Daily News Briefs, December 29, 2016

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Wisconsin DOT Report: Tolling Could Generate Billions While Gov. Walker's Plan Would Make Matters Worse

LaCrosse Tribune reports, “Tolling Wisconsin’s U.S. interstates could raise billions for the state’s most-traveled thoroughfares, but the cost would be borne by motorists, big upfront investments would be needed and it’s unclear if the state could get the federal approval it would require, a new state Department of Transportation study [link added] finds. The study also finds Gov. Scott Walker’s road-funding plan for the next two years, which holds the line on taxes and fees, puts Wisconsin roads on course to worsen ‘severely’ over the next decade.” (And, shockingly, the man in charge of that report has resigned . . . see next item.)

Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT)


WisDOT Secretary Gottlieb Resigns

Milwaukee Business Journal reports, “Mark Gottlieb is resigning from his role as Wisconsin Department of Transportation secretary, and Dave Ross will step in from a different state department to take the job. [Link added.] Ross currently is serving as secretary of the Department of Safety and Professional Services.” Gottlieb, a registered professional engineer who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Civil Engineering, was appointed in 2011.

Wisconsin State Journal’s editorial board observes that the resignation “isn’t surprising. The governor has mostly ignored Mark Gottlieb’s apt warnings about Wisconsin’s deteriorating roads — as well as the former Republican lawmaker’s responsible solutions, including a modest increase in the gas tax or adopting a mileage-based registration system that reflects modern technology.”

Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT)


"Alternative Facilities" Clause in VDOT's Contract with ERC Could Cost Taxpayers Millions

WAVY catches up on the news that the $4 billion expansion of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board “could clash with the state’s contract for the Downtown and Midtown tunnels. If that becomes a problem, it could cost taxpayers millions of dollars. An alternative facilities clause in the contract essentially says that any crossing built that could affect toll revenue for the next 58 years would leave the Commonwealth to pay it back.” VDOT Secretary Aubrey Layne tells the station it’s been “an ongoing battle to make the Downtown and Midtown tunnels affordable. ‘We’ve bought so many tolls down and now this. It was a heavy price paid,’ Layne said. ‘If we build anything over the next 58 years and it impacts [Elizabeth River Crossings] tolling revenues, then they have a right to claim compensation against the Commonwealth.”

Elizabeth River Tunnels Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)


RiverLink to Charge Fee for Not Crossing the Bridges

Courier-Journal reports, “If you’ve set up an account to pay the bridge tolls, be sure you cross the three, tolled bridges this year at least once or else you’ll pay. RiverLink will charge customers a $5 inactivity fee if an account does not record a tolling deduction or other activity for 365 days. . . . After 365 days, the account will auto-withdraw the $5 inactivity fee from its remaining balance each month until the account is depleted. . . . Any settings to auto-replenish the account will also be stopped. RiverLink spokeswoman Mindy Peterson said the inactivity fee is meant to track accounts that are inactive.”

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Ontario Premier Wynne Won't Give Toronto a "Blank Cheque" on Tolling

CBC News Toronto reports, “[Ontario] Premier Kathleen Wynne is signalling she won’t give Toronto a blank cheque on its proposal to levy tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway. The tolls — already endorsed by Toronto City Council earlier this month — require provincial authorization to become a reality. . . . Wynne indicated her government’s approval will depend on the amount of the tolls and the alternatives available to commuters.”

Canada Ontario


GDOT's $834 Million I-75 Express Lanes Construction Project Benefits from Warm Weather

The Marietta Daily Journal provides an update on GDOT’s $834 million, I-75 managed lanes project, which has benefited from recent dry and warm weather. Construction of the 29.7 miles of reversible express toll lanes through Cobb and Cherokee counties is about two-thirds complete and on schedule to be completed in the summer of 2018, according to a GDOT spokesperson. The article also notes that regional transportation agencies are still working on raising funds to add the proposed ramp at Akers Mill Road to the project.

Express Lanes Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT)


Cameron County RMA Approves a Pay-by-Mail Option

KRGV reports, “The Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority is now allowing [SH 550] drivers to ‘use now and pay later’ by having them register their vehicle online. [Link added.] Instead of buying a prepaid tag for the car, the online registry allows the toll system to bill drivers, using their registered license plates at the end of the month.”

Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority (CCRMA)


Columnist Reacts to IDOT's Proposal to Add HOT Lanes to the Eisenhower Expressway

Lake Zurich Courier (via Chicago Tribune) publishes a Paul Sassone column explaining his unease about the proposed HOT lanes in IDOT’s Eisenhower Expressway rehabilitation plan. He writes, “It just seems that the world stays awake all night trying to figure out ways to charge for something that used to be free. . . . [P]aying fees is not always just a matter of choice. For many people, money is scarce. And paying a new fee or toll is not volitional. They can’t afford it. And because they can’t afford a fee or toll, they can’t receive the benefit received by those who can afford to pay.”

Express Lanes Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT)


DelDOT to Close two I-95 Toll Lanes for Work in Tunnel Beneath the Booths

The News Journal reports, “Two cash toll lanes will close for nearly three months on Interstate 95 southbound near Newark as construction crews demolish and then rebuild [1960s-era] stairs that connect individual toll booths to a tunnel underneath. The closure should not spark traffic backups because 70 percent of vehicles use E-ZPass lanes, said Scott Vien, director of the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles.”

Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)


Colorado DOT's Conversion of Some HOV+2 into HOV+3 Lanes Irks Compact Vehicle Drivers

The Denver Post reports that some motorists who drive compact vehicles are complaining about the decision, effective January 1, to convert express lanes on I-25 and the Boulder Turnpike from HOV+2 to HOV+3 facilities, “forcing owners of two-seater vehicles to pay up if they still want to travel in the carpool lane.” CDOT spokesperson Amy Ford responds that the HOV rating change was publicly discussed and approved nearly four years ago, and was part of the agency’s bargain with its P3 contractor, Plenary Roads Denver. She adds, “HOV is not about filling a vehicle, it’s about moving people in an HOV capacity.”

Colorado Department of Transportation Express Lanes


A Look at Metro DC's Crumbling Highways and Bridges

WTOP, in the second part of its “Crumbling Capital” series, looks at the condition of metro DC highways and bridges. “A chunk of concrete falls off a crumbling bridge, slamming into a car windshield; there are weight limits on a major Potomac River crossing; and a busy commuter route is closed for months. These are just a few examples of the region’s disintegrating and underfunded transportation infrastructure.” The station observes that the capital city’s Arlington Memorial Bridge “is emblematic of the nation’s infrastructure challenges. Last year, the National Park Service warned that without funding for significant rehabilitation, the structure would need to be shut down by 2021 for safety reasons. Its facade appears elegant on the outside, but the bridge’s innards are withering away.”

Washington (DC) Metro Region


NY Governor Cuomo's Plan to Include Facial Recognition Technology in MTA Cashless Initiative Draws Fire

Reason.com features a “Hit & Run” blog post with a headline calling Governor Andrew Cuomo’s MTA cashless toll collection project “a Recipe for Surveillance Abuse. License plate readers, facial recognition software, and registration suspensions—a dangerous combination.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)


State Lawmaker Pushes NY Thruway to Hold Local Meeting for Toll Advisory Task Force

The Journal News reports, “State Sen. David Carlucci is asking the Thruway Authority to make good on their promise to bring its Toll Advisory Task Force to Rockland. The Clarkstown Democrat said the task force — formed in 2015 to examine tolls for the new Tappan Zee Bridge, including the potential for a resident discount — needs to give Westchester and Rockland residents peace of mind [about future toll rates] as the bridge nears its expected 2018 completion date.”

New York State Thruway Authority


Federal Judge to Rule on Which Sealed Bridgegate Files to Make Public

The Record reports, “A federal district court judge will consider on Jan. 17 which of the Bridgegate criminal case files to make public after receiving motions from the federal government and a group of news media outlets headed by The Record.” The newspaper also notes that Bridgegate criminal trial defendants Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni are scheduled to be sentenced on February 21.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


Jacksonville Area Highway Work Reaches an Unprecedented High

The Florida Times-Union reports, “It is like a gift that keeps on giving for local commuters — the avalanche of road projects in Jacksonville as well as routes in and out of Clay, St. Johns and Nassau counties that promise traffic relief in the future, but bring the crunch of traffic jams, detours and lane closures right now.” The newspaper says, “A check of Florida Department of Transportation projects in Jacksonville at northfloridaroads.com shows 31 projects under construction, five of them focused on different parts of Interstate 95. . . .” The project to widen the I-295 loop and add managed lanes between Baymeadows Road and Gate Parkway gets particular attention in the article.

Florida Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)