Daily News Briefs, March 15, 2017

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$1.4 Billion, 91 Freeway Express Lanes Are Ready for Opening. CA Counties Earn Props for Project Collaboration.

The Orange County Register advances the Monday, March 20, planned opening of the 91 Freeway Express Lanes project and looks at the partnerships — between Orange and Riverside counties, and the Riverside County Transportation Commission and the Orange County Transportation Authority — that drove the project. “The 91 Express Lanes is maintained and operated through joint contracts and agreements between OCTA and the Riverside commission. Tolls will go to the agency in the county they are collected,” the report notes.

California Orange County Transportation Authority (CA) Riverside County (CA) Transportation Commission (RCTC)


CDOT Eyes Another Express Toll Lane for Stretch of I-70 Mountain Corridor

FOX31 Denver reports, “Major changes are in the works for the I-70 mountain corridor near Idaho Springs.” The station staffs a Colorado DOT public meeting on possible solutions to the congestion in a fourteen-mile segment of the highway, and notes, “According to CDOT, the most plausible idea so far is to install an express toll lane, similar to the one they completed in the eastbound lanes in 2015.”

Colorado Department of Transportation Express Lanes


Larimer County Ponies Up an Additional $1 Million for CDOT's $237 Million North I-25 Expansion Project

Reporter-Herald reports, “Larimer County will contribute an additional $1 million to the north Interstate 25 expansion project, this time for the Colo. 402 interchange.” The report notes that Phase I of the north I-25 expansion will include adding a toll lane in each direction for 14 miles. For those keeping score at home, the newspaper adds, “Funding for the $237 million project is as follows: $15 million from a federal TIGER grant; $25 million in local money; $30 million in national freight funds; $110 million from the state transportation commission; $5 million from CDOT’s transit and rail program; $2 million from CDOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems program; and $50 million as a loan from future toll revenue.”

Colorado Department of Transportation


NJ Senate Confirms Two Christie Appointees to PANYNJ Board

NJ.com reports, “State Sen. Kevin O’Toole, a longtime ally of Gov. Chris Christie, was one of two Christie nominees confirmed Monday [March 13] to join the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s board of commissioners. The state Senate voted to give final confirmation to both O’Toole (R-Essex) and Caren Turner, a Democratic lobbyist. . . . But when O’Toole will [resign his senate seat and] be sworn in remains unclear.” [Links added.]



NJ Senate Adds $400 Million to This Year's Capital Transportation Projects Budget

Burlington County Times reports, “The state Senate voted 36-1 [on March 13] to approve legislation to appropriate $400 million toward capital transportation projects during the current fiscal year, raising the projected transportation spending to about $2 billion.” Governor Chris Christie requested the supplemental appropriation (made possible by a gas tax increase) during his budget address last month, the newspaper notes.

New Jersey


Indiana Senate Is Likely to Amend Tolling Provisions of House-Passed Transportation Funding Bill

The Journal Gazette reports, “It was the Senate’s turn [on March 14] to take up a proposed road funding plan that relies on tax and user fee increases. Two committees jointly heard more than three hours of testimony for and against the legislation, and plan to amend and vote on House Bill 1002 next week. . . . [A]reas that are ripe for change include tolling language. . . .” (Link added.) Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), one of the committee chairs, told WFYI “he’ll explore curtailing the bill’s broad tolling authority. ‘I don’t anticipate moving a bill out of this committee that favors tolling of existing interstates.’”



Iowa Lawmakers Approve Bill That Changes Distribution of Federal Transportation Dollars to Cities and Counties

The Des Moines Register reports on the passage of a controversial Iowa bill [House File 203] that allows the state to “keep federal road and bridge money normally sent to Iowa’s cities and counties and replace it with state dollars. . . .” Advocates say the bill, which the governor is expected to sign, “will help local governments avoid federal paperwork and other requirements that drive up costs,” while opponents argue “it will result in workers on some local road projects being paid lower wages by avoiding federal rules.”

Iowa US Department of Transportation (USDOT)


New Seattle Offramp "Could Represent the Future of Bridge-Building in Earthquake Country"

The Seattle Times reports, “A new offramp rising near Seattle’s rickety Alaskan Way Viaduct could represent the future of bridge-building in earthquake country. The bridge is the first in the world with a new type of column that flexes when the ground shakes, then snaps back to its original position. The goal is a structure that not only survives a quake without collapsing but also sustains so little damage that it can be used immediately.”

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


The King of Golden Gate Bridge Stunts Gets His Due

San Francisco Chronicle profiles Robert Niles, once “the unquestioned king of Golden Gate Bridge stunts. His high-flying story is one that’s not often told 68 years later. . . .” The article comes with some great photos and a note at the end that is a must-read, unless there is some other place where you’ll see a reference to “a lion, a Capuchin monkey and an albino ferret” in the same sentence. (We added the ferret link, which raises the question, who wants that thing in the house?)

Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD)


More Calls to End NY Thruway Tolls on Grand Island Bridges

Ken-Ton Bee reports that calls are growing for the New York Thruway Authority to remove tolls on its Grand Island Bridges. One recent development is that State Senator Chris Jacobs (R-60) has introduced a bill (S4834) that directs the authority to stop the tolling.

New York State Thruway Authority


ACEC Recognizes Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge Toll Plaza Project

TV6 reports, “The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge toll plaza reconstruction project was recently honored with a Merit Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Michigan.”

Canada Michigan Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority


Lawmakers Discuss a New I-5 Columbia River Crossing Proposal

Oregon Public Broadcasting posts a report on the efforts of Washington State legislators to revive the project (which failed in 2013) to replace the I-5 bridge linking Portland and Vancouver. The program features State Representatives Paul Harris (R-Vancouver) and Liz Pike (R-Camas).

Oregon Washington State


Kane County Officials Advance the $115 Million Longmeadow Parkway, Toll Bridge Project

The Courier-News reports, “The next phase of Longmeadow Parkway Corridor and toll bridge is moving ahead with the Kane County board’s approval of a contract for more construction as people living near and along the route continue to object.” The report adds, “Longmeadow Parkway Bridge Corridor is the $115 million project that has been in the works for more than 25 years in northern Kane County.”

Illinois Kane County (IL) DOT


On Trump's $1 Trillion Infrastructure Proposal: Who Will Pay?

NBC News looks at the challenges the Trump administration will face in producing the promised infrastructure funding bill, noting that the president has “just got to answer the trillion-dollar question that’s plagued decades of infrastructure attempts in the past: Who pays?”

Infrastructure Investment Trends


"Governing" Magazine Looks at the Upside of Pension Funds Receiving Toll Roads and Other Public Assets as Contributions

“Governing” contributor Jill Eicher writes about the potential of funding pension funds with “cash-generating public assets or dedicated funding streams,” and notes, “One of the most profitable in-kind contributions made to a pension fund was the conveyance in 2011 of a toll-road network owned by Australia’s Queensland state government to the state’s pension fund. Queensland Investment Corporation, the fund’s savvy manager, restructured the business, added two additional roads to the toll network and sold the asset three years later at a $3.8 billion profit for the pension fund.”

Australia Infrastructure Investment Trends


Germany's Plan for Tolling Foreign Cars Sparks New Round of Controversy

Handelsblatt reported, “Germany’s controversial move to a system of distance-based tolls for foreign cars using German highways will be more expensive than planned and will not start until at least 2020, according to internal documents seen by Handelsblatt.” Within hours, Reuters carried a denial of the story by the German transport ministry, which claims that procurement documents seen by Handelsblatt are still under development.

EU Germany