Daily News Briefs, December 8, 2016

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VA Transportation Board Approves Plan to Expand Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel

The Virginian-Pilot reports, “In what was a quick vote for such a monumental project, the Commonwealth Transportation Board voted unanimously Wednesday [December 7] to expand the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.” The action allows additional permitting for the huge project, as outlined in Alternative A, to advance. The report adds, “The additional lane capacity in each direction would likely be high-occupancy toll lanes, which would require that a car carry three people to avoid a toll during peak hours. Vehicles with one or two people could choose to pay a variable toll based on congestion during peak hours. The Commonwealth Transportation Board will be able to weigh in later on the ‘managed lane’ concept.”

Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization Virginia Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)


Mass Turnpike's Move to AET Shaves Morning Commute Times, Sets New Record for Transponders

The Boston Globe reports, “The move to electronic tolling on the Massachusetts Turnpike has shaved about 12 minutes off morning commutes, state transportation officials said Wednesday [December 7]. . . . ‘The transition to all-electronic tolling has been a smooth one and we believe the public has started to realize the goals of the program, which include increasing safety, some relief from traffic congestion and a reduction in greenhouse gases,’ said Stephanie Pollack, the state’s transportation secretary. More than 3 million transponders are now in circulation, a new record, officials said.”

Massachusetts Turnpike


NY Times Looks at the "Fierce Tussle" for Influence over PANYNJ's Vast Finances

The New York Times reports, “After three years of planning for a new bus terminal in Manhattan, the commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey still agree that New York City badly needs one. But, as the nasty debate over paying for it has spilled out in public, they appear to agree on little else. The discord has threatened to paralyze the [authority’s bi-state] board. . . .”  The Times adds, “The battle over the bus terminal [link added] shows just how quickly the Port Authority can fall into the kind of dysfunction that allowed appointees of Gov. Chris Christie . . . to spitefully close lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013. Mr. Christie has since stepped back from the agency, but the tussle for influence over its vast finances has remained fierce.” The next PANYNJ board meeting is scheduled for this morning. Click here to see the agenda.

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


Premier Kathleen Wynne Backs Toronto Tolling Plan. A Critic Foresees "A War of Tolls."

Toronto Star reports, “Premier Kathleen Wynne will give the green light to Mayor John Tory’s proposal to toll the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway to bankroll transportation infrastructure. ‘If Mayor Tory and his council determine that they would like to embark on a tolling of certain roads — local roads in the city of Toronto — then we will work with them,’ Wynne told reporters [on December 7] at an announcement related to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project.”

CBC News Toronto reports, “Patrick Brown [Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Leader] said he’s concerned Toronto Mayor John Tory’s proposal for tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway will ‘start a war of tolls’ across the [Greater Toronto Area].” The report adds, “Brown, speaking on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, said he’s concerned other municipalities may follow Toronto’s lead.”

Canada Ontario


Toronto Mayor Tory Fires Back at Critics of His Tolling Plan

The Globe and Mail reports that Toronto Mayor John Tory, responding to criticism of his proposal to toll two city expressways, told the newspaper’s editorial board that “anyone who rejects his idea must show another way to pay for public transit: ‘If your plan is not to build transit in Toronto and to let the city strangle on its own traffic, I guess that’s an option you could put in front of people. I don’t think that’s what the people of Toronto want.’”

Canada Ontario


IL Tollway Renews $8.5 Million, Six-Month Contract with AECOM and "Intends to Prepare a New Procurement for Consulting Engineer"

Daily Herald reports, “After previously dumping longtime consulting engineer AECOM Technical Services, Illinois tollway directors renewed a[n] $8.5 million contract with the firm — for six months. The action by Finance and Administration Committee members [on December 7] needs final board approval. In October, the board rejected a three-year, $43 million contract with Los Angeles-based AECOM, which has served the tollway for five decades. Officials gave no reason for the surprise move that ignored the recommendation of top staff. Now the agency will start from scratch to find a consulting engineer. The tollway ‘intends to prepare a new procurement seeking a consulting engineer as quickly as possible,’ spokesman Dan Rozek said.”

