Daily News Briefs, February 7, 2017

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The Man Who Tried to Eliminate Tolls on the Mass Turnpike Reminisces (It Wasn't a Lot of Fun!)

NPR Boston posts a column (honestly, a must read) by Doug Barth, who writes about his less than pleasant experience leading a seven-year campaign to abolish tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike. He writes, “When the tollbooths were recently demolished . . . , I received numerous messages praising me. ‘Good job!’ and ‘Finally.’ I wanted to vomit.” Barth did some research after being involved in a 1980s toll plaza crash and learned of the state’s plan to eliminate toll collection after recouping turnpike construction costs. However, he writes, “The money was hijacked by the legislature to pay for the financially-troubled Big Dig. Every administration since 1984 had taken the toll money and pumped it into other projects.” Barth launched an anti-toll crusade, but “soon learned that the toll issue was the quickest way to no man’s land.”

Massachusetts Turnpike


TxDOT Proposes Addition of Toll Express Lanes on I-35

Austin American-Statesman reports, “Drivers could see improvements within the next five to six years — including the addition of toll express lanes — on Interstate 35 from U.S. 183 to RM 1431. The North 16-mile Comprehensive Project proposed by the Texas Department of Transportation could add a toll express lane in each direction, reconfigure about 28 existing ramps and add extended entrance and exit lanes to the highway. Other additions could include sidewalks along the interstate frontage roads and at east and west crossings.” [Link added.]

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


With the State Flush, Texas Transportation Forum Focuses on Technology Instead of Funding

Fort Worth Star-Telegram staffs the opening of the Texas Transportation Forum, which began yesterday, February 6, in Austin, and reports that, well, times have changed. “In the past, table discussions often focused on a lack of tax-supported funding to build roads, and the use of alternatives such as toll roads and partnerships with private companies. But money is no longer the top concern. Texas now has a projected $38.3 billion surplus of highway funds projected for the next decade. And the forum’s agenda is dominated by topics such as how to make the most of data generated by cars.”



CTRMA Board Is Likely to Get Two New Members

Austin American-Statesman reports, “Change is coming to what has been an unusually stable board of Central Texas’ toll road agency. The Williamson County Commissioners Court, which appoints three of the members of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board, will consider appointees [today, February 7] to replace developer Jim Mills and former Round Rock city manager Robert Bennett. John Miri, chief administrative officer of the Lower Colorado River Authority, would replace Mills. Amy Ellsworth, a general manager with the Community Impact media company in Pflugerville, is set to take Bennett’s place. Ellsworth lives in Hutto.”

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA)


GDOT Reports Increase in Traffic on New I-75 South Metro Express Lanes

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, “Traffic on the new I-75 South Metro Express Lanes got off to a slow start but picked up during their first week of operation.” The report notes that, “Drivers took only about 2,800 trips in the lanes on Monday Jan. 30, their first weekday. But as the week picked up, more drivers found their way into the lanes. Traffic peaked last Thursday [February 9], when drivers took 4,900 trips in the lanes, GDOT reported.”

Express Lanes Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT)


Mall Owners Push for a New, $31 Million DE 1 Interchange and the Tolls to Pay for It

The News Journal reports that the owners of a Dover shopping mall who want to “fast-track a $31 million” exit off Delaware Route 1 are going to seek “legislative approval to take out bonds and repay them through toll revenue.”



DelDOT's US 301 Toll Road Project Remains on Schedule

Middletown Transcript reports, “Construction of the U.S. Route 301 toll road in the Middletown area is still being described as ‘on schedule’ by the Delaware Department of Transportation, even though some [relocated] roads . . . did not re-open in December as originally hoped.”

Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)


PANYNJ Reforms Remain Stalled as Capital Budget Plan Advances

NJ Spotlight reports, “While the Port Authority is moving forward with plans to approve $32 billion in capital spending later this month, several key reforms proposed in the wake of Bridgegate are still stalled in the New Jersey Senate with little hope for a breakthrough.” According to the website, there are management policy disagreements between some senators and Governor Christie, “[b]ut the Democrats have a new reason for standing pat – keeping Port Authority Chairman John Degnan of New Jersey in the bistate agency’s powerful top spot as the 10-year capital plan moves toward final approval.”



