Daily News Briefs, January 11, 2017

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PANYNJ to Pay $400,000 Fine to Settle SEC Charges over Disclosure, Funding of Certain Projects

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports, “The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey agreed to pay a $400,000 fine to settle charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission that the bistate agency misled investors about risks associated with $2.3 billion in bonds to fund its projects.” The report adds, “In New Jersey, the SEC said attorneys for the Port Authority repeatedly raised red flags on whether projects for New Jersey’s state-owned roads, including repairs to the Pulaski Skyway, were outside the scope of the agency’s mandate or even legal to pursue. Further, those warnings weren’t conveyed to the Port Authority Board of Commissioners who voted to approve the projects in March 2011, according to the investigation.” The Journal notes, “The action is the latest effort by the SEC to improve disclosure in the municipal bond world.”

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


Transurban "Will Work with Customers" Who Paid High Express Lane Tolls

WTTG Fox5 reports that Transurban “will work with customers” who paid high express lane tolls in advance of last week’s metro DC snow storm. “Some motorists who took the Express Lanes along Interstate 495 during the evening commute last Thursday [January 5] faced $30 tolls,” the station notes. Transurban’s Mike McGurk tells WTTG that one cause of the toll spike was VDOT’s deployment of salt trucks, which slowed traffic. “Once that traffic starts to build in the lanes[,] we use that toll to discourage more people from entering the lanes so we can let that clear out.”

Transurban Washington (DC) Metro Region


MTA's Cashless Tolling March Continues with Conversion of Queens-Midtown Tunnel

ABC New York reports, “The Queens-Midtown Tunnel made the switch to cashless tolls Tuesday [January 10], that latest MTA crossing to adopt a no cash, no problem approach. The agency plans to remove toll booths from all its New York City bridges and tunnels over the next year, and the project began with the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel going cashless last week. . . .”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)


DRBA Has a New Executive Director. His Focus: Finding $460 Million for Infrastructure Upgrades.

The News Journal reports that Thomas Cook, Delaware’s Secretary of Finance, will change jobs in February and become the head of the Delaware River and Bay Authority. Outgoing DRBA Executive Director Scott Green tells the newspaper that “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie created a ‘frustrating’ atmosphere at the authority by holding a veto threat over negotiations with employees during past years. With [employee] contracts now in place, [Cook] will be able to focus his efforts on finding money to pay for $460 million in infrastructure upgrades during the next five years. . . .”

Delaware River and Bay Authority


MTC Begins Work to Add a Third Lane to I-580 Corridor

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission announced, “Construction crews are set to begin work this week on the first of a series of MTC-sponsored projects [link added] to relieve traffic congestion in the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge corridor by establishing a third eastbound lane on Interstate 580 . . . . Phase 1 also includes construction of a barrier-separated bicycle/pedestrian path adjacent to westbound I-580 in Contra Costa County. . . .” Tree removal on the Contra Costa side of the corridor is the project’s first step.

California Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)


TxDOT Is in the Money: Record Levels of Funding Anticipated to Pour In.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, ” Texas is expected to generate a record $25.4 billion in revenue for roads, bridges and other components of the transportation system during the next two years, according to estimates released Monday [January 9] by the state comptroller’s office.” The report adds, “The Texas Department of Transportation is expected to get $12.8 billion next year and $12.6 billion in 2019 for highways, bridges and other mobility projects. If the estimates are accurate, the revenue likely would be more than the state has ever received specifically for transportation, officials said. The annual amounts are more than double what was spent annually on transportation projects a decade ago.”

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


Indiana GOP Lawmakers (and VP-Elect Pence) Draw Fire for Tax Cuts that Gutted Transportation Funding

WFHB notes that some of the Indiana Republican lawmakers who are advocating increased spending on transportation infrastructure also “voted for tax cuts that created the revenue shortfall in the first place. The Pence administration signed off on hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts per year. . . . The Pence tax cuts add up to almost half the money [HB 1002, the Republicans’ new transportation funding bill] seeks to raise, depending on estimates.” Regarding the possibility of more tolling, WFHB says, “While Republicans have been mute on exactly which interstates would be targeted for tolling, likely candidates include I-70, I-65, and I-69. Tolls were proposed during the Daniels administration for I-69 between Bloomington and Indianapolis, but the proposal was eventually dropped amid intense public outcry.”



