Daily News Briefs, June 27, 2017

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With Federal Approval in Hand, NC Backers of Proposed $2 Billion I-73 Project Seek State Law Change to Permit Tolling

WMBF reports, “Now that I-73 permits are in the hands of local leaders, construction can start,” adding, “Local leaders plan to combine local funding, state funds and public/private partnerships. They’re also banking on help from President Trump. But most importantly, making sure the state legislature changes a law to allow I-73 to be a toll road.”

North Carolina North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)


Houston Chronicle: "Unlikely Forces Unite Foes of Tolls, Sprawl"

Houston Chronicle reports, “In an interesting convergence of interests, activists who dislike toll roads find themselves aligned with anti-sprawl forces in opposing certain projects. Jay Crossley, the former executive director of the Houston Tomorrow think tank, said that organization was joined by anti-toll road leader Terri Hall in fighting certain segments of the Grand Parkway.” The report adds, “State transportation commissioners, meanwhile, are expected to vote Thursday [June 29] to designate the Texas 249 project in Montgomery County as a toll road.”


The Seattle Times: "Tolling Doesn’t Get Much Love, but It Eases Gridlock"

The Seattle Times reports, “It’s not a popular answer to Seattle’s suffocating gridlock, but it is a simple one: You want traffic to go away? Pay to use the roads.” The article spotlights a 2008 local study that recommended “systemwide variable tolling” to relieve Puget Sound congestion, and it adds, “The region has experimented with variable tolling — on Interstate 405 and the Highway 520 bridge, most notably — with measured success and significant pushback.”

MYNorthwest.com reports that the Puget Sound Regional Council, which conducted the 2008 study, may seem to be “backing away from the idea, there’s another project just months away that incorporates the same principle. The Washington State Transportation Commission plans to launch a year-long pilot project to let participants test a per-mile fee system that would replace the state’s gas tax.”

Congestion Pricing Washington State


Orange County (CA) Transportation Authority Approves Plan for Securing TIFIA Loan for I-405 Project

The Orange County Register reports, “County transportation authority officials on Monday, June 26, approved plans for securing a $627 million federal loan for the Interstate 405 Improvement Project, the final financing piece for the largest capital project the agency has ever undertaken.” The report adds, “OCTA treasurer Kirk Avila called the board’s action one of the ‘financing milestones’ for the $1.9 billion project, which will add one general-purpose lane in each direction on the I-405 . . . as well as a second lane in each direction to be combined with an existing carpool lane to create the 405 Express Lanes. . . .”

California Orange County Transportation Authority (CA)


New Law Prompts SCDOT Commission Member to Resign

South Strand News reports that Mike Wooten, “who has served four and a half years on the S.C. Department of Transportation Commission and formerly as chairman, is stepping down . . . due to a new law that goes into effect July 1. “‘The new law basically states that commissioners cannot apply for permits from SCDOT,’ Wooten, president of DDC Engineers in Myrtle Beach, said. . . . ‘So, if I stayed on the commission, I would have to abandon my business and  I am certainly not willing to do that.’” Gov. Henry McMaster has named Myrtle Beach businessman Tony. K Cox as Wooten’s interim replacement, the report adds.

South Carolina South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT)


Golden Gate Bridge Tolls Increase Starting July 3

San Francisco Chronicle reports, “The toll is going up by at least 25 cents on the Golden Gate Bridge, the latest step in a series of increases designed to meet a long-running budget shortfall by the regulators of the iconic span. Starting July 3, the majority of bridge traffic, two-axle cars, will be charged the increased rate. . . . A discount will remain on FasTrak passes as an incentive for Bay Area motorists to use them.”

Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD) San Francisco County Transportation Authority Toll Rate Changes


Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Member Doesn't Buy the Notion "Tolling Is Fair" Compared to a Gas Tax Hike

Tribune-Star reports that several members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus told a town hall audience any expansion of tolling under the state’s new transportation funding law would be unpopular. State Representative John Bartlett (D-95) also took issue with the argument that “tolling was equal when compared to the gas tax and vehicle registration increases. . . . ‘It may be equal, but it’s not fair. When you say ham and egg sandwich, that’s equal; half ham, half egg. But the chicken laid the egg and kept walking while the hog got to die and drop a leg. So it may be equal but it ain’t fair.”



