Daily News Briefs, November 23, 2016

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NJ Turnpike Tolls to Remain Flat in 2017, but Speeding Ticket Numbers Are Guaranteed to Spike

NJ.com reports, “Tolls will not go up on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway next year, but the [turnpike authority] is hiring 15 more State Troopers” — at a cost of $1.1 million — “to dole out tickets. The [agency’s $1.74 billion 2017 budget] also forecasts a 1 percent decrease in traffic on the Turnpike and a 1 percent increase on the Parkway in 2017, due to reopening of the Pulaski Skyway in both directions next fall.” The report adds, “A new contractor to run the E-Z Pass system will save $5 million and [nine new maintenance jobs] are being offset by five retirements, said Donna Manuelli, chief financial officer. The authority also plans to sell surplus real estate, expected to generate $1.1 million.”

New Jersey New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA)


MassDOT's Decision to Postpone Bond Deal Post-Election Costs It $28 Million in Savings

Banker & Tradesman reports, “Moving to refinance bonds after the presidential election rather than before it has cost the Massachusetts Department of Transportation roughly $28 million in projected savings.” The report looks at the agency’s strategy for refinancing $642 million in revenue bonds and explains why ratings agencies and bond buyers will be watching the results of the state turnpike’s recent transition to all-electronic tolling.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT)


Lawsuit Alleges Lyft Charges Some Riders Cash Toll Amount Despite Receiving E-ZPass Discount

Legal Newsline reports on a federal class action lawsuit that alleges ride service Lyft is responsible for charging its customers the Holland Tunnel cash toll rate even though drivers pay the discounted E-ZPass rate. The named plaintiff complains that the practice is unlawful and yields an estimated $81,180 per day for Lyft.


Householders with Noise Complaints Ask Court to Stop Denver Toll Lanes Project

The Denver Post reports, “A federal judge heard arguments [on November 22] for why construction on the $276 million C-470 expansion project should be halted just as concrete barriers and giant earth-moving equipment are about to be rolled into place to build new toll lanes for the heavily used suburban thoroughfare.” Residents of a neighborhood adjacent to the project are complaining about noise levels, and they claim “CDOT hasn’t done the long-term noise analysis and modeling required of it by the National Environmental Policy Act. . . .”

Colorado Department of Transportation Issues of Law


Who Will Be Impacted Most by Ohio River Bridges Tolls?

Courier-Journal reports, “Transportation on both sides of the Ohio River will be changed with the completion of the Ohio River Bridges Project slated for December. But who will it affect the most? Most signs point to Southern Indiana residents, especially those who live in Clark County.” The report adds, “Almost three times as many workers commute from Indiana to Kentucky counties, with 34,759 people going from Indiana to Kentucky and 12,523 people from Kentucky going to Indiana for work, according to a 2010 study on bridge impact by the Ogle Foundation.” Mindy Peterson, spokeswoman for the ORB project’s RiverLink AET system, tells the newspaper tolling could start on the Lincoln and Kennedy bridges even before the mid-December scheduled completion of the East End bridge.

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


As Hampton Roads Tolling Grows, VDOT Promises Better Operations in Wake of ERT Issues

WAVY reports, “Transportation officials who will rely on tolling to pay for infrastructure maintenance and improvements in Hampton Roads want to reassure the public it will be better administered than at the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels. Since it began imposing tolls in 2014, Elizabeth River Crossings has been the subject of consumer complaints and government criticism because of its billing and customer service practices.” The station adds, “Meanwhile, Virginia Department of Transportation officials and Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne are working to prove to a skeptical public that tolling can and will be better administered. ‘Everybody has a few problems. We’ve never had this systematic issue in other parts of the state,’ Layne said of ERT. ‘It reflects poorly on the state’s ability to offer tolling to the region.’”

Elizabeth River Tunnels Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization Virginia Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)


Canadian Report Questioning Benefits of Tolling Sparks Debate

The Globe and Mail, prompted by last week’s release of “Congestion Costs, Road Capacity and Implications for Policy-Makers,” the CAA-commissioned, Conference Board of Canada report, takes a deep look at tolling’s efficacy as a highway funding resource and a method of reducing traffic congestion. The article adds that the CAA report “warns that governments should examine other options before moving forward with more road tolls. The report states there is a difference between policies designed to raise revenue and those designed to change driving behaviour.”



