Daily News Briefs, June 19, 2017

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The Indianapolis Star Probes "Mike Pence's Infrastructure Mess: What Went Wrong with I-69?"

The Indianapolis Star reports, “At first, it sounded like a good idea: Indiana would use a public-private partnership to extend I-69 from Bloomington to Martinsville. . . . But the project is two years behind schedule. The prolonged construction has increased traffic accidents and lengthened commute times. And, now, as the state is dissolving the partnership — which some argue could end up costing Hoosiers millions of dollars — a difficult question needs to be asked: How did this once-touted project — pitched and promoted by then-Gov. Mike Pence as a model for smart infrastructure planning — become such an embarrassing mess?”

Indiana P3 & Privatization


Slowdowns Accompany HCTRA's Deployment of New Tolling System

KHOU reports that the “deployment of the Harris County Toll Road Authority’s new tolling system is causing tensions to run high among drivers seeking assistance at the county’s EZ Tag stores” where customers face long waiting lines. An HCTRA spokesperson tells the station, “Since we started operating in the new system on [June 12], the system has performed slowly, which we expected. We’ve communicated with customers that temporary delays can be expected, at the outset.” The station adds, “The vendor contracted to provide the work on the transition is Electronic Transaction Consultants Corp. (ETC).”

Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) Houston Metro Area Texas


Illinois County Retains Former IDOT Secretary to Develop Transportation Financing Strategies

Daily Southtown (via Chicago Tribune) reports that the Will County, Illinois, Board, unanimously approved a one-year contract with former state transportation secretary Ann Schneider in lieu of hiring a full-time transportation planning employee. Schneider “will prioritize infrastructure projects needed to keep freight moving efficiently through the county and develop financing strategies for those improvements, including state and federal grants and public private partnerships.” (Link inserted.)

Appointments-Promotions-Retirements Illinois P3 & Privatization


NY Times Advises Trump: Beware the "Rest of the Planet's" Infrastructure Privatization Missteps

The New York Times reports, “The rest of the planet bears a warning for President Trump’s plan to lean heavily on private business in conjuring a trillion dollars’ worth of American infrastructure: Handing profit-making companies responsibility for public works can produce trouble.”

P3 & Privatization Trump Administration Infrastructure Plan


Illinois Tollway and Canadian Railroad Are Back at Negotiating Table over ROW for Airport Access Road

Crain’s Chicago Business reports, “With a nudge from a key federal agency, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Illinois Tollway have quietly resumed negotiations over a dispute that threatens to scuttle construction of a long-planned western access road to O’Hare International Airport. In a joint letter signed by their lawyers, the tollway and railroad notified the U.S. Surface Transportation Board they have agreed to board mediation if needed, but in the meantime they will ‘to continue to engage in direct settlement discussions first.’”

Illinois Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway)


WV Lawmakers Send Transportation Funding and Turnpike Bills to Governor Justice

MetroNews reports that Governor Jim Justice, who believes “roads are everything,” has two new construction and maintenance laws on his desk for signature. “On Friday, Day 20 of a Special Session, the Legislature finalized work on SB 1006, which increases funding for the State Road Fund, and SB 1003, which expands the tolling capacity of the West Virginia Parkways Authority. . . .” (Among other things, SB 1003 removes a cap on the issuance of revenue bonds and permits electronic toll collection.)

MetroNews also reports that the West Virginia Turnpike is expected to produce revenue of $91 million dollars in the coming fiscal year, and “[a] huge chunk of that will go into major improvements of the highway going forward. ‘Out of a $90 million budget, $40 million is going back into capital improvements to the roadway,’ said Parkways Authority General Manager Greg Barr.”

West Virginia West Virginia Parkways Authority (West Virginia Turnpike)


NTTA Hires New Assistant Director of Government Affairs

Denton Record-Chronicle reports, “The [City of Denton’s] longtime public information officer, Lindsey Baker, has resigned her post to accept a job with the North Texas Tollway Authority. Baker joined the city staff nine years ago as a spokesperson. . . . In recent years, she also traveled to Austin during each legislative session to help lobby for the city’s interests.  Baker will become the assistant director of government affairs for NTTA. Her last day in Denton is June 23.”

Appointments-Promotions-Retirements North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) Texas


CTRMA Officials Foresee September MoPac Opening (and "They Sound Convinced")

Austin American-Statesman’s Ben Wear writes that Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority officials tell him the new MoPac express lanes will open in September. Wear is optimistic about the predicted openings, and adds, “we’ll see if it was worth the $200 million or so cost and especially all the construction-related traffic hell” that resulted from “40-plus months of lane closures, lane switches, bumpy pavement, narrowed stretches and inexplicable backups at odd times.”

Austin (TX) Metro Area Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Express Lanes


CTRMA Board Member Fined $300 for Filing Error

Austin American-Statesman reports that Charles Heimsath, a CTRMA board member, was fined $300 by the Texas Ethics Commission for an error in personal financial statement forms he filed in 2014 and 2015. Heimsath properly disclosed his ownership interest in two properties, but neglected to add to his disclosure form “that he was a manager or director of the limited liability companies designated as owners of the properties.”

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Texas


ITR Toll Hike and Construction Are Driving Traffic to I-20

WSBT reports, “It has been just three weeks since the E-ZPass rate hike on the Indiana Toll Road went into effect. But drivers, businesses owners and police officers who travel U.S. 20 are already noticing a boost in traffic. Within just the last few weeks officers are spotting more out-of-state plates. Many of those drivers are likely trying to avoid construction slow downs, as well as paying a big toll on 80/90.”

Indiana Indiana Toll Road Concession Company (ITRCC)


Researchers Report Advance in Technology for Charging Electric Cars on the Move

CBS News reports, “What if electric cars could recharge while speeding along the highway — freeing drivers to go greater and greater distances without having to stop and plug in? Researchers are working on it. A team from Stanford University reported their latest advance in a research paper published [June 15] in the journal Nature. In the paper, they share their progress towards developing new technology to wirelessly deliver electricity to moving objects — namely, electric vehicles.” (Link inserted.)

Electric and Hybrid Vehicles


Debate over SH 249 Tollway Extension Continues

Houston Public Media reports that some residents and officials want TxDOT to undertake the entire SH 249 tollway extension project. However, Judge Craig Doyal defends the recent decision made by Montgomery County commissioners to fund and manage one segment of the project, telling the news site, “We can use any excess revenue that the project created to address free road issues in Montgomery County. Or a future Commissioners Court once the debt was retired could choose to eliminate the tolls altogether.”

Houston Metro Area Montgomery County (TX) Toll Road Authority Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


CT Construction Industry Association Exec Calls Tolling a "Very Viable" Option

The Connecticut Mirror interviews an “ardent” transportation advocate, Don Shubert, executive director of the Connecticut Construction Industry Association, about financing of the state’s transportation infrastructure renewal program and his view that “tolls are a very viable option.”



Alleged Toll Protester Climbs Gantry, Damages Toll System of Ireland's M50

The Irish Times reports, “A man damaged equipment on the M50 toll gantry . . . forcing the motorway to be shut down for a time and resulting in the failure of the tolling system. The man climbed the gantry and then cut wires and damaged cameras and sensory equipment over the northbound lane. . . .” The report adds, “It is understood the man damaged the tolling system as part of a protest.”

Irish Independent reports, “‘The value of damage to the cameras on the gantry and loss of revenue is huge, estimated to be over €100k,” a source said.”

Crime Beat Ireland