Daily News Briefs, December 15, 2016

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Legos Tell the Tale of How a Plan to Fix Tampa Bay's Most Important Bridge Fell Apart

Tampa Bay Times posts a slide show using Lego bricks to map out how a proposal to fix the Howard Frankland Bridge crumbled as part of the Tampa Bay Express project. The issue comes down to tolling, naturally, and the difference between a general use lane and an auxiliary lane. (The report is worth a few minutes for those who have to translate “transportation-ese” into English.)

Florida Tampa Bay Express


FDOT's Boxold Earns Praise for Offering a "Reset" on TBX Project

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board thanks FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold for telling a state senate panel “he wants to ‘hit the reset button’ on TBX, which has drawn fierce local opposition for its reliance on roads and tolls, and for the impact it would have on neighborhoods near downtown Tampa. Boxold’s comments are welcome and the latest sign that the DOT wants a fresh start and a more collaborative approach on a project critical to the region.” The editors add, “While maintaining that TBX is necessary to improve the region’s transportation system, Boxold didn’t flinch from admitting that the state needs to focus more on the impact on nearby low-income and minority neighborhoods. He conceded that DOT has done a poor job of involving residents in the decisionmaking process, and he promised a new spirit of openness moving forward.”

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Tampa Bay Express


MTC Explores Possibility of Ballot Measure That Would Increase Tolls

San Francisco Chronicle reports, “Bay Area transportation officials are eyeing a regional ballot measure that could increase tolls on the Bay Bridge and other state-owned spans by as much as $3 to raise money for transportation projects. At a workshop meeting [on December 14] . . . the Metropolitan Transportation Commission discussed the notion of persuading the state Legislature to create Regional Measure 3 — a ballot measure to increase tolls — for voters’ consideration in 2018. [Links deleted.] The ballot measure could also create a discount for drivers who pay their tolls with FasTrak, expand congestion-based tolling, now in use at the Bay Bridge, and charge an additional toll for trucks.”

Click here to download the workshop meeting packet for more information on the ballot issue proposal (“Agenda Item 2”).

Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) San Francisco Bay Area (CA)


IDOT Pitches New Toll Lanes on I-55, and the "Tougher Sell" May Be the P3 Approach

Desplaines Valley News reports, “To pay or not to pay? That was the question on the minds of many . . . when the Illinois Department of Transportation held a public hearing about adding a toll lane in each direction on Interstate 55, also called the Stevenson Expressway. Because of increasing congestion on the roadway – 140,000 to 180,000 vehicles are on it daily – there is a need to find solutions, IDOT officials say. All those vehicles create at least 10 hours of rush-hour like congestion daily, IDOT said.” The report adds, “The tougher sell — besides getting folks to shell out money to ride what has been free since it opened — might be convincing the General Assembly to approve a proposed Public-Private Partnership . . .”

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) P3 & Privatization


Cost of Cuomo's Cashless Tolling Plan Adds Up for MTA "Straphangers"

The Village Voice reports, “Governor Andrew Cuomo’s push to quickly replace bridge and tunnel toll booths with cashless tolls is costing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hundreds of millions of dollars, and the agency is paying for it in part by reducing the amount of money going to the MTA’s trains, buses and subways.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City


Toll Rates on the 95 and 495 Express Lanes Spike

WTOP reports, “Toll rates on the 95 and 495 express lanes have spiked in recent weeks with some tolls costing drivers as much as $30 to travel just 14 miles.” Transurban spokesman Mike McGurk — who acknowledges, “Last couple weeks have been challenging, especially on 495 South” — lists some possible reasons for the increases: a holiday season traffic spike; Metro SafeTrack operations pushing commuters into cars; and darkness during peak use periods, which tends to reduce traffic speeds.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock addressed commuters’ concerns about the “surging tolls” on 495 Express. He passed along some tips for cost-conscious motorists, and explained why Transurban wants to help them save money.

Express Lanes Washington (DC) Metro Region


Onondaga County Lawmakers Push to Eliminate NY Thruway Tolls for Local Commuters

Syracuse.com reports, “Onondaga County lawmakers want to get rid of Thruway tolls for local commuters. The County Legislature plans to ask state lawmakers to eliminate tolls for anyone who enters and exits the Thruway between exits 34A and 39. Legislator John Dougherty proposed the resolution, which passed through the facilities committee [on December 14].” The goal is to keep more traffic off local roads. The report adds, “Routes between most local exits cost a few dimes. A trip from exit 34A to exit 39 costs a passenger vehicle 65 cents.”

New York State Thruway Authority


CFX Continues to Battle Wrong-Way Driving

WFTV reports, “Five dozen drivers went the wrong way on some of Central Florida’s toll roads, according to new numbers from The Central Florida Expressway. [A reporter] found out the ramp just off State Road 408 to Hiawassee Road has the most documented cases, where people are driving up the ramp the wrong way and being picked up by detection devices.” The station’s review of CFX’s effort to prevent accidents notes that the 24 devices currently in use by the agency detected 60 motorists entering toll roads the wrong way, 45 of whom turned around in response to warnings.

Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX)


Treasure Island City Commissioners Approve Contract to Study Return of Causeway Tolling

Tampa Bay Newspapers reports, “City commissioners approved a contract with a tolling consultant Dec. 6 but failed to approve the cost of the first phase on a study concerning the possible return of tolls to the Treasure Island Causeway. Commissioners voted 4-1 to enter into a contract with Atkins North America. . . .”



Mayor of Sunrise Plugs Sawgrass Express, I-95 and Florida Turnpike Connection

Sun-Sentinel publishes an op-ed by Mike Ryan, Mayor of Sunrise, Florida, who plugs a proposed connection between the Sawgrass Expressway and other major highways including I-95 and the Florida Turnpike. Ryan takes on FTE, arguing that, “The Turnpike Enterprise, which controls all decisions on toll roads and is planning comprehensive interchange improvements throughout the Sawgrass Expressway, refuses to construct a ramp to allow access to and from the north.” The mayor is a fan of FDOT, writing that, “In contrast, District Four of the Florida Department of Transportation has been a positive model of collaboration for other necessary changes in the corridor.”

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Florida's Turnpike Enterprise (FTE)


GDOT Provides Tour of Nearly Completed I-75 Toll Lanes

WXIA reporter Jerry Carnes (“Commuter Dude”) “joins GDOT’s Jill Goldberg for a ride along 12 miles of Express Lanes along I-75 in Henry and Clayton County. Georgia’s newest stretch of toll lanes are expected to open in late January.” Goldberg explains GDOT’s plans for managing traffic and emergencies in the reversible lanes.

Express Lanes Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT)


PA Turnpike Toll Hike Takes Effect January 8 as PennDOT Payments Hit Customers

Pennlive.com reports, “Traveling on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is one more way traveling in Pennsylvania is going to get more expensive in 2017, along with higher gas taxes and increasing motorist fees. A 6 percent toll increase, approved in July, takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 8 on both cash and E-ZPass tolls.” The report adds, “The higher rates are needed to help the turnpike meet its funding obligations, said turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo.” The obligations include an annual $450 million to PennDOT to support mass transit.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) Toll Rate Changes


IL Tollway Launches Zero Weather Road Patrols

CBS News Chicago reports, “The Illinois Tollway is launching . . . around-the-clock ‘Zero Weather Road Patrols’ to aid stranded drivers during the Wind Chill Advisory. The severe cold and dangerous wind chills are anticipated to continue through Friday [December 16]. The Illinois Tollway operates ‘Zero Weather Road Patrols’ whenever temperatures or wind chills fall below zero degrees.” Click here for information from the authority about its preparations to aid motorists.

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway)


Bertha Churns Along. One-Third of Highway 99 Tunnel Upper Road Deck Is Complete.

The Seattle Times reports, “Nearly one-third of the Highway 99 tunnel’s upper road deck has taken shape, now that Highway 99 tunnel-boring machine Bertha has managed to consistently churn ahead since spring.” The report adds, “Workers at Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) assembled the giant tube’s 1,000th concrete ring Tuesday morning [December 13], passing the 70 percent mark in the 1.7-mile route, while crews in the rear pour concrete for the roadway.”

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


Petition to Keep Ontario's Hwy 412 a Non-Toll Route Gains Steam

DurhamRegion.com reports that southern Ontario motorists got some relief when the province opened a Highway 407 extension and a new Highway 412 in June, both of which will remain toll-free until the end of 2016. “Now,” the website reports, “with 2017 fast approaching, residents are worried about the impact the new tolls — specifically on Hwy. 412 — will have on local traffic. ‘Keep Ontario highway 412 as a non-toll route’ is a petition posted on Change.org with more than 3,000 supporters.”

Canada Ontario


Sault Ste. Marie City Councillor Cuts and Runs from Truck Toll Proposal. It Was a Joke, Folks.

SooToday.com reports that the exciting, controversial proposal to start tolling trucks at points of entry to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, was, uh, just a joke. The website reports, “A municipal councillor’s proposal to set up toll collection stations at every point of entry to the city wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. At least, that’s what we were advised at this week’s meeting of Sault Ste. Marie City Council. ‘I want to make it very clear off the top, I’m not an advocate for tolls,’ Ward 1 councillor Paul Christian said as he introduced a very formal resolution asking the city to consider slapping tolls on large commercial vehicles.”

Canada Ontario


Some Wonder If NC Governor-Elect Cooper Will (or Can?) Act on I-77 Toll Lanes Project

WSOC reports, “Drivers who voted against Pat McCrory because he supported the I-77 tolls are anxiously waiting to see how the new governor will handle the controversial project.” The report adds, “On [December 14], the head of state transportation said if [Governor-elect Roy Cooper] is planning any changes he hasn’t heard about them. ‘There’s been no discussion of that project,’ Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson said. Even so, there’s no guarantee Tennyson would stay in his current position once Cooper takes office or what the governor-elect’s final plan will be.”

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