Daily News Briefs, February 16, 2017

MA Lawmakers Battle over AET Data Access and Use

MassLive.com reported yesterday, “Under Massachusetts’ new all electronic tolling system, the state knows more about people traveling on the Massachusetts Turnpike than it ever has before,” and “[a]ccess to that data is restricted by Massachusetts Department of Transportation regulations [700 CMR 7.05]. But Longmeadow State Sen. Eric Lesser says that is not enough, and has introduced a bill [SD 994] that would enforce privacy controls by law.”

Within hours, MassLive.com reported that State Rep. John Velis, a fellow Democrat, is “vehemently opposed” to the Lesser bill in its current form. Velis’ concern is that the bill “does not include exceptions for a law enforcement ‘hot list’ that currently allows police to access license plate and [E-ZPass] transponder information” during Amber Alerts and other emergency situations.

AET Massachusetts Turnpike

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CFX and FDOT Eye Competing Projects in East Orange County

Orlando Sentinel reports, “No bulldozers are cranked up yet, but plans are moving forward to build toll roads across suburban neighborhoods and a fragile river in east Orange County.” The report looks at the Central Florida Expressway Authority’s “long-running look at extending the busy State Road 408 to Bithlo and beyond” and FDOT’s plan to build four toll lanes along the center of SR 50 in east Orange, which has “a greater head of steam for now.” CFX is holding a public workshop tonight on its project. (Click here and scroll down to “Upcoming Meetings” for details.)

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

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WA Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Bill to Eliminate I-405 Express Toll Lanes

The Herald reports, “Opposing forces collided Wednesday [February 15] when a state Senate panel considered a bill [SB 5707] to get rid of the express toll lanes on I-405. [Links added.] Opponents, including two Snohomish County lawmakers, told the Senate Transportation Committee that many drivers are spending too much of their valuable time and money to use the lanes and not getting any smoother travel as promised.” The report adds, “Supporters countered that commuters and bus riders are enjoying slightly faster travel times throughout much of the 17-mile corridor since the lanes opened 17 months ago.”

Express Lanes Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)

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WSDOT Reports 46.6 Million Toll Transactions in FY 2016

WSDOT’s Toll Division announced the release of its FY 2016 toll report, noting that, “During fiscal year 2016, Good To Go! served more than 673,000 customer accounts and processed approximately 46.6 million toll transactions, a 24 percent increase from the previous year. The I-405 express toll lanes, which were operational for nine-months of the fiscal year covered in this report, accounted for much the growth in transactions.”

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)

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ARTBA Issues Annual "Bad Bridges" Report

The Washington Post reports on the release of ARTBA’s annual report on “bad bridges” which finds that that 55,710 of the nation’s bridges are deficient. The Post sees a little good news in ARTBA’s data, “the number of bridges needing repair dropped by 2,785 last year,” but then notes “at that pace of improvement it will be a generation before the last needy bridge is addressed.”

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NYC Mayor de Blasio Says He's Not a Fan of Congestion Pricing

Newsday reports that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says “charging motorists for driving in busy Manhattan is ‘not part of my vision’ to ease congestion. . . .” The mayor added that he understands the “intellectual rationale” for electronic congestion pricing, “but I’ve always had concerns.”

AET New York City

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MTA Says Governor Cuomo's Proposed Budget Cuts Won't Impact Tolls, Service

New York’s Daily News reports, “The interim executive director of the MTA insisted Wednesday [February 15] that a proposed $65 million state funding cut by Governor Cuomo will not impact tolls, fares or the agency’s operations. Appearing at a state legislative budget hearing, Veronique Hakim argued that even with the cut, the overall funding for the MTA would actually grow by $30 million.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City

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NY State Police, MTA Crack Down on Scofflaws

Spectrum News NY1 reports, “State Police are now regularly patrolling some bridges and tunnels in the city — and drivers are feeling the pinch. NY1 has learned that state Troopers and MTA cops have issued drivers more than 5,000 tickets in the city so far this year. That is many times the usual number.” NY1 adds, “Officials say the crackdown has snagged bigtime toll evaders, including 47 deadbeats who collectively owe $250,000.”

