Daily News Briefs, November 17, 2016

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Opponents of Colorado DOT's I-70 Expansion Plan Want Civil Rights Inquiry

The Denver Post reports, “Community groups that oppose the controversial $1.2 billion expansion of Interstate 70 through northeast Denver have asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate potential civil rights violations in the state’s plan.” The report adds, “The suit challenges new EPA Clean Air Act requirements. The Colorado Department of Transportation are using those new standards to claim that increased emissions from traffic on the expanded I-70 would not violate national air quality standards, according to the suit.” The I-70 plan’s improvements include new toll lanes.

Colorado Department of Transportation


WSDOT's I-405 Express Traffic, Revenue Far Exceed Projections

KING5 reports, “After a full year of tolling, WSDOT reports much higher than expected income and traffic” on the I-405 express lanes, this according to a performance update department officials were scheduled to present to the state transportation commission on November 16. The station adds that WSDOT’s findings “show toll revenue is 300% higher than projected.”

Express Lanes Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


Former Florida Expressway Authority Board Member Must Report to Prison November 18

Orlando Sentinel reports that Scott Batterson, former board member of the defunct Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, must report for incarceration on Friday, November 18, following the denial of his appeal from a 2014 criminal conviction. Batterson will serve a 7 1/2-year sentence unless the court grants his attorney’s eleventh hour application for a sentence reduction. The report adds, “Batterson was found guilty of bribery-related charges, a blow for credibility of the [former expressway authority Batterson served]. The toll-road agency was revamped in 2014 as Central Florida Expressway Authority.”

Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) Crime Beat Florida


NJ Democratic Leaders Take Christie Impeachment Off the Table

Associated Press reports that New Jersey’s top Democratic legislative leaders want to wrap up action on the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal. According to AP, “Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate President Steve Sweeney said at a [November 16] conference . . . they are moving forward after a trial that ended in the convictions of two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie. . . . Added Prieto: ‘I’m not looking to start an impeachment proceeding at this time.’” However, the lawmakers added “that their staffs are still scouring federal court transcripts to determine whether further inquiries are needed. . . .”

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


TCA's Deal with Environmentalists Sparks Pushback on Possible Plan B

The Orange County Register reports, “The deal that the Transportation Corridor Agencies cut with environmental groups last week to ‘save Trestles’ could have ripple effects on San Juan Capistrano or San Clemente, local officials suggested this week. City Council members in both south county cities said they think that the TCA may now try to carve a 241 Toll Road extension through San Juan or San Clemente, now that an I-5 connection at San Onofre’s Basilone Road is no longer an option due to the lawsuit settlement.” The report adds, “San Clemente council members directed [the city manager] to develop an action plan to try to forestall a toll road bisecting the town.”

Transportation Corridor Agencies (CA)


Six Major PA Turnpike Projects at Risk Due to Spiraling Debt. PTC Presses for Rollback of Transit Subsidy Payments.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, “Plans to extend the Southern Beltway and Mon-Fayette Expressway could be in jeopardy if the economy or the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s financial situation deteriorates. Prompted, in part, by spiraling debt and ballooning tolls, commissioners [on November 15] identified six major improvement proposals that officials will look to suspend if ‘future financial or economic conditions dictate’ a construction spending reduction, officials said in a news release.” The report adds, “Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said commissioners monitor the agency’s finances monthly and will look for a downturn in turnpike traffic and toll revenues or an uptick in operating costs as they determine whether they need to defer the six projects.”

The debt is largely due to $450 million annual payments to the state for transit, and the commission continues to push lawmakers for some relief. In a statement issued this week, Chairman Sean Logan said, “We simply cannot continue to burden motorists each year because of the obligation the general assembly has imposed upon the Turnpike Commission and our customers.”

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)


Math Behind ERC Toll Hike Confounds Some Commuters

WAVY News looks at the math behind the 2017 Elizabeth River Crossings toll hike and explains how the concession company arrived at the announced amounts.

