Daily News Briefs, January 30, 2017

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Central Texas Turnpike System's Debt Amount Increases

Austin American-Statesman columnist Ben Wear looks at the Central Texas Turnpike System and reports that, despite “ever-increasing traffic since the first pieces opened in 2006,″ debt continues to mount. “[A]fter making a decade of substantial payments on its initial $2.2 billion in debt — including about $109 million paid this past year — the turnpike system now owes $2.4 billion,” Wear writes. TxDOT offers an explanation.

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


SRTA I-75 Reversible Toll Lanes Open

WSB-TV reports, “Brand new express lanes are now open on I-75 through the south metro. The two reversible toll lanes should ease congestion, especially during the commute.” SRTA Executive Director Chris Tomlinson tells the station, “So we’re adding about 60 percent additional capacity. All at once. So it’s exciting.”

Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) State Road and Tollway Authority (Georgia)


PA Turnpike's New Emergency Communications System Is a Hit with Stranded Motorists

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, “Pennsylvania Turnpike and emergency management officials learned one thing when they used the state’s new emergency communication system for the first three times: Stranded motorists will sign up to participate in the system. The turnpike used the system for the first three times in the past eight days. The system sends an Amber-type alert to the cellphones of motorists stranded more than two hours asking them to sign up for information about the situation that has left them stranded.”

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)


Delaware River Turnpike Bridge Remains Closed Indefinitely as PA Officials Launch Inspections of Similar Spans

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Delaware River Bridge connecting the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpikes “remains closed and, if inspected today, would be labeled ‘structurally deficient,’ a designation that describes nearly one in five bridges in Pennsylvania, the second-worst ranking in the country. The sudden, unexpected fracture [discovered last week] led PennDot to schedule new inspections on similar bridges as a precaution, state officials said.”

NJ.com (via YouTube) posts a drone video and slide show report on the closure and the traffic heartburn it is creating for commuters.

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


CT Lawmakers Huddle Today on Tolling Legislation

Associated Press reports that the Connecticut legislature’s Transportation Committee meets today to decide whether to hold a hearing on the several bills introduced by lawmakers “that would usher in electronic tolls.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Connecticut


Does San Benito County, CA, Have a Toll Road in Its Future?

BenitoLink reports that San Benito County needs funds for road maintenance, and a county official has advised the board of supervisors that “one of the best ways to generate funds” is to create a toll road. Brent Barnes, San Benito County Resource Management Agency director, told supervisors last week, “I don’t know quite how to do that yet or if it’s even a useful idea. I just want to plant it and let it simmer. It will be one of the strategies we’ll be looking at as an option as we go through the year.”



MA State Senator Raises Possibility of Tolling Routes 93 and 95

The Salem News reports that State Senator Joan Lovely, D-Salem, raised the issue of “toll fairness” at a recent tourism conference and “floated the idea of tolls on Routes 93 and 95,” Boston commuter routes on which motorists currently do not pay tolls.



Indiana Democrats to Propose Funding Bill that Minimizes Tolling, Gas Tax Hikes

The Times of Northwest Indiana reports that Indiana House Democrats “will unveil an alternative road funding plan in the coming days that aims to minimize the highway tolling, fuel tax hikes and vehicle registration fee increases being sought by Republicans.”



MD Lawmaker Targets "Excessively High Fines" for Overdue Toll Payments

WBFF Fox45 reports, “A Maryland senator is targeting what he says are ‘excessively high fines’ for drivers who use the Intercounty Connector [the MD 200 AET highway] in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.” State Senator Roger Manno (D-Montgomery County) tells the station he has received “numerous complaints from constituents” about late payment penalties and adds, “My [E-ZPass transponder] wasn’t in position correctly and I amassed a bunch of tolls.” WBFF reports that the Maryland Transportation Authority has not taken a position on “video toll” collection legislation, SB 139, introduced by Manno.

Maryland Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA)


PANYNJ Police Nab Scofflaw and His Porsche

SILive.com reports that PANYNJ Police arrested another alleged toll scofflaw at the George Washington Bridge last week, a 42-year-old Porsche driver who is “associated with more than 1,564 violations totaling more than $108,200.” The Porsche? Impounded.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) Scofflaws


MA Turnpike's AET System Generates Some Negative Feedback

The Boston Globe’s Sarah Shemkus reports, “I’ve been receiving negative feedback about the [Massachusetts Turnpike] E-ZPass toll system lately.” She offers a primer on the turnpike’s new cashless toll system and invites readers to share E-ZPass experiences that she will investigate.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike


Newspaper Hammers Ontario Premier Wynne's "Pure Political Cowardice" for Killing Toronto Tolling Plan

The Globe and Mail reports, “Mayor John Tory went way, way out on a limb when he made his bold proposal last fall to impose tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. Premier Kathleen Wynne left him dangling there, giving him the clear impression she would not stand in the way. Then, on Friday morning [January 27], out came the saw. Sorry, no tolls. You could almost hear the whooshing sound as Mr. Tory fell to earth, clutching at branches as he fell.” The newspaper calls Wynne’s action “pure political cowardice” motivated by her current unpopularity and diminishing chances of reelection in 2018.

Canada Ontario


Moody's Affirms Ratings for Illinois Tollway Revenue Bonds

Moody’s Investors Service, “in connection with the issuance of substitute letters of credit,” has affirmed its Aa1/VMIG 1 ratings of letter-of-credit-backed Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Variable Rate Senior Priority Revenue Bonds 2007 Series A-1a and Series A-2c.

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway) Investment Ratings


CDOT Eyes I-25 Widening Project. Tolls Could Be the Funding Source.

KUSA reports that Colorado DOT has started public discussion of a project to widen an accident-plagued segment of I-25 between Castle Rock and Monument. Regarding funding, the station notes, “So far, all possibilities are on the table including making this stretch of interstate toll lanes.”

Colorado Department of Transportation


Newspaper Praises NHDOT for Postponing Toll Plaza Relocation and Backs AET Alternative

The Foster’s Daily Democrat editorial board praises NHDOT for postponing plans to relocate the Spaulding Turnpike’s Dover tollbooth, writing, “Uprooting the tollbooth makes absolutely no sense when the option of Automated Electronic Tolling (AET) is on the table.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT)