Daily News Briefs, November 16, 2016

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PA Turnpike Commissioners Decide Against Cancelling Projects, Eye Legislative Rollback of $450 Million Annual Transit Payments

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, “After a four-month review of new roadwork based on spending concerns, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission decided Tuesday [November 15] not to cancel any projects in its $5.7 billion capital budget.” The review was launched in July after commissioners approved a toll hike for the ninth year straight. The newspaper adds, “The commission did put six major expansion projects on a list for possible suspension if financial problems worsen. They include the proposed $1.6 billion extension of the Mon-Fayette Expressway from Route 51 . . . to the Parkway East . . . and the $859 million extension of the Southern Beltway from Route 22 to Interstate 79.”

Looking ahead, the newspaper reports that, “The turnpike commission’s other major financial concern — repealing a state law that requires it to pay $450 million a year to the state Department of Transportation for public transit — is on hold until at least next year” when the legislature returns for its next session.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)


Funding Completed for Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Expansion Project

Daily Press reports, “Funding is now in place for a new $756 million two-lane tunnel that will be built under the Thimble Shoal Channel, west of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced [on November 15]. The new tunnel will expand capacity and be safer for drivers, as well as improve the region’s quality of life and ability to compete for economic projects, McAuliffe said in the release.” The final funding mix includes a $338.5 million TIFIA bond; a $50 million state infrastructure bank bond; $321.5 million in project revenue bonds; and some CBBT district general fund dollars.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel District (CBBT)


ERC Tunnels Will See Record Toll Rate Increases in 2017

The Virginian-Pilot reports, “Tolls at the Midtown and Downtown tunnels are set for their biggest increases, 32 percent, since tolling was re-introduced in 2014.” The newspaper adds, “The new rates begin Jan. 1 and are part of Elizabeth River Crossings’ annual toll increases. The larger increase is due to the state’s toll ‘buy down’ deal expiring this year.”


MTA Toll and Fare Hikes Expected to Be Discussed

Newsday (subscription required) reports that New York’s MTA “is expected to release details [today, November 16] of a plan to raise fares and tolls by 4 percent next year. . . . The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s sixth fare hike since 2008 will be outlined at a meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board as part of a presentation of its proposed 2017 operating budget.”

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


Dulles Toll Road Rates to Remain Flat until 2019

WTOP reports that, “as promised, Dulles Toll Road rates would remain flat under the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s proposed budget,” which the MWAA finance committee will review at its meeting today, November 16. According to the station, toll rates will remain at current levels through the end of 2018 before increasing in 2019. “Next year, the budget projects $154.7 million in toll payments from drivers, which would be down slightly from this year’s budget. Toll revenue this year is below that budget expectation, but operating expenses are also below budget thus far.”

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA)


Chairman Shuster Passes on USDOT Secretary, but Outgoing Congressman Mica Is Eager to Serve

POLITICO reports that “House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster exclusively told our Jennifer Scholtes he’s content to continue working on his priorities from within the legislative branch” and would pass on taking the helm at USDOT. “Meanwhile,” the article states, “chairman emeritus John Mica gave reporters the hard sell on why he should get the gig. Our Tanya Snyder reports: ‘Mica has a nationwide roster of mega-projects to point to when stumping for the job, including improvements to Sea-Tac airport and New York’s East Side Access projects, as well as policy achievements like introducing competition in Amtrak and expanding the TIFIA loan program.’”

Mr. Mica also has the folks at home rooting for him, as this Orlando Sentinel guest column shows.


Bridgegate: Christie Gets New Criminal Court Date and Another State-Paid Lawyer

NJ.com reports, “Gov. Chris Christie won’t have to answer to charges from a citizen’s complaint in the George Washington Bridge scandal until next year, according to court records. A Superior Court judge on Monday ordered the governor’s scheduled November 23 appearance adjourned until other matters [Christie’s appeal alleging a lack of probable cause and the request for appointment of a special prosecutor] are resolved in the case stemming from a New Jersey man’s official misconduct complaint against the governor for failing to stop the plot to shut down access lanes in Fort Lee.”

WNYC News reports, “New Jersey taxpayers just hired another lawyer for their governor. Gov. Chris Christie, who has already charged New Jersey $11.3 million for attorneys to represent his office in the federal Bridgegate investigation, has added legal representation for a related state criminal matter.” The report adds, “Craig Carpenito is earning $150-an-hour to defend Christie from a criminal complaint filed by a local activist in Bergen County.” The fee is capped at $10,000.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


PANYNJ Shows Off Bayonne Bridge Roadway Elevation Progress. AET Cited.

