Daily News Briefs, March 9, 2017

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PA Turnpike Rolls Out AET on Beaver Valley Expressway (Toll 376)

New Castle News reports, “Cashless tolling will begin on the Beaver Valley Expressway next month, Lawrence County commissioners announced at their meeting [on March 7]. They provided information from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission stating the new method of collecting tolls will be tested in Beaver and Lawrence counties. Toll I-376 is the second location chosen to test this ‘cashless tolling system,’ according to the turnpike commission.” For more on the PTC’s cashless initiative, click here.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)


MA Lawmakers Push to Restrict Use of AET Data

The Boston Globe reports, “Massachusetts lawmakers are proposing to restrict how the state can use sensitive data collected by a new all-electronic tolling system, including information about motorists’ travel history and driving speeds. Companion bills [H 768 and S 1936] would bar the state Department of Transportation, which collects and stores the tolling data, from using it for virtually anything but charging and collecting tolls and would prevent the agency from sharing the data unless required by warrant.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike


NCDOT to Study I-77 Work Zone Crashes as Two Lawmakers (Again or Still?) Push to End I-77 Express Contract

The Charlotte Observer reports, “The N.C. Department of Transportation said Wednesday [March 8] it will send a traffic safety specialist to study Interstate 77 in north Mecklenburg, which is a work zone because of toll lane construction. DOT said it could make changes to the highway, including lowering the speed limit. The state acted after WSOC reported that crashes on I-77 in the work zone increased by 400 in 2016, compared with the same period a year earlier.” (Link added.)

The Charlotte Observer also reports, “Two Mecklenburg County lawmakers are trying again to stand in the way of the bulldozers on Interstate 77.” State Representatives John Bradford (R-Cornelius) and Chaz Beasley (D-Charlotte) this week introduced the latest bill (HB 266) to terminate the contract between NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners.

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


AECOM Is Going Big, Planning Billions in Acquisitions

Bloomberg reports, “AECOM, the world’s biggest engineering firm, plans to spend billions of dollars on acquisitions amid expectations for growing U.S. funding of road, rail, water and energy projects, Chief Executive Officer Michael Burke said. ‘We’ll look to be the largest infrastructure firm in the world — both construction and design,’ Burke said [on March 6] in an interview at Bloomberg’s Los Angeles bureau. ‘I’ve got to spend $3.5 billion, and we think it’ll be spent on good, solid strategic acquisitions. We will grow organically also.’”

Infrastructure Investment Trends


Judge Rejects Moroun Request to Dismiss Gordie Howe Bridge Condemnation Proceedings

Crain’s Detroit Business reports, “A Wayne County judge on [March 8] denied Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel ‘Matty’ Moroun’s request to dismiss condemnation proceedings on properties he owns in the pathway of a new Detroit River bridge. ‘The defendants . . . have a long history of taking action to delay the building of the Gordie Howe International Bridge,’ Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. said. ‘This is just another example of their attempt to delay construction of this bridge.’”

Gordie Howe Int'l Bridge Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT)


Lake Pontchartrain Commissioners Approve RFQ for Safety Project Engineering

The New Orleans Advocate reports that the plan for a “major safety upgrade” of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway took a step forward yesterday, March 8, when the causeway commission voted unanimously “to ask engineering firms to submit their qualifications, a step that will allow them to compete for design work down the road. [Bridge general manager Carlton Dufrechou] hopes at least five qualified firms will bid for the work.”

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (Metro New Orleans) Louisiana


Grand Parkway Is Driving an Economic Boom in Northwest Houston

Houston Chronicle reports, “Now open for roughly one year, the northern loop of the Grand Parkway continues fueling economic growth in the region, with developers scrambling to fill demand for a booming population.” (Link added.)

Houston Grand Parkway Houston Metro Area Texas Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


NY Times: Congestion Pricing Is the Answer to Traffic Problems

The New York Times reports that the ultimate solution to traffic congestion problems lies in economics – congestion pricing – rather than in technology. Clifford Winston, a Brookings Institution economist, tells the newspaper, “This idea of congestion pricing is not completely dismissed the way it once was,” and “the eventual introduction of self-driving cars would probably lessen consumer opposition to paying more to use roads during peak periods. Ride-hailing apps have taught consumers to accept surge pricing, and people are generally less resistant to paying for something new. The result would be something like variably priced lanes dedicated to fleets of robot vehicles.”

