Daily News Briefs, November 15, 2016

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Orange County (CA) Awards $1.2 Billion Contract for I-405 Improvements

The Orange County Register reports, “The county’s transportation board on Monday [November 14] awarded a $1.2 billion design-build contract – the largest in the agency’s history – to add one regular lane in each direction and an express lanes toll facility to relieve traffic on the I-405.” [Link added.] The report adds, “OCTA board members, by a 14-0 vote, selected OC 405 Partners – a team of firms led by OHL USA Inc. and Astaldi Construction Corporation – which offered the lowest price for the job of three qualified bidders. ‘The bottom line is, we got the exact road we’ve asked for at the exact price we think is fair and we can actually pay to build this road,’ OCTA board member Jeffrey Lalloway said.”

Click here to read the OCTA staff report on the contract.

California Express Lanes Orange County Transportation Authority (CA)


NCDOT's I-77 Express Is on Schedule, but Debate over Projects' Impact on Gubernatorial Election Lingers.

The Charlotte Observer reports, “The controversial Interstate 77 toll lanes project is on schedule to open at the end of 2018, the lead contractor told Charlotte City Council Monday night.” The report adds, “The project has been bitterly opposed in north Mecklenburg, and some have speculated that the toll lanes led to Gov. Pat McCrory trailing Democrat Roy Cooper in this month’s election by about 5,000 votes.”

Lincoln Times-News reports that Republican State Senator David Curtis contends, “If Roy Cooper does win the election, it is going to be in a great part due to tolling I-77. . . . I went to (McCrory’s) people and just basically told them that we have a major problem with tolling I-77, it’s going to cost him tens of thousands of votes and we really need to do something about it. Unfortunately, they chose not to listen to me.”

Express Lanes North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)


NY Agencies Increase Scofflaw Penalties

Times Herald-Record reports, “The penalties for failing to pay those pesky tolls are going up in New York. Both the New York State Thruway Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have increased the penalties for non-payment, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the New York State Bridge Authority are reviewing their policies.” The report adds, “State lawmakers have repeatedly rebuffed [Governor Andrew] Cuomo’s bid for legislation that would extend New York’s reach, and permit reciprocity on suspension of registrations with other E-ZPass states.” The report also delves into the growth of AET in New York and other northeast states.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) New York Scofflaws


Ohio River Bridges Project Is "Directly Linked" with Economic Development

WDRB (Louisville) reports, “Promoted as a way to ease congestion and improve access between the states, the $2.3 billion [Ohio River Bridges] project also has become directly linked with economic development and business growth on both sides of the river.” The station takes a deep look at the impact of tolling and the upside of the bi-state infrastructure investment, and adds, “[T]he new roads are likely to help companies by slashing travel times and opening up opportunities for expansion, said Miguel Hampton, owner of the F5 Enterprises marketing firm and board member of the Kentuckiana Hispanic Business Council. As for tolls, ‘We’re just going to have to overcome it,’ he said, ‘and it becomes part of our lifestyle.’”

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Bridgegate Fallout Continues: PANYNJ Will Conduct Review of Trial Testimony.

Courier-Post reports that Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairman John Degnan has told The Record (Bergen County, NJ) that he will ask commissioners at the agency’s Thursday, November 17, board meeting to assign a committee to review testimony from the six-week Bridgegate criminal trial. “The committee will be aided by the agency’s general counsel in evaluating whether ‘additional steps’ should be taken against officials who played no part in the lane reduction conspiracy but who nevertheless failed to act appropriately,” Degnan told the newspaper. The report adds, “Degnan also said the agency should consider whether to institute governance reforms on top of those already carried out in the wake of the bridge lane closure scandal. ‘It is clear to me that the testimony at the trial depicts an agency that was overly politicized and engaged in conduct that is troubling and concerning,’ Degnan added.”

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


VDOT's Layne Is Mum (for Now) on Sate's Capital Savings from I-66 Deal

Inside NoVa.com, covering the preliminary award of the I-66 outside-the-beltway express lanes contract, reports, “In a briefing last week, [Virginia] Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said two prime factors played in the state’s ultimate decision to side with Express Mobility Partners: No need for any public investment and the group’s commitment to funding transportation projects in the future. Layne would not divulge any details about how much public funding the losing bid would have required, preferring to keep that under wraps ‘until we have the money in the bank.’ But he said officials jumped at the chance to avoid any up-front investments, especially when considering the ‘future funding’ opportunities the winning bidders offered.”

