Daily News Briefs, December 14, 2016

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NCDOT's $900 Million Garden Parkway Is Declared Dead -- Again

The Charlotte Observer reports, “The Garden Parkway has been declared dead. Again. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday [December 13] that the project is not viable and said it faces “multiple barriers to construction.” The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper and Clean Air Carolina. The SELC challenged the environmental impact statement made for the 22-mile, $900 million toll road that would have linked Gaston and Mecklenburg counties.”

North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)


Toronto City Council Approves Tolling Plan

CBC News Toronto reports, “Toronto council has endorsed a plan to put tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, with all the revenue going toward a $33 billion slate of unfunded transit and infrastructure projects. The Ontario government will have to approve the decision, however, before the city can take any steps to implement the revenue tool. After nearly 12 hours of debate that was often polarized and sometimes even loud, the measure was approved by a vote of 32-9.”

Toronto Star reports, “Council has yet to debate how road tolls might be structured — whether there would be a flat fare of $2 or more, distance-based tolls like those on Hwy. 407, or tolls based on peak periods that are designed to reduce congestion. A staff report exploring those options and what type of technology could be used is expected next year.”

Canada Ontario


Ohio River Bridges Tolling to Start December 30. Line for RiverLink Transponders Forms Here.

Courier-Journal reports, “It’s time to get those transponders — tolling on the Lincoln, Kennedy and East End bridges will officially start Dec. 30. And officials are encouraging drivers to set up their RiverLink accounts this week so that they’ll be ready and have their transponders in time. At a press conference . . . RiverLink spokeswoman Mindy Peterson said that the best way to open an account is to go to riverlink.com to avoid long lines at customer service centers in Jeffersonville and downtown Louisville.” INDOT’s Clint Murphy told reporters about 82,000 “local transponders,” toll tags, have already been delivered, and more than 18,000 E-ZPass transponders are on order by motorists. Officials said the E-ZPass devices should be delivered to customers next week.

WAVE reports, “With the public getting ready for the East End bridge and tunnel project to open Sunday, the Harrods Creek Fire Department is making final preparations, too.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


OK Supreme Court Validates OTA Bonds for Expansion Projects

Tulsa World reports, “The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday [December 13] validated the first phase of bonds for a turnpike improvement and expansion project, paving the way for toll increases. The first phase of the Driving Forward initiative is for $480 million. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority approved specific toll increases for turnpikes last week. The hike is 12 percent, and additional increases totaling 5 percent could be implemented later.” OTA’s Tim Gatz tells the newspaper a mid-January bond sale is expected, which means the toll increases would take effect in February 2017. Click here to read the state supreme court’s pre-publication opinion.

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


Caltrans Presents Draft Managed Lanes Network Study to OCTA in "Latest Episode of State vs. Local Control"

The Orange County Register reports, “It’s the latest episode of state vs. local control of Orange County’s freeways. Caltrans staff on Monday [December 12] presented their draft Managed Lanes Network Study to the Orange County Transportation Authority board, detailing recommended system changes to address slow travel speeds in high-occupancy vehicle, or carpool, lanes.” According to The Register, the study finds that most of Orange County’s HOV lanes operate in a “degraded” condition (average traffic speed drops below 45 mph on more than two weekdays a month, triggering a federal mandate for improvement), and Caltrans recommends two responses, both involving increased use of HOT lanes. OCTA board members “who spoke up were not pleased,” the newspaper reports. Click here and scroll down to PDF file page 581 to read an OCTA staff report and the Caltrans study draft.

Caltrans (CA Department of Transportation) Express Lanes Orange County Transportation Authority (CA)


Illinois Tollway's Battle with Canadian Pacific Railroad Heats Up

Daily Herald reports, “On the heels of the Illinois tollway predicting dire economic consequences unless it acquires Canadian Pacific Railroad property near Bensenville, CP is warning of disruptions to national rail operations if the agency prevails. Both sides want U.S. Surface Transportation Board members to rule in their favor in a dispute over land the tollway seeks for bridges supporting the future I-490, a road on the western side of O’Hare International Airport.” The report adds, “In documents filed [on December 9], CP attorneys argued the railroad can’t give up ‘critical and irreplaceable’ property that is part of the ‘fragile and already congested heart of the North American rail network.’” The tollway contends, “Millions of federal and state funds are committed to the project and ‘any delays at this point will cost the public millions of dollars,’ officials stated.”

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway)


WV Parkways Authority Presses Lawmakers to Allow Tolling to Continue

The Register-Herald reports, “Saying it would ease the minds of workers and officials alike, the West Virginia Parkways Authority is hoping legislators will take up the issue of continuing tolls on the turnpike past 2019 in the upcoming session.” The authority’s Greg Barr tells the newspaper in an interview, “We are urging the Legislature to amend existing legislation because right now in state code, the statute calls for cessation of tolling. So basically, it says when bonds are paid in full for the turnpike tolls, it will revert back to the DOH free of tolls if the commissioner of highways deems the road to be in good condition.”

