Daily News Briefs, March 17, 2017

Alameda County's I-580 HOT Lanes Prove Popular with Commuters

San Francisco Chronicle reports, “The Bay Area’s newest express lanes — on Interstate 580 through the Tri-Valley region of Alameda County — are just a year old but drivers are already pouring into them, eager to pay for a quicker commute. . . . Since the combination express and carpool lanes opened in February 2015 . . . more than 7.6 million drivers have taken advantage of them,” according to data released on March 16 by the lanes’ operator, the Alameda County Transportation Commission. The Chronicle lists new express lane projects coming to the Bay Area “at an accelerated pace.”

Alameda County Transportation Commission Express Lanes San Francisco Bay Area (CA)

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AET Scheduled to Begin on Two More MTA Bridges

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced, “[C]ashless tolling will begin on the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial and Cross Bay Veterans Bridges in Queens on April 30.”

AET Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City

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Georgia House Committee Strikes Bill's Provision on Tolling

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a Georgia House of Representatives committee has removed the language from Senate Bill 183 that would allow the State Road and Tollway Authority to use tolls as a traffic control tool even after it has recouped a highway’s building costs. AJC notes that “at a previous committee meeting, some lawmakers and members of the public expressed concern about the prospect of unending tolls.”

Express Lanes Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority (Georgia)

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New York House Demurs on Governor's Request for Reciprocal Toll Enforcement Authority

Times Herald-Record reports, “Gov. Andrew Cuomo, eager to expand all-electronic tolling on the state’s roads, bridges and tunnels and not lose a penny in the process, has hit that old familiar roadblock: legislators.” In action on a state budget bill this week, the House rejected Cuomo’s request that legislators give New York’s DMV the authority to enter into toll enforcement reciprocity agreements with other states. However, stay tuned, because, as the newspaper notes, the Senate said “yes” to the governor and serious negotiations over the final budget bill lie ahead.

AET New York Scofflaws

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Critics Applaud NCDOT's Decision to Review the I-77 Express Contract, but What Can Be Accomplished?

The Charlotte Observer reports critics may be pleased with NCDOT’s decision to conduct a fresh review of the I-77 Express project, but construction “is well underway and unlikely to be halted, leaving uncertain what a review at of the 1,300-page [P3] contract at this point could accomplish.” An NCDOT spokesperson says transportation secretary James Trogdon “is part of a new administration, under a new governor, and while we can’t change what happened before, we’re in now and want to take another look at the contract.”

I-77 Express Lanes (NC) North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)

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Some Local Officials Hesitate Over Vote to Approve $1.6 Billion Mon-Fayette Expressway Project

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, “The future of the $1.6 billion Mon-Fayette Expressway faces a crucial vote Monday [before a regional planning agency], and two top local leaders say they aren’t convinced the project should move ahead.” Both the Allegheny County Executive and Pittsburgh’s mayor “say they are concerned about the huge price tag and expected 25-year build out for the highway and wonder whether other projects could benefit the region more.” If approved, the expressway would be a Pennsylvania Turnpike project.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)

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RCTC's $1.4 Billion 91 Express Lanes Open Monday Morning

The Press-Enterprise reports, “The final countdown has begun. After three years of construction work, closed ramps and lanes as well as a full freeway weekend shutdown dubbed ‘Coronageddon,’ the opening of the new 91 Express Lanes project in Corona is now a few days away. Westbound lanes will be ready Monday [March 20] at 4 a.m., with the eastbound lanes following at 5 a.m.”

California Express Lanes Riverside County (CA) Transportation Commission (RCTC)

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MTA Bridge and Tunnel Toll Increases Take Effect This Weekend

NBC News New York offers a reminder that toll increases will take effect at midnight on Sunday, March 19, at MTA’s bridges and tunnels, including the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Click here for details of the toll rate changes.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Toll Rate Changes

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White House Wants to Divert Federal Agency Money to Its Own Infrastructure Plan

CNBC reports that a March 16 White House budget outline “strips infrastructure funding from federal agencies to divert funds to a forthcoming executive branch infrastructure plan, according to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget. ‘We believe those programs to be less effective than the package we’re currently working on,’ Mulvaney said. . . .”

US Department of Transportation (USDOT)

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Governor Cuomo's Request for an Additional PANYNJ Watchdog Meets Opposition

New York Post reports that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to create a separate New York inspector general for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is catching flak. Critics argue Cuomo’s purpose is to gain political leverage over the agency, while his spokesman calls the proposal a post-Bridgegate reform measure.

The Record notes that New Jersey’s nonpartisan legislative services agency has issued a report stating that the port authority “will have no obligation to comply” with Cuomo’s appointment of an IG unless New Jersey also adopts legislation authorizing the position.

New York PANYNJ

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NJ Appellate Court Rules the State's Whistleblower Law Does Not Apply to PANYNJ

The Record reports that a New Jersey appellate court panel has ruled that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey may not be sued under a New Jersey whistleblower statute. The court’s opinion holds that neither New York nor New Jersey may “unilaterally impose additional duties, powers, or responsibilities on the Port Authority.”

Issues of Law New Jersey Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)

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Agreement to Postpone Maryland Project Scoring Spares 66 Road Projects from Threatened Cancellation

The Baltimore Sun reports that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and the state senate have reached a compromise agreement to delay in the effective date of a new scoring and ranking system for state transportation projects. “The governor had fought for full repeal of the ranking system,” which became law over his veto, “but declared victory on the compromise.” Hogan said the compromise (which still needs House approval) “would prevent the cancellation of 66 road projects around the state.”

Maryland

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I-77 Express Contractor Confuses Motorists with Lane Striping Error

The Charlotte Observer reports that a lane striping error in a two-mile segment of the I-77 Express construction zone is “making it unclear where drivers are supposed to be” and causing some of them to feel unsafe. NCDOT tells the newspaper it expects the contractor to fix the problem as soon as weather permits.

I-77 Express Lanes (NC) North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)

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Newspaper Credits Oregon Lawmaker for Being Innovative, but Rejects His P3 Bill

Beaverton Valley Times editorially opposes an Oregon state representative’s idea for launching a toll-funded, P3 project to build a Portland bypass. The editors give freshman state lawmaker Richard Vial points for innovative thinking and say, “He’s right to bring up the option of a toll road, and voters would be crazy if they punish him for it,” but they see flaws in Viall’s bill to set up special local districts with authority to undertake highway P3 projects.

Oregon P3

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Idaho Senator Sponsors New Transportation Funding Bill

The Spokesman-Review reports that Senator Bert Brackett (R-23), chair of  the Idaho Senate Transportation Committee, has introduced a new transportation funding bill, SB 1184. Among other things, the bill authorizes $300 million in new GARVEE bonds, $200 million in new general obligation bonds, and a sales tax exemption for materials used in public road construction.

Idaho

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And Now, Because, Heck, We Love Dogs, It's Saint Patrick's Day and Friday . . .

WABC has the good news that PANYNJ police officers at the Lincoln Tunnel rescued a five-year-old pooch who strayed from a Manhattan animal shelter during this week’s nor’easter. The dog’s caregivers say she’s a little jumpy “because she was rescued in Thailand from the illegal meat trade.” (Who wouldn’t be jumpy?)

PANYNJ

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