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)


Is Tolling a Stumbling Block for Trump's Infrastructure Plan?

BloombergMarkets provides a concise Q. & A. on President-elect Trump’s infrastructure plan that covers the basics, including potential stumbling blocks. The report notes, “Republican fiscal hawks in Congress shot down an economic stimulus program built on infrastructure work when Obama was the person proposing it. The tolls that might be needed to make highway work profitable are unpopular, impractical, or both in many areas of the country.”


TX Lawmaker Hopes to Dial Back Scofflaw Law. NET RMA Toll 49 Program Cited.

KLTV looks at a host of new bills being pre-filed in Texas and reports that State Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) “proposes a change to the transportation code typically used by tolling authorities that allows a county tax assessor-collector to deny registration to a person who has not paid fines. . . . Hall’s bill would say a tax assessor-collector may not refuse to register a vehicle because of the unpaid civil penalties.” The report adds, “Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority recently approved a program to block registration for people who have repeatedly not paid tolls on Toll 49.”

NET RMA Scofflaws


Transit Group Urges MD Governor to Withdraw $100 Million RFP for I-270 Congestion Relief Program

The Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock reports that a transit advocacy group wants Governor Larry Hogan to withdraw the $100 million RFP for an innovative I-270 congestion relief program and “invest the money in expanding the MARC service in the I-270 corridor. ‘We can’t afford to waste $100 million on consultants’ speculation,’ [said a board member of the Action Committee for Transit].” [Links added.]



Proposal to Sell Off Almost Half of Germany's Autobahn Sparks Outcry

The Local Germany reports, “A plan by the conservative German Finance Minister to sell off almost half of the country’s Autobahn roadway system to private investors has many Germans up in arms. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party has put forth a plan to partially privatize the Autobahn network of roads across the country, according to a report by Der Spiegel on [November 12]. His plan would involve selling private companies a share of up to 49.9 percent in a national company that would be in charge of construction and maintenance for the Autobahn.” Deutsche Welle also reports.

P3 & Privatization


Prime Minister Trudeau Pushes Upside of Canada Infrastructure Bank

National Post reports, “The head of one of Canada’s largest pension groups says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and key cabinet ministers have ‘got their head in the right place’ when it comes to creating infrastructure projects that would draw on both public and private money.” The report focuses on Trudeau’s efforts to attract major investors for a Canada Infrastructure Bank at meetings in Toronto on November 14.

CTV News  also covers the meetings and reports, “Canada has no reason to worry about competing with the United States under incoming president Donald Trump when it comes to attracting international money for infrastructure, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. . . .”



Australian Regulators Eye Cyber Security Threats to Self-Driving Cars

Herald Sun (Melbourne) reports, “Cyber security breaches and software bugs will feature as new causes of crashes with the widespread introduction of driverless cars, a federal report has warned. More parties could be responsible for such crashes, including public and private road managers, and assigning fault will be more complex and require the overhaul of third-party insurance schemes.” The report was issued by the National Transportation Commission which also issued a news release.

Australia Self-Driving Vehicles


TX Widow Sells Husband's Classic Cars but Receives Toll Bills

CBS News Dallas-Fort Worth reports on a widow who sold her husband’s classic cars and, a year later, is receiving unpaid toll bills from the North Texas Tollway Authority. The widow sent a hand-written bill of sale to the agency, but Michael Rey, NTTA’s Media Relations Manager, tells the network, “For obvious reasons, we cannot accept a hand-written bill of sale as a legal document. We rely on a vehicle transfer notice through TxDMV as proper documentation.”

North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA)


Bridge Authority Offers Walking Tour of Gordie Howe Bridge Project

Windsor Star reports, “The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority is inviting residents to take a tour this weekend of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project. Those interested on seeing construction work to date on the Canadian plaza of the Howe bridge will be able to do so on Saturday [November 19] with a walking tour.”

Gordie Howe Int'l Bridge