Associated Press reports, “Officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey provided a first look Tuesday [November 15] at the Bayonne Bridge’s elevated roadway, part of a $1.3 billion project to allow bigger cargo ships to call on New York City-area ports.” AP adds that the span “is the least-used of the Port Authority’s four New York-area bridges in terms of numbers of vehicles. It is the most vital of the four for shipping, however, because its clearance above the water — 151 feet at its highest — has limited the size of vessels that can pass underneath on their way to the ports of Newark and Elizabeth.” AP notes that the bridge will be the port authority’s first to use an entirely cashless toll collection system.

Silive.com has more on yesterday’s media tour of the bridge construction and time lapse video.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


Southern Environmental Law Center Seeks NCDOT E-Mail about Mid-Currituck Bridge

The Virginian-Pilot reports, “A group opposing construction of the Currituck mid-county bridge has filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina secretary of transportation. The Southern Environmental Law Center seeks email communication sent or received by state transportation board member Malcolm Fearing regarding the bridge proposed to cross the Currituck Sound. Secretary of Transportation Nick Tennyson is named as the defendant.” The report adds, “The group questions how the mid-Currituck bridge made it through the state’s highway project scoring process despite low marks on key factors such as high cost, said Kym Hunter, an attorney with the SELC.”

North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)


Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority's Interim Chair Says New Law Firm Duties Won't Impact His Role

Windsor Star reports, “Former local MPP Dwight Duncan has taken on added responsibilities with his Toronto law firm, but said Tuesday [November 15] it will have no impact on his role as interim chairman of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.” According to the report, Duncan works for business law firm McMillan LLP, which “announced Tuesday it will create McMillan Vantage Policy Group which will provide ‘government relations counsel, policy and regulatory analysis and strategic communications’ to private sector business clients.” The report adds, “Duncan said his duties with the firm have never included lobbying. Under the new entity, lobbyists are being brought in to work alongside him, he said. Because of his role as interim chairman of the bridge authority, the law firm steers away from any work for companies within the consortiums vying to win the contract to build the Gordie Howe International Bridge, Duncan said.”



CT Newspaper Looks at $10 Billion or So Hartford Tunnel Plan. (Tolling? It's Iffy.)

The Connecticut Mirror takes a deep dive on US Representative John Larson’s roughly $10 billion proposal to build tunnels to take I-91 and I-84 underground through Hartford, reporting that “the concept is so vast, complex and potentially expensive – it would be longer than Boston’s “Big Dig” tunnels – that many doubt it could be realized.” As for project financing, the congressman cites President-elect Trump’s infrastructure plan and tolling, but the article cautions, “Though Connecticut is the only state on the Atlantic seaboard without highway tolls, adopting them has thus far been a hard sell.”



TxDOT and Blueridge Break Ground on SH 288 Toll Lanes Project

KHOU News reports, “Construction has officially started to add new toll lanes to Highway 288. A ‘groundbreaking ceremony’ took place on [November 15] for the project which will add toll lanes along Highway 288.”

Houston Public Media also reports on the $815 million project that TxDOT selected Blueridge Transportation Group to develop. Completion is scheduled for the summer of 2019.

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


Governor Pence Is a Little Busy . . . So, No New Name for East End Bridge?

Courier-Journal  reports that the Ohio River Bridges’ East End Bridge may just keep the name “East End Bridge” for a while. Indiana officials have naming rights, but the legislature has not been able to agree on a designation. Governor Mike Pence could name the bridge by executive order, but that is not likely to happen before he takes office as vice president, the newspaper reports. (Priorities, right?)

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


WSDOT Explains How Shoulder Driving Will Ease I-405 Congestion

MYNorthwest.com reports, “The state has promised hard-shoulder driving on a stretch of I-405 to ease the daily congestion created by the express toll lanes,” and “It is now one step closer to implementing that” with the award of the project construction contract. A WSDOT representative explains to the website’s readers how shoulder driving will ease congestion problems for general purpose lane commuters.

Express Lanes Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


Fitch Affirms Ratings of I-77 Mobility Partners PABs and Loan

Fitch Ratings “has affirmed the ‘BBB-‘ ratings to approximately $100 million of senior Private Activity Bonds (PABs), issued by North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on behalf of I-77 Mobility Partners LLC . . . , and a $189 million subordinated loan granted under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) issued by the project company.”