Businessman Prepared to Pay $100,00 a Year in RiverLink Tolls Is Not Happy with His Initial Bills

WHAS reports that the owner of a pest control service with a fleet of about 100 trucks claims he’s received “thousands of dollars in charges he says he racked up in the first few weeks of [RiverLink] tolling that do not belong on his bill.” RiverLink spokesperson Mindy Peterson tells the station “it was all one big misunderstanding. ‘This business has been charged the correct tolls, what has caused some confusion is the [license plate numbers recorded on the] statement and so we’re working on that.’”

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Governor Cuomo: NY City's Toll Crossings Light Show Will Be Big. Really Big.

New York Post reports, “A permanent light show coming to the city’s toll crossings is going to ‘blow people away’ and could become the Big Apple’s newest tourist attraction, Gov. Cuomo boasted” during a meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board.

New York City


Traffic, Revenue Are Up on New York State Bridge Authority Spans

The Daily Freeman reports, “Traffic volume and revenue rose last year on the five New York State Bridge Authority spans that cross the Hudson River. The total number of crossings in 2016 was 62.8 million, a gain of 2.5 million, or 4.2 percent, from 2015, according to the authority. Revenue from tolls rose by $2.3 million, or 4.1 percent, to a 2016 total of just under $59 million. Bridge Authority Executive Director Joseph Ruggiero said the increases can be chalked up to one key factor: ‘the lower cost of fuel.’”

New York New York State Bridge Authority (NYSBA)


CT Governor Malloy's Insistence on a Lockbox Could Derail Transportation Plan

The Connecticut Mirror  reports that while tolling is a hot topic in Connecticut, progress on a new transportation funding scheme is hung up over Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s insistence that the state adopt a constitutional “lockbox” amendment to protect any new revenues. The report adds, “Meanwhile, transportation advocates are increasingly fearful that Malloy’s vision for a major, 30-year transportation rebuilding program is vanishing.”



Charlotte Transportation Planners Emerge from I-77 Express Controversy and Hope for a "Smoother" Year in 2017

The Charlotte Observer reports, “Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor, recently re-elected chairman of the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, hopes the meetings this year will be a little smoother than last when, he says, the group was put on the hot seat by former Gov. Pat McCrory, who attempted to toss the Interstate 77 toll lane issue back in their laps.”

North Carolina North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)


New I-35 Express Connector Opens

CBS Dallas-Fort Worth reports, “A highly-anticipated change along I-35E in Lewisville gets [its] first workday rush-hour test [on Monday, February 6]. A direct connector road that’s part of the more than $1 billion I-35 Express project should get some drivers off the main lanes of I-35E who simply want to go from Hwy 121 the Sam Rayburn Toll road to the George Bush Turnpike.”

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


VA Lawmaker Drops Bill to Require Posting of Estimated Travel Times on Managed Lanes

Potomac Local reports that State Senator Jeremy McPike (D-29) voluntarily struck his bill to require operators of Northern Virginia dynamically tolled highways to display estimated travel times as well as prices for motorists. McPike acted after receiving a letter from Secretary Aubrey Layne saying VDOT will “evaluate and experiment with” some concepts advanced in the bill.

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)


Transurban Reports "Strong Uptick" in Toll Road Traffic

The Australian Business Review (subscription may be required) reports, “Transurban says it needs to better communicate the benefits of using toll roads to consumers as the company upped its full-year distribution guidance after reporting a 12.1 per cent jump in underlying earnings for the first half.” The report adds, “Chief executive Scott Charlton said today that a Donald Trump presidency may not be the boon for infrastructure opportunities for the company in the US in the short term as expected, and said that the group currently had better opportunities in Australia.”