Indiana GOP Gas Tax Plan Draws Fire after a Decade of Tax Breaks for "Wealthy Hoosiers"

The Herald Bulletin editorial board brands the Republican proposal for higher gas taxes and tolls “unfair” in light of tax policy changes that gave “huge benefits to wealthy Hoosiers over the past decade. The personal income tax rate was cut from 3.4 to 3.23 percent. Corporate income tax was slashed from 7.5 to 4.9 percent. And the state’s inheritance tax was repealed.” Now, the editors write, “Statehouse Republicans are seeking to make up the lost revenue — and more — by a gasoline tax increase that would be shouldered in large part by average Hoosiers.”



San Francisco Transportation Authority to Test Self-Driving Shuttles and Roll Out Treasure Island Tolls

San Francisco Business Times reports, “The San Francisco County Transportation Authority will test self-driving shuttles on Treasure Island, as well as introduce a toll system from the Bay Bridge to the island. The projects are supported by a $11 million federal grant awarded to the City of San Francisco last week to implement six transportation projects, with the goal of reducing traffic congestion.”

California San Francisco County Transportation Authority Self-Driving Vehicles


CTRMA's "Beleaguered Plan" for Park-and-Ride Lots Gets a Boost

Austin Monitor reports that a plan to build several “transit-oriented” park-and-ride lots along Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority toll roads got a shot in the arm on January 9. “The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization [CAMPO] voted overwhelmingly to formally approve an agreement with [CTRMA] and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority on a collaboration to plan, pay for and build” the new facilities. Funding approval from two counties (Travis and Williamson) is still required, and environmentalists have raised some concerns, but CAMPO’s action moved the project forward.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Texas


Did You Hear about the Cow That Took a Walk on the Florida Turnpike? (This Isn't a Straight Line.)

NBC Miami reports, “A cow that was apparently sick of traffic decided to take a stroll on the side of the Florida Turnpike in Miami-Dade Tuesday morning.” The report includes video. (And you know you’re going to click. . . .)


Privately-Owned Tuscaloosa Bypass Toll Bridge Reopens Following Ice Storm

WSFA reports that the privately-owned Tuscaloosa bypass toll bridge reopened on Monday, January 9, after a Friday closing caused by roadway ice.

Alabama’s ABC 33/40 reported that icy roads plagued motorists throughout the state’s central region over the weekend.



WisDOT Signs Up with Waze

Green Bay Press-Gazette reports, “Motorists traveling in Wisconsin can now get more up-to-date information through a partnership with the popular crowd-sourced traffic app Waze, officials announced [on January 10]. While information about accidents, road closures and hazards has been available for several years on the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s website . . . now all of that information will be available on the Waze app.”



NJ Governor Christie Seeks Dismissal of Bridgegate Complaint

The Record reports, “A Superior Court judge will hear arguments [today, January 11] by Governor Christie’s attorney asking for the dismissal of a probable cause finding on an official misconduct complaint over the George Washington Bridge lane closures.”

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


Fitch Rates PA Turnpike and NY MTA Bonds

Fitch Ratings ” has assigned an ‘A-‘ rating to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s (PTC) approximately $290 million turnpike subordinate revenue bonds, series A of 2017. The Rating Outlook is Stable.” Fitch adds, “The rating reflects PTC’s strong traffic profile, improving underlying economic trends, ability and willingness to raise tolls and history of prudent cost management, all of which somewhat mitigate its sizeable debt burden.”

Fitch also “assigned an ‘A’ rating to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New York’s approximately $200 million transportation revenue bonds, series 2017A (Climate Bond Certified) and an ‘F1’ to the MTA’s transportation revenue bond anticipation notes (BANs), series 2017A in an amount up to $700 million. The Rating Outlook is Stable.”

Investment Ratings Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission