Daily News Briefs, December 20, 2016

This is a Subscribers-Only area. If you are a subscriber, please login. If not...

Become a Subscriber Today »

FDOT Says No Dice to CFX's Request That the State Agency Expedite Work on Wekiva Parkway

Orlando Sentinel reports that FDOT has rebuffed the Central Florida Expressway Authority’s attempt to get FDOT to expedite work on a segment of the Wekiva Parkway project. In September, the newspaper notes, CFX made an early, lump sum payoff of a $150.9 million debt it owed to FDOT with the expectation the money would allow state transportation officials to advance their construction timetable for a segment of the tollway. However, FDOT has “confirmed in an email” that it does not plan to complete the project before 2021, the date originally scheduled. The Sentinel adds that at a recent public meeting, FDOT district officials appeared to be unaware of CFX’s debt repayment.

Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)


Onondaga County Lawmakers to Ask NY Thruway to Nix Tolls for Local Commuters

WRVO reports, “Onondaga County lawmakers [today, December 20] will ask the state to consider eliminating tolls for local travelers on the New York State Thruway. Lawmakers have asked the state to do this before, but were unsuccessful. But [County] Legislator John Dougherty thinks the time is right to ask for a break for motorists getting on and off on one of the Thruway’s six exits in the Syracuse area. ‘I think now we have a better chance of having it passed, being that our county executive is on the Thruway Board, being that [planning to upgrade I-81 through downtown Syracuse is underway].’”

New York State Thruway Authority


OH Turnpike Going All In on Self-Driving Vehicles in 2017 with a $714,000 Investment

The Plain Dealer reports, “The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission is investing in bringing connected vehicle technology to Ohio. Gov. John Kasich has said he hopes to make Ohio a center for development of the autonomous driving industry. The commission, which has publicly supported that goal, is appropriating $714,000 of its 2017 capital budget for connected vehicle technology.” The report adds, “The lion’s share of the commission’s $121.4 million capital budget still will be used for the traditional basics: pavement replacement and resurfacing and bridge repairs and rehabilitation. Still, the new investment marks a new era of transportation technology funding.”

Ohio Self-Driving Vehicles


Dumbarton Bridge Might Be Up Next as California Marches toward Reversible Lanes

Monterey Herald reports, “With unprecedented traffic jams clogging California highways, transportation planners have new marching orders: Consider reversible lanes on any major upcoming project, and up next is the Dumbarton Bridge.” The report adds, “A bill signed into law this year by Gov. Jerry Brown has set into motion a study by SamTrans in San Mateo County to convert the six-lane span from Fremont to the Peninsula to four westbound lanes and two eastbound lanes in the morning, then flip-flopping that configuration in the afternoon. A movable median barrier like that on the Golden Gate Bridge would be used. It won’t happen quickly, and may be a decade away. But the first reports will be ready in May.”

California Caltrans (CA Department of Transportation)


Cintra Executive, VA Lawmaker Spar over I-66 Outside the Beltway P3

Fairfax County Times publishes an op-ed by Patrick Rhode, Cintra’s US Vice-President of Corporate Affairs, who goes to bat for the $3 billion I-66 outside the beltway P3 project. Rhode writes, “As the Commonwealth has noted, P3’s are a powerful tool for enabling new projects, but they only work if taxpayers’ interests are protected. Virginia taxpayers can be assured that their state leaders are tough negotiators and that the public interest will be protected in this deal.” Cintra and Meridiam lead the team selected for the project. On the other hand . . .

Fairfax County Times publishes an op-ed by Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13) , who slams the project and urges the Commonwealth Transportation Board to delay voting on the P3 contract. He writes, “While VDOT has refused to disclose proposed toll costs for I-66, data from VDOT studies indicate that a single or double occupant vehicle will pay $75/day round trip from Haymarket to I-495 and $17 a day round trip inside I-495 during high drive time. This amounts to $92/day, $460/week, or $23,000/year for those commuting to DC.”

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


Indiana Funding Taskforce Recommends Gas Tax and Vehicle Fee Increases, and Push for Tolling Interstates

Associated Press reports, “Recommendations to pay for road improvements in Indiana include increasing gas taxes, tolls and a vehicle fee. Republican state Rep. Tim Brown of Crawfordsville and Republican state Sen. Luke Kenley of Noblesville on Monday [December 19] announced the recommendations of the task force they co-chair. The panel was created as part of a two-year road funding plan passed earlier this year. Members were tasked with finding new revenue to pay for the state’s transportation infrastructure.” Click here to read the task force’s December 19 draft final report.

The Times of Northwest Indiana adds, “In addition, the task force urged the Legislature to work with the federal government to authorize tolling on state highways and interstates to pay for added capacity and rehabilitation of existing lanes and bridges.”



Arkansas Governor Appoints Real Estate Executive to State Highway Commission

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Governor Asa Hutchinson’s latest appointment to the Arkansas Highway Commission is Philip Taldo, a Springdale real estate broker and developer. Taldo, who replaces Frank D. Scott, Jr., was named to the Governor’s Working Group on Highway Funding in 2015.