MTC Advances Completion of I-80 Express Lane after Push by Solano County

Daily Republic (Fairfield, CA) reports, “Completing the Interstate 80 express lane from Fairfield to the Highway 505 interchange is part of the regional plan recently adopted by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.” The newspaper adds, “The express lane project was not in the plan as recently as a month ago, but was included after lobbying efforts by the Solano Transportation Authority.”

California Express Lanes Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)


Mass Turnpike Retains Gulf Oil as Toll Plazas' Fuel Supplier

Boston Business Journal reports, “The 11 gas stations along the Massachusetts Turnpike are worth at least $8.2 million per year to Gulf Oil, which is re-upping its leases to sell fuel at the service plazas along Interstate 90. The nine-year lease . . . will expire in 2025, coinciding with the end of the lease McDonalds holds to sell food and other retail products along the interstate.” The report raises some interesting business questions, such as whether fuel and food services should be entrusted to a single vendor, and whether all-electronic toll systems that permit drivers to quickly exit and reenter tollways will reduce their willingness to pay the premium price for service plaza gasoline.

Massachusetts Turnpike


IN Lawmakers Say Funding Plan Is a Top 2017 Priority. House Speaker Remains Open to Tolling.

The Times of Northwest Indiana reports, “Legislative leaders proclaimed [during a November 21 chamber of commerce luncheon] that passing a long-term infrastructure funding plan, likely including tax increases, will be a top priority during the 2017 session of the Indiana General Assembly.” House speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) reportedly told the group the state needs to raise $1 billion-to-$1.5 billion a year “for the foreseeable future to maintain Indiana’s existing roads and bridges and invest in new projects,” and he is open to “imposing new user fees, including highway tolls,” in addition to raising taxes.



Newsday Backs AET Plans, Urges Toll Reductions and "Fairness" on Some NY City Bridges

Newsday editors cheer New York Governor Cuomo’s plans to eliminate toll gates on the 10 bridges and tunnels operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and urge the state to expand the boom in all-electronic tolling. “Get really serious about reducing traffic, pollution and fuel. Put the drive-through tolls on the four East River bridges, too,” the editors say. The newspaper goes a step further, urging planners to “[t]hen introduce fairness — reduce tolls on the Verrazano, Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges. That would encourage New Jersey-to-Long Island truckers to take quicker and now-cheaper routes around the city instead of using the Manhattan Bridge to cross lower Manhattan, saving money but clogging arteries.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City


I-77 Express Lanes Construction Picks Up Pace in Charlotte Area

WFAE reports that I-77 Express construction is moving into “the most structure-heavy area of the project,” according to a spokesperson for the development company. “After Thanksgiving you will see more work going on, as the construction picks up pace in the Charlotte area,” Jean Leier tells the station.

I-77 Express Lanes (NC) North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)


CDOT Changes Metro Denver's I-25 to HOV-3 Effective January 1

KMGH ABC 7 reports, “Starting Jan. 1, you’ll have to have three people in your car in order to use the HOV express lanes between Denver and Boulder. Right now, it just has to be you and a passenger to ride it for free.” The report adds, “While some drivers are disappointed, the change to three was actually decided in 2013, as part of a CDOT plan to handle rapid growth. CDOT estimates growth will soar by 47 percent by 2040. Seven states already have the three-passenger occupant requirement.”

Colorado Express Lanes


TV Station Explains Why Oklahoma Turnpike Tolls Are Never Likely to Go Away

KTUL reports that tolls on the Oklahoma Turnpike are “unlikely to ever go away.” As the station explains it, “The “free turnpike” promise was made in 1947. After the bonds issued to build the Turner Turnpike were paid off, driving those roads would be free.” However, that promise “was broken in 1954, with voter approval. Two state questions passed in 1954 allowed the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to use ‘cross funding,’” which, as explained by OTA’s Tim Gatz, “means the OTA can use money generated from other turnpikes to build new ones.”

Oklahoma Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


PANYNJ Police Charge Man with Theft of Services and Driving with Fake License Plates

NJ.com reports that PANYNJ police have charged a 36-year-old Brooklyn man with theft of services and driving with fictitious license plates and no insurance after he tried to jump the Holland Tunnel toll last week. The man faces another charge for driving away after the police stopped him. He later surrendered.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) Scofflaws