Daily News Briefs, November 11, 2016

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TCA Settles Lawsuits, Preserving State Beach and Making Way for New Project

Los Angeles Times  reports, “Ending a long environmental battle, Orange County tollway officials agreed in a legal settlement Thursday [November 10] to preserve San Onofre State Beach and withdraw their approval of a six-lane highway through the popular park. The new agreement ends five lawsuits that targeted plans to lengthen the Foothill South toll road 16 miles to Interstate 5 in north San Diego County, using a portion of the state beach. . . .” The newspaper adds that the agreement allows TCA to “assess the environmental impacts of alternate routes for connecting the Foothill tollway to I-5 that avoid San Onofre, valuable open space, wildlife habitat and culturally sensitive areas.”

California Transportation Corridor Agencies (CA)


Proposal for New, Tolled Potomac River Bridge Has Renewed Life

Loudon Now reports, “Loudoun supervisors are putting plans for a new Potomac River crossing between Leesburg and the American Legion Bridge back on the county’s legislative priority list.” One bridge backer, Maryland Transportation Alliance official Richard Parsons, tells the newspaper that the bridge has no prospect of being built unless it will produce toll revenue. “There’s so much demand for that crossing that the revenues it would produce from even a modest toll would more than pay for the facility,” he says. The report notes, “But while Virginia’s government – including the Loudoun and Fairfax boards of supervisors and Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration – support a new crossing, Maryland leadership isn’t so sure.”

Maryland Virginia


Illiana Project "Clings to Life" in Illinois Despite Court Ruling and Governor's Stance

IllinoisTimes.com, reporting on the second, most recent federal court decision invalidating the Illiana tollway environmental study, says the already suspended project “still clings to life.” The report adds, “Controversial from the start, the Illiana proposal has long been a priority for the Illinois Department of Transportation. Gov. Bruce Rauner says Illinois won’t spend more money on the project, but opponents say IDOT has continued to pursue it anyway.”



Colorado Launches New Road Usage Charge Pilot Study

KUSA reports, “The Colorado Department of Transportation announced a new pilot study Thursday [November 10] that will look into idea of replacing the state’s gas tax with a pay-by-mile charge.” The report adds, “By the year 2040, Colorado’s population is expected to nearly double to 7.8 million residents, which will result in higher demands for mobility and on the state’s transportation infrastructure, according to CDOT.” The Road Usage Charge Pilot Research Study will begin in December and last four months. Click here to visit CDOT’s pilot program website.

Colorado Department of Transportation RUC & VMT Programs


Signs of Growing Interest in Tolling

WJFW.com reports that Wisconsin transportation secretary Mark Gottlieb, talking about the state’s transportation funding controversy during a highway maintenance facility tour, remarked that tolling of interstate highways is under consideration. “We were asked to study it and we did, we are completing a study of possibly tolling on the interstate system,” Gottlieb told reporters. “But we’ll provide the legislature and governor with the information that they need to make whatever informed decision seems appropriate for the state.”

The Day (New London, CT) editorial board recently wrote, “With more states, including neighboring New York and Massachusetts, moving to using electronic tolling systems to raise cash to pay for infrastructure, it’s time Connecticut’s legislature and governor give serious consideration to this option before continued decline in highway conditions batter the state’s business climate beyond repair.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Connecticut Wisconsin


CTRMA Using Zipper Barriers to Expedite MoPac Work

KEYE reports that the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is now using zipper barriers to help speed up its MoPac project. The barriers allow workers “to come in at night, shift the barrier over to close off a lane and then in the morning to come back and put it along the shoulder,” CTRMA spokesperson Steve Pustelnyk tells the station. The report adds, “The barriers are different because they can be moved. A machine drives over the spaced, spine-like barriers and moves them one lane over. It’s a concrete barrier that can be moved quickly.”

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Express Lanes


A Texas Stand-Off: Tolls or Trump?