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway)


DRPA Votes to Create New Committee to Enforce Ethics Reforms

CBS News Philadelphia reports, “The Delaware River Port Authority has voted to create a new committee to enforce ethics reforms within the bi-state agency. The DRPA has undertaken a series of measures to increase transparency and focus exclusively on its core mission of operating 4 bridges and the PATCO line. Agency CEO John Hanson says the ethics policy [link added] was expanded earlier this year.”

Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA)


Chair of TX House Transportation Committee Talks Up Need for More Funding and Potential New Toll Legislation

Abilene Reporter-News reports, “Even though Texas voters have dedicated billions to transportation in recent years, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee [Joe Pickett (D-79)] on [December 7] said new money needs to be found if the state is to ease chronic congestion in its cities. The statement might come as a disappointment to voters who last year overwhelmingly supported Proposition 7, which dedicates more than $2.5 billion a year in sales tax revenue to transportation. In 2014, voters also passed a measure that is now adding about $1 billion a year in oil-and-gas severance tax revenue to transportation.”

Time Warner Cable News Austin talks with Chairman Pickett and Representative Celia Israel (D-50) about tolling legislation in the Texas Legislature’s forthcoming session. (The discussion starts at 8:38 in the video.)



NET RMA and Local Officials Push TxDOT to Expedite US 271 Improvement Project

Tyler Morning Telegraph reports that the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority (NET RMA), operator of Toll 49, in cooperation with various local government agencies in Smith, Gregg and other counties, is petitioning the Texas Transportation Commission to expedite plans to widen and improve US 271 between the communities of Tyler and Paris. Presently, TxDOT plans call for starting the project in phases between 2020 and 2025.

NET RMA Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


RiverLink Website Confuses Some Drivers

WDRB reports, “Confusion on the RiverLink website has some commuters seeing possible extra charges on their bank statements. More than 35,000 vehicles are expected to cross the tolled East End Bridge every day once it opens, but trying to sign up for one of those transponders has been tricky for some drivers.” The report adds, “RiverLink officials say customers may experience issues with the website only if information on their vehicle or certain dates/numbers are imputed incorrectly. Also, know all the basics about your car before heading to the website so you don’t get logged off before registration is complete.”

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


British Columbia Officials to Investigate "Snow and Ice Bomb" Damage to Cars on the Fraser and Port Mann Bridges

CBC News British Columbia reports that the provincial transportation ministry has opened an investigation to determine why its contractors were unable to prevent snow and ice “bombs” from damaging vehicles crossing both the Alex Fraser and Port Mann bridge” on December 5. Auto insurance provider ICBC has received 40 complaints of damage caused by falling ice and slush.

British Columbia Canada


Seattle's Sound Transit CEO Floats Idea of Raising HOV-2 Standard

MYNorthwest.com reports that the CEO of Sound Transit has made a controversial suggestion to raise the current HOV-2 standard on metro Seattle highway carpool lanes. Peter Rogoff says HOV-2 is no longer a general norm and the area’s HOV-2 lanes perform poorly, causing express buses to get bogged down in traffic when they use the lanes.

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


MTC, Caltrans to Host Open Houses on I-580 Access Improvement Projects

East Bay Times reports that open house events are taking place this week for the forthcoming I-580 access improvement projects in the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge corridor. The projects are the result of a collaboration among the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Caltrans, and the Marin and Contra Costa County transportation authorities.

California Caltrans (CA Department of Transportation) Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)


Fitch Affirms LBJ Infrastructure Group Bonds

Fitch Ratings “has affirmed LBJ Infrastructure Group, LLC’s (LBJ) approximately $615 million senior lien revenue bonds series 2010 issued by the Texas Private Activity Bond (PAB) Surface Transportation Corporation and $850 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan at ‘BBB-‘, with a Stable Outlook.”



Blue Water Bridge Strike Enters Its Third Week

BlackburnNews.com reports that the strike by forty-seven Blue Water Bridge toll collection, currency exchange, custodial and maintenance workers is now in its third week, and no talks between their union and the Federal Bridge Corporation are scheduled.

Canada Federal Bridge Corporation Ltd. (Canada)