Meanwhile, The Record reports that port authority police stopped another alleged toll jumper at the Holland Tunnel and discovered that he has “123 active violations totaling more than $7,970 in tolls and fees.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) Scofflaws

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MDX Wins Right to New Trial Judge in Toll System Vendor's Lawsuit Alleging Wrongful Termination

Law360 (subscription required) reports, “A Florida appeals court [link added] on Wednesday [February 15] granted a request from the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority for a new trial judge in a $58 million suit brought by the designer of the county’s cashless toll system, after concluding that the quasi-agency’s motion to disqualify was both timely and legally sufficient.” The report adds that Texas-based Electronic Transaction Consultants Corporation claims in its suit “that MDX provided misleading information on how many ‘pay-by-plate’ customers it would have to process as part of the cashless system it was to design and operate on the authority’s five expressways, and then wrongfully terminated its nearly $80 million contract when it sought a fee increase provided for in its contract.”

Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX)

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Macquarie Capital (USA) Can't Avoid US Toll Road Suit

Dow Jones (via Morningstar.com) reports that a New York County Supreme Court judge has “rejected a Macquarie Capital (USA) bid to toss a lawsuit from bond insurer Syncora Guarantee over $US496 million in soured toll-road debt.” The lawsuit alleges that the Macquarie Group’s US advisory affiliate provided “misleading information around the financial viability of four toll bridges in Alabama and a toll tunnel in Michigan” in 2006.”

Macquarie Group

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NJ Turnpike Loses Bid for Property Tax Exemption on Cell Tower Site

Law360 (subscription required) reports that the New Jersey Turnpike Authority “lost its bid for a tax exemption on a property with a cellular communication tower when a judge ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence showing that the lease of the tower is connected to essential government functions.” A communications industry observer advises toll agencies to take note of the court’s decision in New Jersey Turnpike Authority v. Elizabeth City (Tax Court of NJ, February 10, 2017).

Issues of Law New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA)

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Opposition to Tolling in Handful of Missouri Counties Mounts

The Daily Star-Journal reports on opposition to the proposed tolling of I-70 that has arisen among local officials and citizens in several west central Missouri counties, noting that, “Randy White, executive director, Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission, said he thought talk of interstate tolls ended after ‘an outcry along the I-70 corridor’ about two years ago. ‘That’s not the case. . . . Tolling is not DOA,’ he told the [Missouri Highway 13 Corridor Coalition]. . . . He said the state requested an eight-month extension of authorization ‘to do tolling’ on the state’s federal highways.”

Missouri

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Santa Clara County's Valley Transportation Authority Offers Express Bus Service in Lieu of Toll Lanes Plan

Mountain View Voice reports that Santa Clara County’s Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has initiated new express bus service on a pilot basis to encourage transit use by commuters to tech job centers on the San Francisco Peninsula. “Last year,” the newspaper notes, VTA “shifted gears when it abandoned a plan to turn the [Highway 85] median into . . . ‘express lanes,’ and is now pursuing a plan to turn the median into a transit lane.”

Express Lanes San Francisco Bay Area (CA) Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)

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Delaware River Turnpike Bridge Closure Is Hitting Area Businesses

WPVI 6abc reports, “The closure of the Delaware River Bridge, which connects the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes, is taking a toll on nearby businesses. The span was abruptly shut down on January 20 because of a fracture in a supporting beam below the deck.”

New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA) Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)

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DRJTBC's $430 Million Bond Sale Finances Scudder Falls Bridge Replacement

Bucks County Courier Times reports, “The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission borrowed just more than $430 million during a bond sale this week to build a new, dual-span Scudder Falls Bridge to carry Interstate 95 back and forth between Lower Makefield and Ewing, New Jersey.”

Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC)

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NY Thruway Currently Has No Plans for AET Expansion Upstate

The Buffalo News reports, “There are no specific plans to bring a cashless toll system to the upstate portions of the Thruway even though it now operates at the Tappan Zee Bridge between Rockland and Westchester counties,” according to Bill Finch, the acting executive director of the Thruway Authority, who testified during a joint legislative committee hearing on the Cuomo administration’s transportation budget proposals on February 15. “We’ve looked at it. We have no plans at the moment,’’ Finch reportedly told lawmakers.

AET New York State Thruway Authority

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