Daily News Briefs, December 5, 2016

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RiverLink Defends Ohio River Bridges Frequent User Discount Plan

The Courier-Journal reports that RiverLink is defending its frequent-user discount program. Some motorists claim the program rules will make it too difficult for them to qualify on a regular basis for Ohio River Bridges toll reductions. RiverLink spokeswoman Mindy Peterson tells the newspaper the program “is designed to assist employees who work on one side and live on the other side and travel back and forth five days per week. We are one of only a handful of tolling systems that offers any type of user discount.” Click here and scroll down to “Frequent User Discount Program” to read RiverLink’s program FAQs.

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


MTA to Play Hardball with Scofflaws with Launch of AET Next Year

Silive.com reports, “Tollbooths at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, along with the Bayonne Bridge, will be replaced by automatic tolling next year, and those who try to dodge the tolls will face consequences.” The article notes, “To deter drivers from speeding up to try and beat [license plate recognition cameras], the MTA has made it clear that Bridges and Tunnels officers will continue to work together with the New York State Police and New York City Police Department to ensure the safe operation of motor vehicles on and around their facilities, . . . according to an MTA spokesperson. The law enforcement officers will address speed enforcement and the enforcement of other vehicle and traffic laws deemed as aggressive or reckless driving, including speeding, following too closely (tailgating), and unsafe movement from lane to lane, the spokesperson added.” The report adds that PANYNJ police will continue enforcement efforts as well. Silive also details the state’s plans to enforce payment of toll and penalty notices.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


PA's New Toll Enforcement Legislation Takes Effect in 2017. Turnpike Commission Is Pursuing Reciprocity Agreements.

The Citizens’ Voice reports, “Chronic toll scofflaws on the Pennsylvania Turnpike will face new penalties under a state law taking effect next year. The law requires the Transportation Department to suspend the vehicle registration of motorists who fail to pay six or more violations for skipping tolls.” The report adds, “The law becomes effective in late summer, which gives officials time to make another effort to persuade scofflaws to pay up before the automatic suspension kicks in, said Mark Compton, the [turnpike] commission’s chief executive officer, last week. Compton hopes to cut the list of evaders who may be at the threshold of six or more unpaid violations.” The report also notes that the commission is pursuing reciprocity agreements with other states.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) Scofflaws


Decision Whether to Continue WV Turnpike Tolls Hoped for Early in Governor-Elect Justice’s Term

West Virginia MetroNews reports, “Some time during the first year of Governor-elect Jim Justice’s term in office there could be a decision about the future of tolling on the West Virginia Turnpike. The bonds financed by the tolls will be paid off in 2019. Some are calling for the tolls to be eliminated while others say the state can’t afford it. West Virginia Parkways Authority General Manager Greg Barr hopes the decision comes sooner than later for the sake of Turnpike workers. ‘We have a lot of employees and it’s tough not knowing what your future is and they are raising families and have kids ready to go to college and it would be nice if they knew they were going to have a job after 2019,’ Barr said.” He added that he does not know which way Justice is leaning on the tolling issue.

West Virginia Parkways Authority (West Virginia Turnpike)


After First Year, WSDOT'S I-405 Express Lanes Exceed Revenue and Usage Projections

The Herald reports that after the first full year of operation, WSDOT’s I-405 Express Lanes usage and toll revenue is exceeding projections, according to a presentation by the agency to the state House Transportation Committee. On the down side, “the speed standard is not getting met — though it’s close.” Patty Rubstello, assistant secretary for WSDOT’s toll division, told lawmakers that express lane traffic travels at the federally required minimum speed only 85 percent of the time. According to The Herald, “While that’s better than the 60 percent seen for traffic in the former carpool lanes, it isn’t what the Legislature wants. Rubstello said the primary reason continues to be ‘one trouble spot’ in the northbound direction, north of Bothell in Snohomish County.” The newspaper adds that WSDOT officials “are looking into the costs of two express toll lanes in each direction for the entire corridor. . . . More information will be presented Dec. 15 to the Joint Transportation Committee, a bipartisan panel of House and Senate members.”


Toronto Mayor Tory Becomes Tolling "Crusader" after Calling Tolls "Highway Robbery"

Toronto Star takes a deep look at how Toronto Mayor John Tory “went from calling tolls ‘highway robbery’ to crusading for them.” The newspaper reports that after months of internal deliberation, on his return from a weekend Santa Claus parade, “Tory delivered an impassioned speech [to his staff] on his willingness to back road tolls, even if it meant putting his political career at risk. ‘This is the right way forward. This is the right time and it’s the right thing to do,’ Tory told his relieved staffers gathered in the boardroom of his second-floor office at city hall, four days before announcing the proposal publicly. . . .”


Dulles Greenway is Loudoun County's Most Valuable Property

Washington Business Journal reports, “The most valuable, taxable property in Loudoun County [Virginia] is not a data center, or future mixed-use development on the Silver Line corridor, or a mall. It’s a highway. In fiscal 2016, for the first time, Toll Road Investors Partnership II LLC ranked as Loudoun’s No. 1 principal taxpayer, according to the county’s recently released Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Its privately-owned highway, the Dulles Greenway [link added], had a taxable value of $308 million. No other property came close. The assessed value of the 14.3-mile Greenway has soared 77 percent over five years.”