Congestion Pricing Self-Driving Vehicles


Transurban Partners with Audi, Range Rover in US Self-Driving Vehicle Trials

The Australian reports that Transurban “is partnering with Audi and Range Rover in the U.S. to enhance the interaction between the roadway and autonomous vehicles, ahead of piloting the latest autonomous vehicle technology — its flagship CityLink toll road in Melbourne. The company has conducted autonomous vehicle trials . . . for the past year on the express lanes of its I-95 motorway in northern Virginia when they were closed to the traffic.” The newspaper adds that Transurban is testing “emerging technologies and evolving its platforms through strategic investment in APIs, security and data.”

I-95 Express (Metro Washington, DC) Self-Driving Vehicles Transurban


OTA Will Tomorrow Release Details of Partnership to Complete Gilcrease Expressway

Tulsa World reports, “Local and state officials on Friday [March 10] will detail plans to complete the west arm of the Gilcrease Expressway with a stretch of turnpike. The announcement will be made . . . at Chandler Park, in the area where plans call for a bridge across the Arkansas River to complete the route, as previously reported in the World.”

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


TX Transportation Commission Set to Approve Statewide Plan That Includes $2.5 Billion to Combat Urban Congestion

The Texas Tribune reports, “The Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the state transportation department, is set to vote this month on its 10-year plan that lays out its long-term strategy for upcoming road projects. Included in that is a $2.5 billion, four-year plan specifically aimed at unclogging choke points in urban areas.”

Texas Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


Residents Complain about Debris "Raining Down" from PANYNJ's Bayonne Bridge Project

CBS New York reports, “People living near the Bayonne Bridge say they have had it with the construction project that has been raining debris on them.” The report adds, “The Port Authority has invested more than $10 million in community assistance programs for residents and property owners near the project. However, the people who spoke to CBS2 said it has been difficult getting the Port Authority to pay for the damage.”

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


Debate over PA's Mon-Fayette Expressway Project Continues

Pittsburgh City Paper takes a long and detailed look at the proposed $2.1 billion Mon-Fayette Expressway project, which originated in the 1950s. Critics have dubbed it the “zombie highway” because it won’t die but, as the article notes, “It’s been embedded into the Mon Valley’s hopes and dreams for decades.” The report adds that Pennsylvania Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo “says that the commission is merely the facilitator of the project, not its advocate. ‘The [Turnpike Commission] was directed to advance this project as well as other projects by the [state] Legislature,’ wrote DeFebo in an email to [the newspaper]. ‘Our role is not to advocate the expressway, but to design and construct it.’”

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)


CT Governor Presses for "Almost Impossible" Transportation Lockbox as House Dems Promise Action on Funding

The Connecticut Mirror reports, “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged business leaders [on March 8] to help him convince legislators to safeguard transportation funds.” The report adds, “Malloy, whose plans for a major, 30-year transportation rebuilding program [are] imperiled by a lack of funding, said it is ‘almost impossible’ to get legislators to support a constitutional ‘lockbox’ amendment to ensure transportation funds are not diverted for other purposes.”

FOX 61 reports, “House Democratic leadership said Wednesday morning [March 8] that they recognize the state’s transportation funding structure is unsustainable and something must be changed.”



Chicago Tribune Editors Say It's Time for Road Usage Charges

Chicago Tribune editors make the case for funding bridge repairs through a road usage charge, writing that, “Boiled down, what is a gas tax? It’s a user fee, a charge motorists pay for using roads and bridges. Applying that fee toward gas consumption isn’t ginning up enough revenue for all the work that has to be done, so why not apply a fee toward miles driven?”

RUC & VMT Programs


Trump Administration's Latest Moves to Boost Infrastructure Renewal

The Washington Post reports, “President Trump’s pledge to create a program that funds $1 trillion in new infrastructure programs has kicked off with ­numerous meetings but few firm decisions, beset by understaffing, bureaucratic challenges and major questions about how to pay for everything. . . . Despite those challenges, the White House’s infrastructure team has become one of its broadest task forces, with Trump considering it a central plank of his promise to create more jobs.”

Reuters reports that Trump “met with business leaders . . . and real estate developers [on March 8], as the administration seeks partnerships with the private sector to boost infrastructure spending.”

Infrastructure Investment Trends