Daily News Briefs, January 4, 2017

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As OTA Toll Hikes Loom, Agency Explains Need for Expanding System and Addressing "Safety Issues"

The Miami News-Record reports, “The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority voted to increase the costs on Oklahoma tollways by 17 percent to help expand and renovate the state’s turnpike system, including the construction of new toll roads in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Two weeks ago, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in favor of validating the $480 million bond issue. OTA spokesman Jack Damrill said they would begin selling the bonds in mid-January.” Damrill tells the newspaper, “As transportation professionals, we have to look 10-20 years down the road, and we are seeing some safety issues, not only in our system but on the state system. We’ve been asked to step in and help add a couple routes that we think will relieve traffic in Oklahoma City.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


PlatePay AET System Debuts This Week at OTA Toll Plaza

KOTV reports, “The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority will officially open PlatePay service to public use Thursday, January 5, 2017, at the Peoria/Elm interchange on the Creek Turnpike. [Link added.] The all-electronic tolling system will replace cash tolls, OTA stated in a news release. . . . OTA representatives said PlatePay will allow motorists to continue through the Creek Turnpike’s Elm/Peoria toll plazas without stopping to pay a toll whether they have a PIKEPASS or not.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


Wisconsin Senate Leader Says He's Open to Tolling Roads

Associated Press reports, “The Republican leader of the Wisconsin state Senate says he is open to toll roads. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald [link added] said Tuesday [January 3] at a news conference that adding toll roads in Wisconsin is ‘not going away’ as part of the discussion about how to raise money to pay for roads. The state faces a nearly $1 billion transportation budget shortfall. Fitzgerald says tolling is ‘not something you want to take off the table.’”

AP also reports on the January 3 opening of Wisconsin’s new legislative session.



Middle Class Hoosiers to Feel Impact of a Gas Tax Hike

The Indianapolis Star looks at the potential impact of a gas tax increase, reporting that, “Supporters of the road funding plan are pitching the gas tax increase as a ‘user fee.’ Those who use the roads will end up paying for them. But economists say there’s another way to look at the proposal when placed in the context of the recent tax breaks — as a large shift of the state’s tax burden from higher income to middle income Hoosiers.”



INDOT Commissioner Hendrickson Is Moving On as Funding Debate Heats Up

The Journal Gazette reports, “As legislators convened a major road funding session Tuesday [January 3], incoming Gov. Eric Holcomb announced he is moving the Indiana Department of Transportation commissioner to a different state agency. Brandye Hendrickson [link added] has headed INDOT since April 2015 and was a major player as state officials passed a short-term infrastructure plan last year. She also spent recent months on a blue ribbon task force examining road funding options for state highways and bridges to be acted on this year.” The report adds, “Hendrickson will now run the State Personnel Department. Holcomb did not immediately announce who he is appointing to run INDOT.”

Indiana Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT)


NC Governor Cooper Names Trogdon as DOT Secretary

WSOC reports that North Carolina’s new governor, Roy Cooper, “named Jim Trogdon as North Carolina Department of Transportation secretary, a high-profile role because of the controversy surrounding the I-77 toll lanes between Mooresville and Charlotte. Trogdon served as the chief operating officer for the DOT before his retirement in 2013 [link added] and as director of strategic transportation planning for the North Carolina General Assembly.” The report adds, “He helped to drive several major initiatives during his time at the state DOT, which included reshaping the department’s funding formula to a more data-driven approach to create more jobs and make better use of existing funds during the 2013 legislative session.”

The News & Observer reports that under a law just approved in December 2016, the state senate can reject a governor’s cabinet appointments, but “Trogdon . . . can take office without legislative approval.” The newspaper adds that Trogdon’s start date and salary are still under discussion, and Cooper has named NCDOT manager Mike Holder to serve as the agency’s “caretaker supervisor.”

North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)


Bay Area Bridge Tolls Could Hit $8 Per Crossing

The Mercury News “Roadshow” columnist, Gary Richards, explains why Bay Area bridge tolls might climb to $8 per crossing and the state’s gasoline tax also has the potential to increase.

Caltrans (CA Department of Transportation) Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) San Francisco Bay Area (CA)


That Didn't Take Long: Indiana Lawmaker Will File Bills to Offset Toll Costs for Frequent ORB Commuters

WHAS reports, “Tolls on the Lincoln, Kennedy and Lewis and Clark Bridges have been charged for less than a week now. [Today, January 4], Indiana State Senator Ron Grooms plans to file two bills aimed at helping some frequent bridge users offset the cost of those tolls. ‘I feel like I owe it to my constituents to try to provide those who use the bridges the most, who use it primarily to go to work and make a living, an opportunity to get some relief, however small it might be,’ Grooms said.” The proposed relief would come in the form of a business tax credit and a personal tax deduction.