West Virginia Parkways Authority (West Virginia Turnpike)


Officials Agree: PANYNJ "Interstate Political Spats" Won't Derail $20 Billion Hudson Rail Tunnel Project

Associated Press reports, “A massive project to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River won’t fall prey to the type of interstate political spats that have bedeviled other large infrastructure plans in the New York region, some of the major figures behind the project said Monday [December 12].”

New Jersey New York Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


Mayors of Canada's Largest Cities Cite Tolling in Making a Case for More Power Over "Revenue Streams"

The Globe and Mail reports, “Canadian cities should be able to control their own destiny, the mayors of five large Canadian urban centres said [December 13] as they demanded more power over revenue streams. In an open letter, the mayors of Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver said cities find themselves having to ask permission to ‘do the right thing’ for their growing populations.” Toronto Mayor John Tory’s proposal to toll two expressways is cited in the letter and the article.



Governor Cuomo Visits Tappan Zee Bridge Replacement as Completion Nears

New York Daily News reports, “Move over, Robert Moses [link added]. Gov. Cuomo on Tuesday [December 13] visited the bridge that will replace the Tappan Zee in Westchester to announce that it’s on track to open in 2018 on budget. The $4 billion New NY Bridge, which will connect Westchester and Rockland counties, has reached a construction milestone — the bridge’s eight main towers have been topped off with their last batch of concrete. Construction started in 2013.” The report adds, “Project director Jamey Barbas touted the use of ‘design build’ for the New NY Bridge — a process in which a single entity handles both design and construction.” (Robert Moses, really?)

Governor Mario Cuomo Bridge (Tappan Zee Replacement Bridge) New York New York State Thruway Authority


Louisiana Task Force Sends $700 Million Gas Tax, Fee Hike Plan to Governor. Tolls Not Mentioned.

The Advocate (Baton Rouge) reports, “A plan to raise taxes and fees by $700 million per year for roads and bridges won final approval [on December 13] from Gov. John Bel Edwards’ transportation task force. The package now goes to Edwards, who will decide how much to seek, and exactly how the new revenue should be raised during the 2017 regular legislative session.” (The article does not mention tolls.)



NY Post Editorial Board Hammers PANYNJ Police, Calls for Scrapping the Force

New York Post’s editorial board blast the performance and overtime costs of the port authority’s police department. Citing an in-depth article that appeared in the newspaper’s December 11 edition, the editors write, “Fifteen years after terrorists struck the Port Authority-owned World Trade Center, the very cops responsible for security at PA sites remain ‘a weak link’ in the area’s ‘public-safety profile.’” The solution proposed by the editors: “Scrap the PAPD and hand security duties to the New Jersey State Police and NYPD, which would likely do a better job at lower cost.”

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


CA State Engineers Group Hits P3s, Cites Toll Road Projects

The Sacramento Bee publishes an op-ed by Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government, who takes on P3 projects, arguing that, “In the real world, they lead to excessive costs, bankruptcies and taxpayer bailouts. Route 125 in San Diego, for example, was backed by private money when it went over budget. It went bankrupt and defaulted on a loan from taxpayers who had to pay $352 million to buy out the private consortium. Taxpayers also bought out the Route 91 toll road project in Los Angeles after the contractor blocked efforts to relieve freeway congestion so that the toll lanes could rake in extra profits.”

California P3 & Privatization


Spain to Nationalize Nine "Loss-Making Privately Managed Toll Roads"

El País reports, “Spanish taxpayers will pick up the tab when the government nationalizes nine loss-making privately managed toll roads, Public Works Minister Íñigo de la Serna said on [December 12]. The announcement follows more than two years of talks between the government, the operators of the highways, and creditor banks. ‘An agreement to settle this is difficult, because many banks have already sold their debt on,’ De la Serna told state television. No official figures are available regarding the scale of the highway operators’ debt and the cost of nationalizing them. Seopán, the Spanish construction industry’s confederation, put the figure at around €5.5 billion [approximately US$5.86 billion at the current exchange rate] in 2015.”



New South Wales Expected to Sell Just Half of WestConnex Project

The Australian reports, “The [New South Wales] government is believed to be offering only half of its WestConnex project up for sale in a process expected to attract a wide field, sources say. Goldman Sachs is selling the asset on behalf of the government and has been testing buyer interest ahead of a sales process next year. The listed toll-road operator Transurban has been widely tipped as the logical buyer with some suggesting rival consortiums would not enter the contest against the market favourite.”

Australia Transurban