Daily News Briefs, January 13, 2016

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MassDOT Pays $2.3 Million in Bonuses to Contractors for Making Quick Work of Turnpike Toll Plaza Removal

WCVB reports, “The state paid contractors more than $2.3 million in added bonuses to remove toll booths on the Mass Pike before Thanksgiving, 5 Investigates has learned. The bonuses are above and beyond the tens of millions of dollars the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is already paying those contractors to do the work that paved the way for electronic tolling.” The report adds, “MassDOT defended the bonuses in a statement: ‘Incentives are included in contracts for many complex construction projects because it benefits the public to get work done quickly and efficiently.’” Finally, the station notes, “The gravy train for the toll booth contractors is not over yet. They are in line to get another $5 million in bonuses.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike


MassDOT Secretary Discusses Toll Collection under the Turnpike's New AET System

MassLive.com reports, “Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, sitting down with MassLive and The Republican on Dec. 28, said about 85 percent of all toll transactions on the Pike are now through the E-ZPass system and are electronically billed.” MassDOT tolling director Steve Collins adds that the department has had 100 percent success in billing E-ZPass account holders, “even when they don’t have a transponder in the vehicle, providing the plate is registered to an account.” Pollack also discusses toll-by-plate collection and interstate cooperation on toll enforcement.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike


FL Turnpike Makes Progress on Toll Interop, but Gaps Persist after Federal Deadline's Expiration

Sun-Sentinel looks at the long-running, sometimes successful push to national toll interoperability, reporting that, “There’s no end in sight. Although Congress required that all state toll systems be compatible by October 2016, the deadline passed and no new target date has been set. ‘We are unaware of any federal action as a result of the missed [deadline],’ said Chad Huff, with Florida Turnpike Enterprise.” The newspaper focuses on the fact that SunPass and E-ZPass systems are not compatible, adding that “[Florida] Turnpike officials say the state is ready to accept E-ZPass, but the 16 E-ZPass states in the Northeast and Midwest are not ready to accept SunPass. It’s not a technology issue, it’s a bureaucratic issue, Huff said. ‘There are 38 agencies in 16 states that participate in E-ZPass,’ he said. ‘All agencies must be in a position to read SunPass transponders and must agree upon business rules that govern the processing of transactions and reconciliation of toll revenues.’”

Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE)


Orlando Mayor is New CFX Chair

Orlando Sentinel reports, “Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer was unanimously elected to a one-year term as chair of the Central Florida Expressway Authority on Thursday [January 12]. Dyer replaces Welton Cadwell, a former Lake County commissioner who was defeated in a Republican primary last year, which cost him his seat on the Expressway Authority’s board.”

Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX)


WI Lawmaker Chats Up Speaker Ryan on Federal Approval to Toll Existing Interstates

Milwaukee Business Journal reports, “Motorists in Wisconsin thus far have avoided paying tolls on the state’s highways, but with Wisconsin’s road funding in crisis, the chairman of the state Legislature’s powerful joint finance committee [Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette)] says he’s not ruling out the idea.” Nygren told a press club gathering that tolling could be implemented relatively quickly using technology similar to the Illinois Tollways’ I-PASS system. Regarding the federal approval necessary to toll existing interstates, Nygren said he has already discussed a possible waiver with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and other members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation.



Motorist Uses Remote Control to Cover Plate, Avoid Toll. FL Highway Patrol Is Right Behind Him. (A Remote Control, but No Rearview Mirror?)

WKMG reports that a motorist allegedly used a remote-controlled device to cover his license plate as he passed through a Central Florida Expressway Authority E-PASS lane.  The man’s toll avoidance scheme had just one tiny flaw: the vehicle behind him was a Florida Highway Patrol unit. The motorist was arrested on felony theft and fraud charges. The toll was $1.25.

Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) Scofflaws


As Maryland's Unpaid Tolls Mount, One Lawmaker Wants to Restrict Collection Efforts

WJLA reports “Each year tolls in Maryland create a revenue stream of $650 million for the state,” but, “Nearly 30,000 drivers owe the state of Maryland a ton of unpaid toll fines. Some drivers have toll fines that reach more than $100,000.” The station adds, “The state’s civil penalties accessed to drivers is growing. In 2015, $91.2 million dollars in accessed citations for unpaid tolls. In 2016 even more — with $132 million . . . .” Nevertheless, a state senator tells WJLA he plans to introduce legislation that would reduce the amount of toll violation fines and restrict state collection efforts.

Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Scofflaws


Washington Post Blogger Decides "Toll Collectors Do Have a Conscience," Then Hits P3s, Express Lanes and . . . Toll Collectors

The Washington Post’s “Tripping” blog reporter, Fredrick Kunkle, gives Transurban credit for “working with” I-495 express lane users who faced $30.00 tolls last week as a snowstorm approached, writing, “Transurban, bless its soul, also showed that toll collectors do have a conscience. They expressed an interest in making things right, encouraging motorists ‘concerned with the price they were charged’ to call customer service. . . .” Still, Kunkle hits dynamic pricing, P3s and the company, adding, “Virginia might think twice about legalizing highway robbery again – and Americans ought to give serious thought to the idea that the only way we can afford basic infrastructure is by auctioning it off.”

Express Lanes P3 & Privatization Virginia Washington (DC) Metro Region


Kane County (IL) Hits Minor Roadblock on Longmeadow Parkway Project

The Courier-News (via Chicago Tribune) reports that the Kane County (IL) Division of Transportation “has hit a potential roadblock to remove trees on Autumn Trail in Barrington Hills. [Link deleted.] Barrington Hills residents, along with village trustees, argue Autumn Trail is a private, not public road, so the county does not have authority to remove the trees, officials said.” Some Autumn Trail properties are within the Longmeadow Parkway project corridor, where work on a new road and toll bridge is just starting. Discussions between the county and the village are underway.



IDOT's Proposal to Add Express Lanes to the Eisenhower Expressway Doesn't Impress One Local Newspaper

Daily Herald’s editorial board isn’t, uh, too enthusiastic about IDOT’s proposal to add express lanes to Chicago’s Eisenhower Expressway. “The idea, however, does have merits that keep us from dismissing it out of hand. It would encourage carpooling and offer a practical way to build a new lane at a time when the gas-tax-funded Federal Highway Trust Fund is strapped and the state is broke.” The editors offer a few suggestions for improving IDOT’s preliminary plan, which is about to undergo public hearings.

Express Lanes Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT)


IN State Police Closed ITR Due to Icy Conditions

The Times of Northwest Indiana reports, “Indiana State Police shut down the Toll Road in both directions in Lake County early Thursday [January 12] after icy conditions caused multiple crashes. All lanes were reopened about 7 a.m. . . .”

Indiana Indiana Toll Road Concession Company (ITRCC)


VDOT to Launch a Social-Media-Heavy Campaign for I-64 HOV Lanes Project

Inside Business, The Hampton Roads Business Journal reports that VDOT “plans to initiate ‘an extensive marketing and public awareness campaign’ about the upcoming conversion of about 8 miles of HOV lanes on Interstate 64 to high occupancy tolled express lanes.” Although details are not final, “the outreach will make heavy use of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, said Paula Miller, communications manager for VDOT Hampton Roads.”

Express Lanes Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)


Electric Vehicle Usage in New Jersey Is "Going Nowhere Fast"

NJ Spotlight reports, “If New Jersey can’t get one in seven cars on the road to be an [electric vehicle] by 2025, automakers could face fines that would likely be passed on to consumers. . . . Many motorists might be surprised to know that’s the law — with consequences if the state fails to achieve that goal.” So, how’s the EV adoption campaign going? Not so well.

New Jersey


Violent Protests over a New Toll Road Rock Peru's Capital

Fox News reports, “Hundreds of Peruvians threw homemade explosives and rocks while police fired tear gas during a protest Thursday [January 12] over a new road toll into Lima. It was the second time in under a week that residents of the poor Puente Piedra district outside the capital fought with police on the Pan-American Highway, which is their only route into Lima.”


Virginia Professor on Lessons to Be Learned from the 1956 Highway Act

UVA Today reports that the university is engaged in a project to “provide nonpartisan, history-based insight into major issues facing the next president during his first year in office.” It features a Q and A with Peter Norton, an associate professor of history, who has written an essay explaining “what Americans can learn from the triumphs and shortcomings of the Federal Highway Act of 1956.”