Daily News Briefs, November 2, 2016

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ERC Submits Plan to Improve Toll Operations that Includes Independent Oversight and Review of Customer Service Operations

The Virginian-Pilot reports, “Elizabeth River Crossings, the company in charge of tolling operations at the Midtown and Downtown tunnels, has laid out a 10-page plan [link added] to do better after a stern warning from [Virginia] government officials. The goal is to provide more accurate tolling, better customer service and avoid billing foul-ups that have dogged the company since it began tolling the tunnels in 2014. More than 93 million transactions have been processed since.” The report provides some specifics on the plan, including commitments by ERC to:

  • Obtain oversight from a third-party consultant to ensure software changes perform as expected;
  • Add three jobs to oversee tolling software and administration; and
  • Hire an independent customer service consultant to review ERC’s operations.
Elizabeth River Tunnels


MA Turnpike AET System Processes Over Four Million Transactions So Far

WWLP News reports, “Four hundred personnel, from construction crews to law enforcement worked overnight [on November 1-2] to tear down close to two dozen toll booths, as the state transitions to its new cashless tolling system.” The report adds that the AET system has processed more than 4,000,000 transactions (eighty-three percent of which were E-ZPass) since it went online Friday night, October 30. Also, the state’s new E-ZPass website has opened ahead of schedule, according to the report.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike


MassDOT Isn't Taking Victory Laps Yet, Credits Commuters for Smooth AET Transition

CBS News Boston reports, “Traffic was a bit heavier on the Massachusetts Turnpike Tuesday [November 1] for day two of the toll transition, but there have not been any major issues.” The report adds, “At a news conference [yesterday], Highway Administrator Tom Tinlin once again credited commuters calling them the ‘true warriors.’” Tinlin added, “Nobody here at MassDOT is taking any victory laps. We’re happy we’re making the progress we’re making, but we know this is a marathon, it’s not a sprint.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike


PA Newspapers Urge Governor Wolf to Approve Toll Enforcement Law

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board writes, “The Legislature put the pedal to the metal after news broke that the financially challenged Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is owed about $49 million by toll scofflaws. A bill [HB 2025, which gives the state new authority to enforce payment of tolls and fees] now sits on the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf, who should sign it so collection efforts can begin as soon as possible.”

Bucks County Courier Times editors also nudge Wolf to act, writing, “We encourage the governor to make it a quick review. This isn’t a complicated issue. A lot of turnpike users are cheating. And about half of the cheaters are drivers for profit-making commercial enterprises. So while they’re making a profit by using the turnpike, they are not paying a penny toward maintenance and improvements. At least not since [E-ZPass] came into vogue.”

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) Scofflaws


TxDOT Study Outlines Options (Including Toll Lanes) for Loop 360 Improvement

Austin American-Statesman reports, “Loop 360’s grinding congestion would be best addressed by building overpasses at most of its 20 traffic signals and by adding a lane to each side, according to a two-year Texas Department of Transportation study of the highway. . . .” The newspaper outlines both the long-term and interim solutions (which include the addition of toll lanes) suggested by the study.

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


TxDOT Offers Deeper Truck Toll Discounts on SH 130 to Ease I-35 Congestion

KXAN News reports, “In a continuing effort to reduce traffic on Interstate 35 through Austin, the Texas Department of Transportation is offering a bigger discount to 18-wheeler drivers who take State Highway 130 toll instead of I-35. Phase 1 started in April and Phase 2 starts Nov. 1 and runs through Aug. 31, 2017. The discount program is applicable from the I-35 exit in Georgetown to US 183 exit in Buda and State Highway 45SE.”

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


Kansas Turnpike Issues First Violation Notices under Video Enforcement Pilot Project

The Emporia Gazette reports, “The Kansas Turnpike Authority’s video enforcement pilot project has reached a new milestone with violation statements being mailed earlier this week. Customers who have used a video enforced electronic lane at a toll plaza without a compatible transponder (like K-TAG) will receive a mailed notice.”

Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA) Scofflaws


Bridgegate: Judge's Ruling Signals Trouble for Defendants

Asbury Park Press reports, “The first full day of jury deliberation in the Bridgegate trial signaled trouble for Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, the former associates of Gov. Chris Christie fighting charges that they blocked access to the George Washington Bridge to punish a local mayor.” Judge Susan D. Wigenton ruled yesterday, November 1 — in response to a question from the jury — that each defendant could be found guilty of conspiracy without a determination that they intentionally punished Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie’s re-election. Although that is the reason prosecutors allege Kelly and Baroni conspired to close access lanes to the bridge, Wigenton said their motive “is not an element that has to be proved.”

NJ.com provides a detailed breakdown of the specific charges that Kelly and Baroni face.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


PA Turnpike Reaches $2M Settlement with Workers Over PTSD From Witnessing Colleague's Death

The Legal Intelligencer (subscription required) reports, “Nine Pennsylvania Turnpike workers who saw their co-worker get hit by a truck while on a road maintenance project have settled for $2 million over claims that the fatal crash caused post-traumatic stress disorder. According to court records in Rudzik v. Jensen, although one of the plaintiffs was hit by the truck and sustained a shoulder injury, the other plaintiffs who settled had sought recovery for mainly post-traumatic stress disorder-related injuries, including anxiety, depression and insomnia.”

Issues of Law Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)


FDOT's I-295 Express Lanes Project Advances

WJAX News looks at FDOT’s project to widen I-295 and create express lanes between J. Turner Butler Boulevard and State Road 9B, reporting that, “This stretch of highway is what many use to commute from St. Johns County, where the population is booming. There were nearly 27,000 building permits issued in the county last year and more than 32,000 have been issued so far this year.” The project began this past spring and is expected to be completed by spring 2019, the report adds.

Express Lanes Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)


Ontario Opens Next Round of Applications for HOT Lanes Pilot

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation announces that it has opened “the next round of permit applications and renewals for Canada’s first High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, which provide another travel option for commuters and help manage congestion.” The news release adds, “As part of the HOT lanes pilot [link added], Ontario issued a Request for Information (RFI) for innovative technologies to support tolling, compliance and performance monitoring of HOT lanes.”



IN Lawmaker to Reintroduce Tax Deduction Bill for Ohio River Bridges Tolls

WAVE News provides commuters who will use the Ohio River Bridges with a primer on potential tax deductions for tolls paid. The station adds that Indiana State Senator Ron Grooms (R-Jeffersonville) plans to reintroduce amended versions of bills he offered last year to provide state tax deductions. “If passed, residents of Floyd and Clark counties, who have a River Link account and incur at least $100 in tolls, could qualify for an income tax deduction. [A] second bill would allow businesses to claim a tax credit for certain toll-related expenses,” the station notes.

WHAS News posts a handful of FAQs on the RiverLink tolling system, starting with whether it makes sense to choose a local or a regional transponder.

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Local Officials Honored for Sticking with CTRMA's SH 45 Southwest Project

The San Marcos Corridor News website reports, “Two Hays County officials received awards and others in Hays and Travis counties were publicly thanked at a construction kick-off event that highlighted the perseverance and dedication it has taken to ensure State Highway 45 Southwest is built.” [Link added.] The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority sponsored the event at which Commissioners Mark Jones and Will Conley were recognized.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA)


NJ Columnist Takes on Gas Tax Critics, Compares Tax Increase to "Astronomical" Toll Rates

NJ.com columnist Paul Mulshine looks at the New Jersey gas tax increase that took effect on November 1 and tells critics, in short, “it’s silly to whine about such a small fee for such a valuable service. Contrast that to the 25 cents per mile in tolls charged on the northern end of the Turnpike or the $15 per mile toll on a certain bridge that’s been in the news lately.”

New Jersey