Turnpike's Triangle Expressway. Plans for an Extension Are in the Works.

The News & Observer reports, “Traffic” — and particularly rush hour traffic — “has increased about 24 percent per year since the last leg of the Triangle Expressway opened in late 2012. Daily traffic on the road’s busiest section — from N.C. 147 to N.C. 55  — has increased 72 percent since 2013 to an average of 44,700 vehicles per day.” On account of economic and population growth along the toll road corridor and commuters’ preference for the “TriEx” over congested alternate routes, plans for an extension are being made. According to the newspaper, NCDOT anticipates construction will begin on the first leg of an  extension “in a couple years.”

North Carolina Turnpike Authority


Ohio River Bridges Project Expects a $3 Billion Toll Surplus through 2054

Insider Louisville reports, “The states of Kentucky and Indiana expect the tolling revenue for the Ohio River Bridges project to generate a surplus of more than $3 billion through 2054. The state of Indiana expects that after construction, maintenance and operations costs through 2054, it will have nearly $1.2 billion left over. The state of Kentucky projects a surplus of about $2 billion. Both states emphasized that the figures are projections.”

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Economist Projects Ohio River Bridges Will Save Commuters $1.3 Billion to $2 Billion, Create Tens of Thousands of Jobs

Louisville Business First reports, “The completion of the Ohio River Bridges Project could save commuters $1.3 billion to $2 billion over a 30-year period and is expected to spur development and job growth in Clark County [Indiana] and northeastern Jefferson County [Kentucky]. Those were the observations of Paul Coomes, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Louisville, as he addressed a packed crowd” during a December 12 chamber of commerce gathering. [Links amended.]

WDRB reports that Coomes told the audience he expects the new East End Bridge “will help create more than 10,000 new jobs in eastern Clark County, Ind., over the next decade.”

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Former VA Governor McDonnell Says Feds, McAuliffe Administration "Torpedoed" US 460 Toll Project

Daily Press reports on an interview in which former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell “defended his administration’s deals on U.S. 460 and the Downtown/Midtown tunnels . . . , suggesting that federal authorities and the McAuliffe administration torpedoed one project and that the other represented the best deal Virginia could have made at the time.”

P3 & Privatization Virginia Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)


VDOT's Layne Makes the Case for Hampton Roads "New Transportation Vision"

Daily Press features an op-ed column in which VDOT Secretary Aubrey Layne touts the “new transportation vision [that] brings the [Hampton Roads] region together to make the right project decisions with more transportation choices than ever before.”

P3 & Privatization Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)


A Bird's-Eye View of Mass Turnpike AET Traffic, or "A Stroll Down the Red Carpet"

The Boston Globe gives its readers toll-collection camera views of a car passing through the Massachusetts Turnpike’s new AET collection points, reporting, “Driving down the Massachusetts Turnpike nowadays is like a stroll down the red carpet. Flashes are constantly firing on those new all-electronic toll collection gantries as cameras mounted on the metal frames snap photos of the front and back —and record a brief video — of each vehicle that passes underneath.” Addressing privacy concerns, officials point out that the camera images do not clearly show faces or vehicle interiors.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike


OTA Pikepass Customers Overcharged Due to "Time Sync Error"

The Oklahoman reports, “As many as 69,000 Oklahoma Pikepass customers may have received improper overcharges on their November billing statements due to what Oklahoma Turnpike Authority officials are describing as a ‘time sync error.’ Steps to correct the mistakes already have been taken and December billing statements should reflect the corrected charges, said Jack Damrill, Oklahoma Turnpike Authority spokesman.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


New MnPASS Lanes are Partially Operational on I-35E

Pioneer Press reports, “Commutes on Interstate 35E between St. Paul and White Bear Lake are now a bit easier thanks to new MnPASS express lanes that debuted Friday [December 9]. As of Monday, the lanes will be restricted during peak travel times to public transit, vehicles with two or more occupants and solo motorists with a MnPASS tag and an active MnPASS account.”

Express Lanes Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) (MnPASS)


Miami Herald Editors Say MDX Can't Buy Any Love, Despite Cash Back Dividend Program

The Miami Herald editorial board actually applauds the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) for its efforts to help the region fund transportation projects, but says the agency lost the public relations battle after it “expanded tolling to all of its exits on the Dolphin and Airport expressways. That ‘closing of the system’ sparked a backlash among motorists and local politicians, who openly denounce the agency. The relationship between the agency and motorists has never been the same. Not even the effort to give motorists $5 million in refunds through the MDX Cash Back Toll Dividend Program has warmed feelings.” The editorial board adds, “We know it’s a tough sale to get readers to side with MDX, but the Board believes that Miami-Dade’s traffic problems will choke this community, just as Miami Beach is being strangled [by] its traffic problems. Attention must be paid and now and fast. That’s nothing new. Yet, when we look around for governments or [agencies] actually spending money to make our roadways more expedient, we can mainly see MDX’s projects and improvements. And yes, they cost a lot of money.”

Florida Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX)


Toronto Mayor Tory Is Confident City Council Will Support His Tolling Plan

Toronto Star reports that Mayor John Tory is confident he will get the city council’s support today to ask the Ontario provincial government for authority to toll two city-owned and operated expressways. The council’s final meeting of 2016 is scheduled for today, December 13.



Blackstone Group Explores Infrastructure Investment (Toll Roads Cited as "Particularly Fraught" with Debt and Inaccurate Traffic Projections.)

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports, “Blackstone Group LP is exploring a new infrastructure-investing business at a time when more money than ever is being committed to funds that aim to invest in ports, pipelines and other public works. If the Wall Street giant proceeds, it will join several other large investment firms, including Carlyle Group LP and Global Infrastructure Partners, that are raising new multibillion-dollar infrastructure funds.” According to the article, “Toll roads have proven particularly fraught, with debt-loaded deals and inaccurate traffic projections after the housing bust resulting in a rash of bankruptcies among companies created to operate them.”


ACS Reduces Ownership Stake in Canadian Highway

Reuters reports, “Spanish builder ACS (ACS.MC) has sold the bulk of its 50 percent stake in Canada’s South Fraser Perimeter Road. . . . ACS, which runs other toll roads in Canada, said it would retain a minority stake in the project. Its holding now stands at 12.5 percent. It said it had signed a service contract to manage the highway and maintain it.” Buyers are Ontario-based infrastructure firm Connor, Clark & Lunn and Quebec-based pension fund Desjardins.



India Toll Road Woes Continue as App for Paying Tolls is Delayed for More Than Six Months

The Indian Express reports, “Two days after motorists nationwide were assured of a discount on electronic toll payments by the finance ministry, one of such payment options for city commuters still awaits a sanction from the government authorities. The implementation of a mobile application that facilitates cashless toll payment for users has been delayed for more than six months owing to various reasons.”



NET RMA Eyes Toll 49 Extension

KLTV reports, “Construction could be closer to starting on a segment of an East Texas toll road. NET RMA, who manages Toll 49 in Smith County, announced they will ask to begin looking at environmental firms for a study on the road. The two-lane segment of the toll road would stretch from where Toll 49 meets Highway 110, all the way to an area near Highway 271 and Interstate 20.”



Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Collector Struck by Mirror of SUV

The Times-Picayune reports, “A Lake Pontchartrain Causeway toll collector was struck by the mirror of a sport utility vehicle [on Saturday, December 10] but escaped with only a bruised arm.” The toll collector, who observed that the vehicle did not have a toll tag and was not stopping to pay cash, was signaling the driver to stop when he was injured. The driver did stop and apologize, explaining he did not realize that the bridge is tolled.

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (Metro New Orleans)