Daily News Briefs, January 6, 2017

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New Moroun Lawsuit Challenges Michigan's Participation in Gordie Howe Bridge Project

Windsor Star reports, “Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the state’s transportation department ‘usurped’ and ‘hijacked’ legal approvals that rightfully belonged to the state legislature in a desire to build the Gordie Howe International Bridge, claims [ ] a new lawsuit filed by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun.” The “sweeping lawsuit” filed in the Michigan Court of Claims seeks to enjoin the state from proceeding with the project. The newspaper says a spokesperson for Governor Snyder had no comment about the suit, but did say, ““We are moving forward with the Gordie Howe Bridge project as planned.” A Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority spokesman commented, “WDBA is aware of the complaint . . . . This matter is being dealt with in Michigan.”

Crain’s Detroit Business carries an extensive report on the lawsuit.

Canada Gordie Howe Int'l Bridge Michigan


WA Official Calls a Toll Increase the "Last Resort" Response to I-405's Operating Speed Problem

MYNorthwest.com reports that the toll on WSDOT’s I-405 Express during morning commutes consistently reaches the maximum rate of $10 “even around the holidays, when there were fewer cars on the road.” And yet, the facility is still failing to meet the federal minimum average operating speed standard (45 mph ninety percent of the time). Reema Griffith, Executive Director of the Washington State Transportation Commission, tells the website her agency could raise the maximum toll rate to price some motorists out of the lanes, but that is only one possible solution and a “last resort action.” The website expects state lawmakers to probe an increase in the maximum toll rate this year.

Express Lanes Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


As Snow Falls, Tolls Rise on DC Express Lanes

WTTG reports that as snowflakes started to fall in the nation’s capital last night, January 5, “commuters driving during the evening rush hour in Northern Virginia found using the Express Lanes would be very costly.” A station staff member using I-495 “found a sign showing the toll for the Express Lanes starting from nearby the Tysons Corner area to the I-395/95 exit would cost a whopping $30!” WTTG adds, “As of 6 p.m. Thursday, the Express Lanes website showed an expected 36-minute trip from the 495 Express Lanes starting nearby Tysons Corner all the way to I-95 near Garrisonville Road/Route 610 in Stafford costing over $45.”

Express Lanes Transurban Washington (DC) Metro Region


Texas Public Radio Tackles the "Controversial Issue of Toll Roads"

Texas Public Radio tackles “the controversial issue of toll roads,” noting that, “San Antonio is the biggest city in Texas without toll roads or carpool lanes, but that may be about to change.” The piece opens with Terri Hall of Texans for Toll-Free Highways, who says, “To open that Pandora’s Box in San Antonio, when we’ve already seen this kind of failure of this kind of social experiment, if you will. We should not be spending billions of dollars on this [kind] of infrastructure that doesn’t work.” The report covers the waterfront, from the bankruptcy of SH 130 operators to the case of one TxTag customer who “is trying to sort out the $4,000 in fees and fines she owes because bills were sent to an old address.”



San Antonio MPO Official Predicts a Toll Road Is Coming "Sooner Rather Than Later"

Texas Public Radio’s look at toll roads and HOV lanes (one installment in a series on metro San Antonio traffic congestion) includes a discussion with Sid Martinez, director of the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. He tells TPR, “I don’t think that we can escape the tolling issue forever. I do think that we’ll eventually see a toll facility here in San Antonio, probably sooner rather than later.” Martinez adds that “local transportation officials are considering an $880 million [ ] toll project on congested stretches of Loop 1604 and a $1.5 billion [ ] toll project on I-35.”



Two National Publications Hammer Ohio River Bridges Project

Courier-Journal reports, “Two national publications collide head-on with Louisville’s most recent transportation pride and joy — remaking Spaghetti Junction and building new interstate bridges. The Vox headline sets the tone: ‘Louisville’s “Spaghetti Junction” is a testament to how cars degrade cities,’ with the subhead: ‘Doubling down on auto infrastructure, Kentucky-style.” Another publication, Streetsblog, this week concluded Louisville ‘has been making the same mistakes for 60 years’ under a blog headlined: ‘With Louisville’s Gargantuan New Interchange Comes a Profound Loss.’” The Courier-Journal article adds, “The main point of both pieces is how interstates that run right through cities can divide them in negative and consequential ways.”

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


NCDOT Issues a Draft 2018-2027 Funding and Construction Plan

The North Carolina Department of Transportation announced the release of “the state’s draft 2018-2027 transportation plan, known as the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)” on January 4. “The plan is the department’s funding and construction schedule for transportation projects over the next 10 years,” the second implemented in accordance with a 2013 law that requires data-driven project prioritization. Click here to find the proposed project list, development schedule, changes from the 2016-2025 STIP, and other resources.

