Daily News Briefs, December 9, 2016

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VDOT Signs Contract for I-66 Toll Lanes that Could Allow Trucks -- for a Premium

WAMU reports that VDOT officials “signed a contract [on December 8] with a consortium of private road-building firms to build high-speed, EZPass-only toll lanes along 22 miles of I-66 from the Beltway to Gainesville, the latest in a series of steps toward starting the project late next year. The 50-year contract with the private firms, led by Madrid-based Cintra, calls for the construction of two toll lanes in each direction. . . .”

WTOP reports, “The contract includes permission for the company to allow trucks to use the lanes for a higher toll through a provision added in late July. Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said . . . the ultimate decision [whether to permit truck use] is now up to the companies involved. . . . Trucks will be required to pay at least three times the toll other drivers are paying at a given time.”

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


NY Transportation Commissioner Backs "I Love NY" Signs, Despite FHWA's Warning on Potential Loss of Funding

The Journal News reports, “The state’s top transportation official on Thursday [December 8] defended the large, blue ‘I Love NY’ highway signs that have dotted New York roadways despite the federal government maintaining they break the law. Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll said the ongoing dispute with the Federal Highway Administration is a ‘matter of interpretation,’ repeating the state’s claim that it followed federal policy as it erected the 514 signs across the state. The FHWA has suggested it may withhold millions in federal highway aid to the state if it doesn’t remove the signs.”

New York


PANYNJ Punts on Adopting Revised Capital Plan

NJ.com reports, “Port Authority commissioners punted on introducing a revised capital plan, which tentatively allocated $3.5 billion toward replacing the aging Port Authority Bus terminal and $1.5 billion to extend PATH tracks to Newark airport. The decision to table the plan came after a two-hour debate by Port Authority commissioners behind closed doors. New Jersey Commissioner David S. Steiner suggested the board not act on the plan during the public meeting afterward because of the concerns about what he called an overwhelming task. ‘We don’t have enough information, we will not do it justice if we act today,’ he said.” NJ.com adds that PANYNJ Chairman John Degnan “said that the board will hold a special meeting to discuss the plan between now and the next scheduled meeting in February.”

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


WV Parkway Board Wants Turnpike Tolls to Remain after Bonds are Retired in 2019

Charleston Gazette-Mail reports, “State Parkways Authority members unanimously approved a resolution [on December 8] calling for tolls to remain on the West Virginia Turnpike after the current round of bonds are paid off in 2019, contending that removing the tolls is not in the best interest of the state or its citizens. ‘The way it is right now, projecting a $400 million deficit for the state, it’s going to be a very difficult thing to shoulder,’ Parkways general manager Greg Barr said of removing the tolls, which provide about $90 million a year in revenue, primarily from out-of-state travelers. ‘No other states are taking tolls off their main highways,’ he said.”

West Virginia Parkways Authority (West Virginia Turnpike)


Michigan P3 Legislation Draws Opposition at Hearing Due to Possibility of Tolling

MLive.com reports, “A bill that would expand public-private partnerships is garnering opposition from groups who say it could open the door for toll roads in Michigan. Senate Bill 627 [link added] would let public authorities enter into agreements with private companies to develop certain projects, such as transportation projects. The public authority could collect or let a private partner collect user fees ‘by manual, digital, or electronic means, including by video, transponder, tag, camera, and any other suitable technology or means,’ according to bill language.” The bill was the subject of a Michigan House Commerce and Trade Committee hearing [on December 8,] but the committee did not hold a vote on the measure. Click here and scroll down to the “Testimony” dropdown list to find the testimony of hearing witnesses. SB 627 passed the state Senate by a vote of 28-8 on December 1.

Michigan P3 & Privatization


DRPA Approves 2017 Budget with No Toll Increases

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “The new year will bring no bridge toll increases or PATCO fare increases, Delaware River Port Authority officials said after passing the 2017 operating budget at a board meeting [on December 7]. The authority’s overall operating budget increased from $290.7 million in 2016 to $296.1 million for the coming year, a 1.85 percent increase.”

Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA)


Federal Judge Allows CDOT's $317 Million C-470 Expansion to Move Forward as Lawsuit Continues

Denver Business Journal reports, “A federal judge is allowing the $317 million expansion of C-470 along Denver’s southern flank to move forward while a lawsuit over the noise the wider highway will cause also moves forward.” CDOT has started construction of tolled express lanes in both directions on a segment of the highway. Judge Raymond Moore ruled on December 7 that a group of residents failed to establish grounds for an immediate injunction, but he reserved judgment on the underlying claim that CDOT should add more noise barriers to the project plan.

Colorado Department of Transportation


CDOT Eyeing Possible Addition of Westbound Peak-Period I-70 Express Lane

KUSA reports that, based on the success of the new eastbound I-70 express lane between Empire and Idaho Springs, “CDOT engineers are looking at what it will take to add a peak period shoulder lane westbound Between Floyd Hill and Empire, a project full of challenges like an old bridge and steep cliff walls.”

Colorado Department of Transportation Express Lanes


Colorado's E-470 Announces 2017 Rate Increases

KUSA reports, “The E-470 Public Highway Authority announced Thursday [December 8] that it will increase toll rates for 2017. The rates will go up 10 cents for ExpressToll customers and 15 cents for License Plate Toll customers. Ramp tolls will go up 5 cents for everyone.” [Link added.] Click here to see the authority’s 2017 toll rate chart.

Colorado E-470 Public Highway Authority


Ohio River Bridges Debuts $20 Prepaid Transponder

Louisville Business First reports, “With local tolling to start as soon as systems testing is finished on the RiverLink tolling system for the Lincoln, Kennedy and soon-to-open East End Bridges, a new payment option has debuted. Ohio River Bridges Project officials announced Thursday [December 8] that it is offering a $20 prepaid transponder alongside the free and $15 E-Z pass transponder options, according to a news release.”

WDRB explains that the “local transponders” (windshield-mounted tags) come with a pre-loaded $20 balance. Customers must self-monitor the balance level, since the tags are not associated with a registered user account. “Once the balance is exhausted, the transponder can be pulled from the windshield and thrown away.” RiverLink will charge tolls at the transponder rate, but the tag holders are not eligible for RiverLink’s frequent-user discount program.

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


Ontario Parliament Opposition Leader Draws Fire for Opposing Toronto Tolling Plan

Toronto Star columnist Martin Cohn scathingly criticizes Ontario Parliament opposition leader Patrick Brown for his stand against the Toronto tolling proposal, arguing that, “By playing politics with tolls, Brown is not only showing infidelity to his own ideology. He is also being disloyal to Tory’s mayoral vision of making road users pay road tolls to defray billions of dollars in roadwork.”

Canada Ontario


MDTA Continues Toys for Tots Campaign Tradition

The Star Democrat reports that the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, MDTA staff and the US Marine Corps Reserve are once again accepting Toys for Tots campaign donations at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Nice Memorial Bridge, Baltimore Harbor and Fort McHenry tunnels, and other MDTA facilities. “Since 1990,” the newspaper notes, “MDTA employees have collected more than 148,000 toys from customers of the toll facilities and the Port of Baltimore.”

Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA)


VDOT Offers Adult Drivers Ed to Introduce New "Diverging Diamond" Interchange

The Washington Post covers an adult “drivers ed” class that VDOT conducted to introduce its “diverging diamond interchange, scheduled to open Dec. 17 where Interstate 66 meets Route 15 in the western D.C. suburbs.” The interchange will be the first of its kind for Northern Virginia motorists.

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


Indiana Toll Road Ready for First Major Storm

WSBT reports that Indiana Toll Road maintenance crews are prepared to face the first big storm of the winter season. “We’ve got at our disposal 47 trucks, ample supply of salt, we pre-treated the road with anti-icing chemicals and we are ready for this storm. We have the resources, we will respond accordingly and we will keep this road safe and open for the motoring public,” ITR COO Rick Fedder tells WSBT.

Indiana Toll Road Concession Company (ITRCC)


Report on New International Bridge Toll System for Del Rio City, TX

Del Rio News-Herald (subscription required) reports on the Del Rio City Council’s recent approval of a $2.3 million project to install a new toll collection system for the Del Rio-Acuña international bridge system.

City of Del Rio (Texas) International Bridge Texas