Toll Road Investors Partnership II (TRIP II) Washington (DC) Metro Region


MTA Starts Public Hearings on 2017 Fare, Toll Hikes

WABC reports, “Public meetings will be held across New York City starting [today, December 5] on the MTA’s proposed fare increase. The agency is planning on raising fares and tolls by about 4 percent over the next two years. . . . The full MTA board will vote [on Wednesday, December 14] on whether to approve the proposed increases, which would take effect in March.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City


PA Turnpike Opens New Express E-ZPass Lanes

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) carries the announcement that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is opening new express E-ZPass lanes at the Northeast Extension’s Lansdale interchange. The first of two new express ramps was scheduled to open Sunday morning, December 4. “E-ZPass users will be able to use the dedicated express lane from roughly a quarter-mile before the interchange to avoid the toll plaza and connect directly to Sumneytown Pike,” the newspaper notes. “A second E-ZPass-only ramp will open at 7 a.m. Dec. 11 for southbound drivers. Once that express lane is open, drivers will be able to [enter the southbound turnpike] without passing through the toll plaza.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) E-ZPass Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)


Former USDOT Secretary LaHood and former PA Governor Rendell Plug Infrastructure Investment and Tolling of Interstates

The Hill publishes an op-ed by former USDOT chief Ray LaHood and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who serve as co-chairs of Building America’s Future, urging President-elect Trump and Congress to work on infrastructure investment. The authors provide three recommendations for any legislation, and note, “There are revenue-neutral steps that can make an immediate economic impact, such as renewing Build America Bonds and eliminating federal restrictions on tolling interstate highways. That would help municipalities while Congress considers comprehensive tax reform, including repatriation of profits held overseas.”


Apple Remains Committed to Self-Driving Technology

The Telegraph (London) reports, “Apple has told US regulators that it is still interested in developing self-driving car technology. Steven Kenner, the computer giant’s director of product integrity, has written to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to confirm that it remains interested in autonomous vehicles.” Recent layoffs in the company’s vehicle division had caused speculation that Apple was withdrawing from the self-driving car market.


Charlotte Observer Editors Take On Trump's Infrastructure Plan and Any "Toll-Driven National Plan"

The Charlotte Observer editorial board takes a look at President-elect Trump’s infrastructure plan and, while they see the need, they are less than enthralled with the lack of tax dollars to foot the bill and the P3 approach. The editors contend, “He’s not calling for a massive infusion of tax dollars to finance it. Instead, he’s looking for public-private partnerships with firms like Cintra, which would be lured in with tax credits totaling 82 percent of the project equity. Such public-private partnerships have merit. But the Interstate 77 toll road saga suggests just how tough it might be to sell to a toll-averse public on a toll-driven national plan.”

Express Lanes North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)


Virginian-Pilot Column Hammers Downtown, Midtown Tunnel Tolls (Take I)

The Virginian-Pilot publishes a column by Lia Russell, the editor of its Chesapeake City tabloid, who writes that she is “stunned by the toll increase that will go into effect Jan. 1 at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels.” Russell adds, “I know we have a transportation problem in Hampton Roads. Roadway infrastructure is woefully behind need. I don’t have the answer, but destroying the economy of Portsmouth and burdening working class citizens with rapidly increasing tolls can’t be the best solution. I realize that we, the citizens, will pay for these roadways one way or another . . . but is there a more equitable and less painful way than the current tolling system?”

Elizabeth River Tunnels Virginia


Virginian-Pilot Hits Tunnel Expansion Plan and . . . Tolls (Take II)

The Virginian-Pilot editorial board says, “There’s not much good in the deal the state made to expand the Midtown Tunnel and spruce up the Downtown Tunnel.” The editors suggest “the tolls are a costly and intrusive headache. They are a drag on the economy, especially in Portsmouth, and are an impediment to regional cohesion. A relief program announced last month by Gov. Terry McAuliffe will ease the sting, but only a little.”

Elizabeth River Tunnels Virginia


Fitch on HPTE PABs (Issued on Behalf of Plenary Roads Denver)

Fitch Ratings “has affirmed its ‘BBB-‘ rating on the $20.4 million series 2014 tax-exempt private activity bonds (PABs) issued by the Colorado High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) on behalf of Plenary Roads Denver, LLC, (PRD) for the US 36 and I-25 Managed Lanes Project (the project), $60 million [TIFIA] subordinate project loan to PRD for Phase 2 of US 36 (the Phase 2 Loan), and $55.4 million senior TIFIA loan to HPTE, issued for Phase 1 of the US 36 managed lanes (the Phase 1 Loan) and assumed by Plenary Roads upon successful completion of Phase 1 of the project. The Rating Outlook for the PABs and both TIFIA loans is Stable.”

Colorado Plenary Roads Denver