Elizabeth River Tunnels


Newspaper Hammers ERC and McDonnell Administration for Looming Annual Toll Increases

The Virginian-Pilot editorial board takes a dim view of forthcoming toll hikes for the Downtown and Midtown tunnels and hammers the state for the way, under former Governor Bob McDonnell, it negotiated its partnership with Elizabeth River Crossings. “[ERC] wrangled, among other things, an average and astounding annual return of 13.5 percent on its investment for nearly six decades, higher than the stock market’s return since the late 1950s,” the editors note. They add, “[T]he Elizabeth River Crossings contract persists, a relic of a heedless and reckless time in the Governor’s Mansion. Just as they worked to fix the system that imposed the Elizabeth River Crossings deal on Hampton Roads, lawmakers and the governor shouldn’t rest until the deal is undone.”

Elizabeth River Tunnels P3 & Privatization


MTA Considering Two Fare and Toll Hike Plans in Advance of January Vote

The New York Times reports that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board “is considering two proposals for a fare and toll increase of about 4 percent, on average, across the system’s trains, buses, tunnels and bridges. Board members are expected to vote on the proposals in January after the authority holds a series of public meetings.” The report adds, “The authority has said it plans to raise fares every two years, but the climbing cost has frustrated riders who complain of worsening subway delays, overcrowding and slow buses.”

Silive.com coverage focuses on the impact of the proposed increases for Staten Island commuters and Verrazano Bridge users.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)


Yes, Transponders Do Wear Out

The Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock explains that transponders do wear out and motorists need to keep their account records up to date to avoid penalties for unpaid tolls. He notes that as AET continues to grow, “the gantry provides no feedback to the driver about the state of the transponder. I’ve heard from drivers who want that, but I haven’t seen a safe way to provide the feedback without distracting drivers while they travel at highway speeds.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling)


The Impact of Ohio River Bridges Tolling on One Family

WDRB (Louisville) reports, “Fifty years of talk will become reality in a matter of weeks with the completion of the Ohio River Bridges Project.” The station focuses on one family that expects to pay $40 to $80 more a month to commute across the river. It also notes that Indiana State Senator Ron Grooms has proposed legislation to provide an income tax deduction or credit for bridge customers.

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


TV Station Does the Math: Is It Cheaper to Pay Ohio River Bridges Tolls or Detour?

WDRB asks, “When tolling starts on three Ohio River bridges, will it be cheaper to pay the tolls or detour to avoid them?” As part of its series on the advent of bridge tolling, the station provides detailed directions and easy-to-read charts describing motorists’ various route options and the associated costs. (The monthly totals include the cost of owning and operating a car, and are likely to alarm some viewers.)

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Program Will Cover Confederation Bridge Tolls for Needy Islanders with Medical Appointments

CBC News Prince Edward Island reports that low-income island residents travelling out of the province for medical reasons will soon be able to apply to a charitable program to cover the cost (CDN $46 for passenger cars) of the Confederation Bridge toll. “The program is being provided by Hope Air — a national charity that provides free flights to low income people who have to travel for medical reasons — in collaboration with Health PEI.”



Teen Hits 208-MPH in 2011 Mustang, Then Surrenders Emphatically to Pursuing Police

Associated Press reports that a teenager was arrested on the Oklahoma Turnpike after hitting 208 MPH in a 2011 Ford Mustang. After the chase, the teen “pulled over and dropped his keys out of the driver’s side window.”

Crime Beat Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


TX Drivers Can Prevent Toll Charge Mistakes after Selling a Car

Fort Worth Star-Telegram assures readers there is a “relatively easy” and “sure-fire” way to ensure they will not be charged for someone else’s tolls after selling their car. The newspaper notes, “From time to time, stories surface about people who have been slapped with large toll bills — often totaling hundreds of dollars — after selling a car to someone who didn’t then immediately transfer the vehicle title into his or her name.” However, this “tricky situation” can be avoided by simply submitting a form to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, the newspaper explains.