Appointments-Promotions-Retirements Arkansas


Tennessee Governor Delays Release of Transportation Funding Plan (Tolls a Long, Long Shot)

Times Free Press reports, “Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday [December 19] he is ‘very ready to present’ his long-awaited transportation-funding recommendations but has delayed them for now at the request of some fellow Republicans in the General Assembly who want to explore their own funding ideas.” The report adds, “Tennessee has no toll roads and has long made it a point of pride not to issue government debt to bankroll its road maintenance and improvements, using cash instead.”



Rhode Island's Governor Isn't Sweating Potential Legal Challenges to Truck Tolling

WPRO publishes a year-in-review interview with Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, who says she is not concerned about potential legal challenges to her RhodeWorks truck toll plan, and she looks forward to a year of intensive road and bridge rehabilitation work in 2017.

Rhode Island


MassDOT Blasting Advances Demolition of Toll Plazas

The Berkshire Eagle reports, “If you live within earshot of Mass Turnpike Interchange 1 or are traveling I-90 at certain times starting [today, December 20], be prepared for blasting operations and brief traffic delays. As part of its conversion to all-electronic toll collection on the turnpike and reconstruction following the demolition of toll plazas, the state Department of Transportation has planned ‘controlled blasting operations’ at the West Stockbridge interchange.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike


Illinois Construction Industry Giant Frank (Bud) Paschen Dies

Daily Herald reports that Frank (Bud) Paschen died last week at age 80 after contributing to a “family legacy of building roads and major landmarks in Chicago [that] goes back to the Great Chicago Fire.” His company, F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen, “led the widening and reconstruction of portions of Interstate 90 and Interstate 294, as well as work on the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway, which earned the company awards from Illinois Tollway Authority and Illinois Department of Transportation.”

Chicago Metro Area Illinois


Elon Musk's Next Big Thing? Tunnels. Yes, Tunnels.

The Christian Science Monitor reports, “After being stuck in traffic, consummate entrepreneur/tech visionary Elon Musk tweeted out his latest inspiration: tunnels to help clear up roadway congestion. Mr. Musk is no stranger to massive, transportation-related developments,” including electric vehicles and a proposed high-speed rail system. “But this one — if he, in fact, decides to make good on his tweeted proclamations — would be decidedly more down-to-Earth.”


Setback for CTRMA Proposal to Develop Park-and-Ride Lots

Austin Monitor reports that an “ambitious plan” to develop eight new park-and-ride facilities along Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority tollways has hit a bump. The proposal, put forward jointly by CTRMA, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, depends on the agencies getting state and local approvals to use unspent funds from Qualified Energy Conservation bonds allocated by the US Energy Department. However, the website reports, the Williamson County Commissioners Court last week deferred action on granting its approval, and some commissioners expressed disapproval of the idea.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA)


Toronto Star Columnist Plugs Tolling, Says Mayor's Plan Is Not Big Enough

Toronto Star columnist Royson James lists the “significant benefits” to be expected from Mayor John Tory’s expressway toll plan. At the same time, he writes, it “doesn’t go far enough, is not bold enough,” and “would have more chance of survival if [the mayor and city council] stopped shielding Torontonians from this reality: the Toronto region will have to embrace tolls, vehicle registration taxes, higher property taxes and, if wise enough, some kind of municipal income tax to finance a growing city region.”

Canada Ontario


Milwaukee Columnist Backs Gas Tax Hike, VMT, Tolling, Delaying Projects . . . and the Kitchen Sink

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editor Ernst-Ulrich Franzen writes that Wisconsin needs to create a stable, long-term transportation funding mechanism, and a gas tax increase alone will not suffice. “Legislators need to consider all the tools at their disposal, as [State Assembly Speaker Robin] Vos and the Transportation Development Association’s ‘Just Fix It’ campaign have argued. Those tools include a hike in the gas tax, increasing the registration fee (perhaps with a higher fee for luxury vehicles and hybrids), a vehicle miles traveled system and toll roads if they can get federal permission, and, yes, delaying some projects.”



More on Illinois DOT's Proposed P3 for I-290 HOT Lanes

The Bond Buyer reports, “Illinois may look to private investors to help finance a $2.7 billion freeway expansion project in Chicago due to overwhelming response to a tolled lane project that is being developed as a public-private partnership. The expansion proposal outlined late last week by the Illinois Department of Transportation would add high-occupancy tolled express lanes to relieve congestion and speed up traffic on Interstate 290, known locally as the Eisenhower Expressway.” The report adds, “Any P3 agreement would have to be approved by the Illinois General Assembly.”

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) P3 & Privatization


$1.2 Billion Tunnel beneath the Bosporus Strait Slated to Open Today

Hürriyet Daily News reports that Istanbul’s new, 2.1 mile auto tunnel beneath the Bosporus Strait is scheduled to open today. The newspaper notes that the undersea crossing will reduce peak travel time between the city’s Asian and European sides from 100 minutes to about 15. The car toll rate will be about $4.00. The $1.2 billion tunnel was constructed on a build-operate-transfer model.