Local Planners Vote to Continue PA Turnpike's $2 Billion Mon-Fayette Expressway Extension

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission voted on June 26 “to continue the $2 billion, 14-mile Mon-Fayette Expressway extension from Jefferson Hills to Monroeville. The commission voted 48-4 to allow the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to finish plans for the toll road.” The report adds, “The project had been on hold since March, when the commission voted not to continue its support of the project while local leaders, led by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, checked whether the funding could be used for other, more immediate transportation projects. . . .”

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)


The Wilsons vs. the Cuomos: Debate over Naming the New Tappan Zee Bridge Continues

Crain’s New York Business reports, “The daughter of former New York Gov. Malcolm Wilson is objecting to plans to name the new Tappan Zee Bridge after the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, as the old span honors her father. Katharine Wilson Conroy wrote to current Governor Andrew Cuomo after learning of his proposal to name the replacement bridge after the elder Cuomo.” The New York State Assembly adjourned last week without acting on that proposal.

New York New York State Thruway Authority


First Phase of FDOT's First Coast Expressway Project Is Due to Be Completed by Year's End

WJXT provides an update on FDOT’s First Coast Expressway construction project, reporting “The first phase of State Road 23, connecting I-10 in Baldwin to Blanding Boulevard in Middleburg, is expected to be completed by the end of the year. That means drivers could be charged as soon as the beginning of 2018 to take what many consider to be a shortcut. There will be five [AET toll points] along the route. . . . “

Florida Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)


E-ZPass Customer Service Lanes Back-Up for Two Hours in Advance of July's Cashless Tolling Launch at the Verrazano Bridge

SILive.com reports, “The Verrazano Bridge is causing a back-up at the borough’s E-ZPass Customer Service Center, as large numbers of Staten Islanders have been visiting the Travis location recently to confirm their residency for the toll discount or to pick up a new tag to be used for the carpool discount when cashless tolling begins at the span in July.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City


In a First, Golden Gate Bridge Will Close Northbound Lanes to Traffic during Annual Marathon (Terrorism Concerns Cited)

San Francisco Chronicle reports, “The Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District board voted unanimously [on June 23] to close all northbound lanes of the span to traffic for the San Francisco Marathon, an unprecedented decision arising from concerns over safety and terrorism. The arrangement is intended to protect about 15,000 runners. . . . All northbound lanes will be closed to general traffic from 6 to 9 a.m. for the July 23 marathon.”

California Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD)


Colorado DOT's Mountain Express Lane Is Paying Dividends

Vail Daily reports, “The Mountain Express Lane, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s $70 million investment in easing traffic congestion in the Interstate 70 corridor, appears to be paying dividends. According to a recent CDOT report, use of the express lane more than doubled in its second winter season.”

Colorado Colorado Department of Transportation


CTRMA's Design-Build Process for the US 183 North Toll Project Moves Forward

Community Impact Newspaper reports on the progress of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority’s $650 million US 183 North design-build project. “In May, the agency began the developer procurement process, which takes about a year to complete.” The newspaper adds, “Under a proposed design-build process . . . , construction could begin in February 2019 to add four toll lanes and a fourth continuous nontolled lane between MoPac and RM 620.”

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA)


Orange County (CA) Toll Spending Slows (Along with New Car Purchases and John Wayne Airport Travel)

The Orange County Register reports, “[T]the start of 2017 suggests Orange Countians . . . are a bit skittish about overall economic prospects and are adjusting their travel spending accordingly. Year-to-date data from three slices of the transportation business — buying new vehicles, flying to or from John Wayne Airport and use of local tollways — show a slowing in spending.” The report adds, “Combined dollars spent on Orange County tolls rose a combined 7.7 percent through May vs. 2016’s start. . . . But even this upswing has a warning sign within: increased toll payments still represent a dip in growth from the combined 10 percent gain in the same period between 2015 and 2016.”



Merger of Nebraska's Roads and Aeronautics Departments into a Unitary DOT Won't Cost "an Extra Penny"

The Wichita Eagle reports, “Call it rebranding on a budget. When the state Roads and Aeronautics departments officially merge to form the new Nebraska Department of Transportation next month, they plan to do so without spending an extra penny, the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/2rWVHYg) reported.” Roads Director Kyle Schneweis, who will head the consolidated agency, told the newspaper “the change will encourage Nebraska to ‘step away from (its) 10,000 miles of highways’ and think about transportation more broadly.”