Indiana Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Goes Cashless

ABC 7 NY reports, “Beginning [today, January 4], drivers will say goodbye to toll booths and hello to cashless tolls when they travel through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.” The report adds, “This follows a successful test of cashless tolling at the Henry Hudson Bridge last month. The MTA will continue its rollout of cashless tolling to the Queens Midtown Tunnel on January 10th.”

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


FDOT's Plan to Add Tolled Express Lanes to a Palm Beach County Segment of the Turnpike Draws Opposition

WPEC CBS12 reports on FDOT’s plan to add tolled express lanes to segments of the turnpike that cross Palm Beach County, and an activist’s petition for a ballot measure to stop the plan from taking effect

Elsewhere (Fort Lauderdale)Sun-Sentinel  reports, “In the next five years, [FDOT] plans to spend more than $1 billion adding express lanes to the already tolled Sawgrass Expressway and the turnpike. Work is expected to begin as early as July. It joins construction already well underway to add up to two express lanes to Interstate 95 in the northern half of Broward, to I-75 in western Broward, and to the Palmetto Expressway in Miami-Dade County.”

Express Lanes Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Florida's Turnpike Enterprise (FTE)


Canada's 407 ETR Announces Toll Rate Hike

407 ETR Concession Company has announced toll and fee changes that will take effect on February 1, 2017. The changes amount to a new rate structure that, according to the company’s news release, “accounts for differences in traffic during varying times of the day and days of the week. The new format also accounts for those differences dependent on the direction of travel (eastbound or westbound) during certain times of the workday.” A list of the fee and rate changes taking effect next month is included in the news release. Information about current and forthcoming rates and fees is also available on the 407 ETR website (note the “Rate Charts” menu in the left column). [Editor’s Note: This article was revised on February 2, 2017, by the insertion of the correct rate change date.]

407 ETR Concession Canada Ontario Toll Rate Changes


Ontario Government Announces Start of Tolling on New Sections of Highways 407 and 412

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation announces that, on February 1, 2017, “tolling will begin on the province’s new Highway 407 and Highway 412. Highway 407, which runs eastward from Brock Rd. in Pickering to Harmony Rd. in Oshawa, and Highway 412, which connects Highway 407 and Highway 401, opened this past June. While the tolling infrastructure was being installed and calibrated, customers were able to travel free of charge.” Although the private 407 ETR Concession Company will administer the tolling for the government, the announcement notes that “[t]oll rates for Highways 407 and 412 are lower than tolls on Highway 407 ETR,” and motorists using “407 ETR, and Ontario’s Highway 407 and Highway 412 will use one transponder and receive one invoice making the tolling process straightforward and seamless.”

Canada Ontario Toll Rate Changes


WV Turnpike Holiday Traffic Was Up

Charleston Gazette-Mail reports, “West Virginia Turnpike traffic continued an upward trend over the Christmas holidays, with traffic up 3.6 percent over the 2015 holiday travel period, and up 6.7 percent over 2011, the last time Christmas fell on a Sunday, Parkways Authority general manager Greg Barr said Tuesday [January 4].”

West Virginia Parkways Authority (West Virginia Turnpike)


Buffalo News Editors Press for Statewide Rollout of AET

The Buffalo News editorial board writes, “For a state that likes to think of itself as progressive, New York is far behind when it comes to toll collections on highways and bridges. Unlike many other highway systems that allow traffic to move at high speed through toll collection zones, the Thruway is still using a decades-old model [cash and E-ZPass]. It’s old technology — to the extent that it counts as technology at all — and functions as a frustration, a disincentive and, under some crowded conditions, a hazard.” The editors note that New York City tunnels and bridges are in the process of being converted, and comment, “[t]here is no good reason for New York to be dragging its feet” on a similar conversion of the state’s entire toll road system.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) New York New York State Thruway Authority


Newspaper Editorial Urges Hamilton, Ontario, Politicians and Residents to Give Tolls a Chance

The Hamilton Spectator publishes an editorial suggesting that Hamiltonians “might want to get used to the idea” of paying highway tolls. “Tolls are increasingly common in the United States. Halifax has a tolled bridge into and out of downtown. British Columbia has toll bridges. Even Alberta has considered the idea. The right-leaning Fraser Institute, not typically a fan of users fees and taxes, says tolls are a lesser of evils. Tolling roads is no longer a ridiculous concept.” The editorial acknowledges that “you won’t find many Hamilton politicians willing to talk out loud about tolls” and change will be slow, but adds, “For the sake of argument, let’s consider the possibility.”

iNews880 reports, “A Hamilton politician looks forward to a 2017 debate about ‘selective tolls’ on the [Lincoln Alexander Parkway] and Red Hill Valley Parkway. [Ward 4 Councillor] Sam Merulla’s idea is to creatively address the city’s ‘revenue problem’ by tolling trucks that use the highways to get from one destination to another outside of Hamilton.”

Canada Ontario