Houston Chronicle reports, “If recent votes are any indication, Texans don’t like toll roads, but they do like Donald Trump. At some point, maybe soon, they’re going to have to make a choice between the two.” The report looks at Trump’s focus on P3s and tolling, and notes, “Numerous large toll projects in Texas, however, turned off many voters as a method of delivering traffic relief. Commuters balked at paying gas taxes and then being offered toll roads in return to ease their commutes.”



On Trump's Infrastructure Plan: Whose "Other People's Money" Will Pay the Tab?

Wired.com looks at President-Elect Trump’s infrastructure renewal plan and reports, “His plan: Spend a trillion dollars. Or, even better: Get other people to spend a trillion dollars.” The plan hinges on government spending or private investment, prompting Wired to ask: How does he intend to tap either funding source given congressional Republicans’ aversion to taxes and private capital’s lack of enthusiasm for many infrastructure projects?


NJ Attorney General (a Christie Appointee): Special Prosecutor Isn't Required for Governor's Prosecution

NJ.com reports, “New Jersey’s attorney general says there’s no need to appoint a special prosecutor to handle a civilian’s misconduct complaint against Gov. Chris Christie related to the Bridgegate scandal. But Attorney General Christopher Porrino, who previously served as the governor’s legal counsel, and acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal, another Christie appointee, have personally recused themselves from the matter, according to court documents.”

NBC News New York broke the story that the two officials were recusing themselves from the Christie prosecution on November 10.  The network adds that Bergen County’s acting first assistant prosecutor maintains he can manage the case since he is an employee of the office and not a direct gubernatorial appointee.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


Top Democratic Lawmaker Presses for Governor Christie Impeachment Hearings

Asbury Park Press reports, “A top Democratic Senator wants hearings to impeach Gov. Chris Christie over his alleged knowledge of the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scheme designed to punish a Democratic mayor.” The report adds, “Sen. Loretta Weinberg on [November 10] requested Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to consider opening the impeachment process — whether or not Christie finishes his term or exits early to join president-elect Donald Trump in the White House.”

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


Bay Area Toll Authority Awards Contract for Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Improvement

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission announced that its Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee has awarded a $27.2 million contract to O.C. Jones and Sons of Berkeley, California, to construct a third eastbound lane across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, and a bicycle-pedestrian path adjacent to westbound I-580 on the Contra Costa County side of the bridge. Work is expected to begin later this month.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)


WSDOT Selects Contractor for I-405 Peak-Use Shoulder Lane Project

Kirkland Reporter reports, “The Washington State Department of Transportation selected a design-build contractor for the new I-405 Northbound Peak-Use Shoulder Lane Project on Nov. 9. Graham Contracting Ltd. of Bellevue submitted the apparent best value proposal of $7.29 million.”

Express Lanes Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


NET RMA Presses TxDOT to Expedite Plans to Widen Stretch of US 271

Longview News-Journal reports that the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority (NET RMA) board passed a resolution this week urging TxDOT to take “immediate action” to move up its plans for widening and improving US 271 between Gregg County and the Oklahoma border. Presently, the 271 improvement project is included in the Toll 49, East Texas Hourglass (ETHG) plan, which is in an early stage of development.



RITBA Solar Farm Proposal Raises Jurisdictional Issue

The Jamestown Press reports, “Despite lopping two-thirds of the project’s footprint since its launch in spring 2015, the [Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority] still is under fire for the location of [a proposed 267-kilowatt solar farm].” According to the article, a disagreement has arisen over whether RITBA, a state agency, is subject to town zoning laws. RITBA reportedly updated the Jamestown Town Council on the project earlier this week. A town official noted that the authority has been cooperative and has provided updates and public presentations not required by law. “They’ve been a good neighbor,” the official told council members.


Transurban and Macquarie Prepare to Bid for Parts of Huge WestConnex Project

The Australian  reports, “Investment bank Morgan Stanley is positioned to win the mandate to advise Transurban as [it] gears up to bid for parts of the $16.8 billion-plus WestConnex project once some of the assets are put up for sale by the NSW government. It comes as Macquarie Infrastructure Real Assets is thought to be rallying support from [pension] funds to rival any play that Transurban may make for WestConnex.”