Daily News Briefs, June 9, 2017

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Toll Rate Breaks $30 Mark on 495 Express during "Traffic Incident"

WTTG reports the toll rate shot above $30.00 on the southbound I-495 express lanes during the June 8 evening rush hour. The cause of the temporary spike, according to Transurban’s Mike McGurk, was a traffic “incident” that temporarily blocked travel lanes.

95/395/495 Express Lanes (Metro Washington DC) Transurban Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Washington (DC) Metro Region


NTTA Toll Rates Will Increase Slightly on July 1

Community Impact Newspaper reports, “The North Texas Tollway Authority is scheduled to increase toll rates beginning July 1, as part of a scheduled biennial increase that was approved in 2009. TollTag member rates will adjust a penny per mile. . . . The newspaper notes, “Through 2022, NTTA will reinvest more than $900 million for widening, improvements and construction of its roads to relieve congestion and provide mobility throughout North Texas.”

Dallas-Ft. Worth Metro Region (DFW) North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) Texas Toll Rate Changes


Illinois Tollway to Open New Diverging Diamond Interchange on June 16

Daily Herald reports, “Illinois tollway officials announced that they expect to debut the new diverging diamond interchange on Elmhurst Road over I-90 on June 16. . . . The counterintuitive design uses traffic lights to guide vehicles temporarily into the left lanes to avoid making turns against oncoming vehicles.” The interchange’s tolling system is all-electronic.

Chicago Metro Area Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway)


VDOT Secretary: State Funding Timeline Won't Jeopardize Hampton Roads Tunnel Expansion

The Virginian-Pilot reports that some members of the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission are expressing “alarm” over a potential delay in state funding that could change the schedule of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion project and “drive up costs from $4 billion to $4.5 billion.” However, VDOT secretary Aubrey Layne and the commission’s executive director, Kevin Page, are reportedly confident that the problem can be resolved without affecting the project’s timeline or costs.

Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)


Missouri Group Gets Permission to Circulate Anti-Toll Ballot Initiative Petition

Washington Missourian reports that A Better Road Forward has cleared the “first, and possibly lowest hurdle” to placing a state constitutional amendment initiative to ban highway tolling in front of Missouri voters. The secretary of state’s office this week approved circulation of the group’s initiative petition, which is similar to others already in circulation. According to the newspaper, a statewide total of 160,199 signatures must be obtained to get a constitutional initiative on the 2018 general election ballot.



Wisconsin Republicans Still Search for Consensus on Introducing Highway Tolls

Associated Press quotes Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), the influential co-chair of the Wisconsin Legislature’s joint budget committee, as saying Republican leaders still have not reached a consensus about introducing highway tolls in the state, but they continue to discuss the possibility. AP notes, “How to plug Wisconsin’s nearly $1 billion transportation shortfall is one of several key issues holding up passage of the budget,” which is due on or before June 30.



Commentator Says Minnesotans Hate the Idea of Tolls, but the State's I-90 Is a Natural

Minnesota Public Radio’s Bill Collins, on the news that Minnesota and Wisconsin are looking seriously at tolling policies, writes that Minnesotans “have historically hated the idea of tolls, even though every few years someone wants to study the idea. The obvious candidate would be I-90 across southern Minnesota.” On Governor Scott Walker’s idea of tolling cars entering Wisconsin from Illinois, Collins remarks, “Some lawmakers in Wisconsin want the Minnesota border to be tolled too, although a 2013 congressional agency study warned this sort of thing could spark a toll war between states.”

Minnesota Wisconsin


Start Date for Charlotte, NC, Road Project (New Toll Lane Included) Moves Forward a Year

WSOC reports, “One of Charlotte’s busiest roads is going to be widened sooner than expected.” A city council member tells the station that the project to add one toll and one free lane to Independence Boulevard from Wallace Lane to I-485 will start in 2021, a year earlier than first planned.

Express Lanes North Carolina


S&P Reaffirms NY State Bridge Authority's Solid Bond Rating

Poughkeepsie Journal reports, “Standard & Poor’s Rating Service cited steady finances in reaffirming its bond rating of AA- for the New York State Bridge Authority. The rating is one of the highest in the nation for a self-supporting bridge/transportation entity, according to a bridge authority press release.”

Investment Ratings New York State Bridge Authority (NYSBA)


Columnist Suggests More Municipal Bond Financing, Less Waiting for DC Infrastructure Action

Slate columnist Daniel Gross commented yesterday, “It’s Day 4 of the Trump administration’s Infrastructure Week — and of course nothing infrastructure-y has happened.” Instead of waiting for Washington to act on infrastructure renewal, Gross suggests that states and cities use “a very powerful financing tool at their disposal that enlists Wall Street, asset managers, and very rich people to fund infrastructure on a tax-advantaged basis. . . . It’s called municipal bonds. And they’re not being used enough.”

Infrastructure Investment Trends Trump Administration Infrastructure Plan


Putative Class Action over Rental Car Company Toll Charges Advances

Law360.com (subscription required) reports that a federal judge in New Jersey denied a motion to dismiss a putative class action lawsuit against a unit of Enterprise Holdings, Inc., on June 8. The ruling allows the case “to move forward on the theory that the rental car company had refused to refund charges against a customer for a toll violation after receiving proof that he paid the toll with his E-ZPass tag.”

Issues of Law


Canada Infrastructure Bank Plan Faces Legislative Threat Next Week

The Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian government’s plan to create a national infrastructure bank is coming under daily, opposition party criticism, and “[t]he issue could come to a head next week in the Senate, where an independent senator is seeking support for a motion that would split the government’s omnibus budget bill . . . in a way that would remove the section that creates the infrastructure bank.” The article also notes that the US treasury secretary and his Canadian counterpart will meet in Ottawa today to discuss, among other topics, infrastructure spending.

Canada Infrastructure Investment Trends


WSDOT Official: There’s Light at the End of Seattle's Huge Toll Tunnel Project

West Seattle Herald reports, “Replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel through the center of Seattle has been a monumental job. Joe Hedges, Washington State Department of Transportation’s administrator of the project, compared the task with another giant step during [a June 8 chamber address]. ‘It was deemed to be, in the tunneling world, going to the moon,’ he said.”

Washington State Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


Newspaper Calls Idea for Tolling Scenic CA Highway a "Beauty Tax"

The Tribune (of San Luis Obispo) editorial board takes issue with recent calls to convert the scenic Big Sur portion of California Highway 1 into a toll road to raise funds for repair and maintenance. The editors say, “Exempting local residents from paying a toll wouldn’t make it OK. Just because out-of-town tourists might be willing to pay to drive this iconic stretch of road doesn’t mean they should have to fork over a ‘beauty tax’ for the privilege of driving on one of our public highways. Once that starts, where will it end?”



Houston Chronicle Calls Trump Administration Infrastructure Plan a "Brazen Bait-and-Switch"

Houston Chronicle editors, citing President Trump’s decision to put P3 project financing at the forefront of his infrastructure plan, comment, “Gone is the campaign season proposal for a $1 trillion program. In a brazen bait-and-switch, Trump would actually cut infrastructure spending in the long run, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.” In the editors’ judgement, “opportunities for private investment cannot cover the vast infrastructure needs facing our nation,” and Trump’s plan represents “just another politician’s broken promise.”

The Chronicle editorial is representative of a wave of negative comment about Trump administration inaction on national infrastructure funding that is appearing in US newspapers today.

Trump Administration Infrastructure Plan