North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)


Florida Lawmaker Proposes to End All Express Lane Development

The Palm Beach Post reports, “A bill proposed this week in the Florida Senate would prevent the creation of more express lanes on the state’s highways while also setting rules for how express lane toll money must be spent. The measure, SB 250, was filed Thursday [January 5] by state Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami. If the bill is made law during the upcoming Florida legislative session, which begins March 7, it would ban state officials from creating any new express lanes after July 1. Money collected from tolls on existing express lanes could only be used to pay off bonds used to create the projects. Once those bonds are paid off, the bill proposes that those express lanes would become general-use lanes.”

Florida Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE)


Panasonic, Colorado DOT Will Turn a Segment of I-70 into a Smart Highway

Fox 31 Denver reports, “Panasonic announced it is partnering with the Colorado Department of Transportation to turn a stretch of Interstate 70 into a smart highway, enabling cars to communicate with each other as well as road infrastructure.” The report adds, “Together, they will build a communication platform that will allow cars to share information like slick spots, road hazards and traffic jams, allowing computers in vehicles to prepare for what’s ahead on the road and slow down.”



Cash Versus Cashless Tolling Debate Pits Townsfolk against Maine Turnpike

Seacoastonline.com features a lengthy backgrounder and update on the Great York, Maine, Toll Plaza Debate: To go AET or not to go AET, that is the question.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Maine Turnpike Authority


OTA Opens Its Test AET Interchange

Tulsa World reports that Oklahoma’s “first — and at least for now, only — all-electronic toll plaza is operational. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority officially activated its new PlatePay toll system [yesterday, January 5] at the Peoria/Elm interchange exit on the Creek Turnpike in Jenks, OTA officials said.” The article explains that the AET pilot project came about “when Jenks approached [OTA] about redesigning the interchange to better accommodate area development. OTA officials realized it was a golden opportunity to try out PlatePay [link added]. Total project cost, including implementing the new system and redesign of the interchange, is more than $14 million. OTA’s part is $9.3 million to Jenks’ $5 million.”

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


PANYNJ Board Accepts Proposed Ten-Year Capital Plan and Opens Public Comment Period

NJ.com reports that the PANYNJ board accepted a revised, $29.5 billion, 10-year capital plan on January 5. “The plan will be the topic of a long on-line public comment period, until Feb. 15.” Public hearings are scheduled for January 31 and February 7, and a final approval vote is expected to take place during the board’s February 16 board meeting. The article adds, “Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said no toll increase is being considered and federal grants and other Port Authority revenues will fund the plan.”

The New York Times also reports.

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


Delay Reported in Launch of Blue Water Bridge Electronic Commuter Discount Program

Sarnia Observer reports, “A new commuter discount program for the Canadian side of the Blue Water Bridge is overdue, and bridge officials say they don’t know when it will be ready to launch.” A Federal Bridge Corporation spokesman tells the newspaper, “Despite a concerted effort to bring this initiative forward to completion there have been multiple unexpected delays,” delays related to software integration challenges faced by the contractor for the bridge’s automated tolling project. (The Blue Water discount program will be similar to the “Prox card” program in use on the Sault Ste. Marie international bridge.)

Canada Federal Bridge Corporation Ltd. (Canada)


Chicago Tribune Editors Tell IDOT to Bring on the HOT Lanes

Chicago Tribune’s editors say, “Regular users of the Eisenhower Expressway know how their days will begin if they wind up in Hades:” listening to a traffic report describing congestion on “the Ike” (I-290). They ask readers to keep the “maddening dysfunction” of the expressway in mind as they evaluate IDOT’s HOT lanes construction proposal. The editors themselves “like the concept of congestion pricing. Giving car poolers a break is one way to reduce the number of cars on the expressway. Other motorists who want to avoid delays pay to use the faster lane, generating revenue to pay for transportation needs. IDOT’s focus now is the Eisenhower, but we hope it will investigate whether congestion pricing can work on stretches of the Kennedy, Dan Ryan, Edens and Bishop Ford.” (Mounting the project as a public-private partnership isn’t mentioned.)

Express Lanes Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT)


PANYNJ Efforts to Reduce Suicides on George Washington Bridge Include More Officers, Surveillance Cameras

New York Daily News reports, “A dozen people jumped to their deaths off the George Washington Bridge in 2016 — down from 18 victims the year before, officials said [yesterday, January 5].” The report comes as police stopped a man from attempting suicide on the bridge yesterday and adds that, “So many people have leapt from the span, the Port Authority took steps to post more police officers to the walkway and set up surveillance cameras.”

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