Daily News Briefs, November 29, 2016

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Illinois DOT Eyes Potential for Adding Toll Lanes to the Eisenhower Expressway

Crain’s Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz reports, “The Eisenhower Expressway may become something else in a few years—a tollway, at least in part—if state transportation planners get their way. Plans to add a couple of toll lanes to the Stevenson Expressway (Interstate 55) so far are going so well that his staff is considering ‘a similar concept’ to ease congestion on other crowded highways ‘starting with the Eisenhower’ (I-290), said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn.” Blankenhorn, addressing a Chicago luncheon audience, added that “the idea still is in its initial stages and will not proceed unless ‘a new revenue’ source is found for a needed total reconstruction of the Ike from the Jane Byrne Interchange west to I-294.”

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT)


MA Officials Take Note of NY Crackdown on Toll Scofflaws, Eye Possible Reciprocity Agreement with the Empire State

MassLive.com reports, “When it comes to catching toll scofflaws, Massachusetts has few options for making out-of-state drivers pay up. But a move in New York to crack down on scofflaws there has the potential to help Massachusetts.” The article notes, “New York is now placing a hold on vehicle registrations there for those who have failed to pay tolls to the New York State Thruway Authority,” and MassDOT officials see the potential for a reciprocity agreement that would extend the sanction to New York vehicle registrants who fail to pay Massachusetts tolls. MassLive adds that the Bay State has reciprocity agreements with Maine and New Hampshire, but not with Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York — the three outside states with the highest number of Massachusetts Turnpike users. MassDOT reportedly budgets $15 million to $16 million a year for unpaid tolls.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike New York Scofflaws


PATH Workers Are Allegedly Sleeping on the Job. PANYNJ Inspector General Investigates.

New York Post reports, “PATH workers are snoozing away huge chunks of their regular shifts, using nap time to rack up big overtime pay, The Post has learned. ‘Everybody sleeps,’ an insider said. ‘Guys make big overtime by doing work for 40 minutes or an hour, then billing the Port Authority for four or five. That’s been going on for years.’” According to the article, the practice is now under investigation by the PANYNJ inspector general. The Post notes that the authority’s overtime costs last year amounted to $221 million, or 17 percent of total labor expenses.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


NYDOT, FHWA Officials to Huddle on Taking Down 500 Tourism Signs

Newsday reports, “Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau will meet with New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matt Driscoll next month to discuss a plan for taking down the more than 500 ‘I Love NY’ tourism signs erected throughout the state, a spokesman for the federal agency said [on November 28].” An FHWA spokesman tells the newspaper “the signs do not conform to federal standards for such roadway signs and they are also unsafe because they contain so much information that they are distracting drivers.”

New York State Department of Transportation (NYDOT)


Blue Water Bridge Workers Continue to Strike

The Canadian Press reports, “No talks are scheduled between the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Federal Bridge Corporation,” which means a strike by the Blue Water Bridge’s 47 unionized employees will continue into its second week. “The bridge is a major link between Canada and the U.S. and carries in excess of 15,000 vehicles on peak days, making it the second-busiest commercial border crossing after the one at Windsor, Ont.,” the wire service notes.

Canada Federal Bridge Corporation Ltd. (Canada) Ontario


Toronto Grapples with Cost to Fix Gardiner Expressway as Mayor Backs Tolling

Toronto Star reports, “Mayor John Tory won’t support reopening the debate over the Gardiner Expressway even though the cost to fix it has ballooned by $1 billion and there is uncertainty over federal funding.”

CBC News Toronto reports that the mayor’s recently announced tolling proposal is driven in part by a city report “that showed total capital costs for the entire [Gardiner Expressway redevelopment project] have gone from $2.57 billion in September 2015 to $3.637 billion [US$2.702 billion] as of August 2016. The capital costs of redeveloping the [first-phase] 1.7-kilometre section of the eastern Gardiner have climbed from $1 billion to $1.492 billion [US$1.108 billion] over the same time period.”

Canada Ontario


WV Turnpike Thanksgiving Traffic Spikes to Ten-Year High

MetroNews reports, “There was more traffic on the West Virginia Turnpike during this year’s Thanksgiving holiday travel period than any of the last 10 years, state Parkways Authority General Manager Greg Barr said. There were 783,000 transactions at the 88-mile toll road’s three toll plazas from last Tuesday [November 22] through Sunday night [November 27]. That’s three percent more than last year and the highest in the last 10 years, Barr said.”

West Virginia Parkways Authority (West Virginia Turnpike)


DelDOT Reports I-95 and Route 1 Spike in Thanksgiving Traffic

The News Journal reports, “More vehicles passed through Delaware tolls this Thanksgiving holiday week than last year. . . . [T]oll operators on Interstate 95 and Del. 1 served nearly 1.2 million vehicles between Wednesday and Sunday – a 2.8 percent increase over 2015. In that year, over $3 million in toll revenue was collected during the holiday, a 22 percent increase over 2014,” according to Delaware’s DOT.

Delaware Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)


Washington Post Plugs VDOT's I-66 Outside-the-Beltway P3 Deal

The Washington Post editorial board is enthusiastic about Virginia’s I-66 outside-the-beltway deal, writing that, “Details of the winning bid will not be known until it’s finalized next year, but on the face of it there is reason for optimism for commuters and taxpayers alike. In addition to the $500 million up-front windfall, the state will also receive $850 million for transit improvements . . . , plus another $350 million for other nearby road, bridge and interchange projects. Risks to the state are minimized; if the consortium goes bankrupt, it will remain on the hook for the debt it will assume for the project. Of course, if it does go bankrupt, the project itself will revert back to the state.”

Express Lanes P3 & Privatization Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Washington (DC) Metro Region


OTA to Spend $250,000 to Replace Trees "They Let Die"

FOX23 (Tulsa) reports, “The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority says it’s finally replacing hundreds of trees they let die. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority admitted in the past and they did nothing to keep the trees alive. This project will cost more than $250,000, which will come from funds paid by people who take the turnpike.” The report adds, “FOX23 asked how they’re going to keep the trees alive this time. They say they will water the trees regularly and apply herbicides.” (That should help.)

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


OTA Buys Cookieland for New Turnpike

News 9 (Oklahoma City) reports, “The Girl Scouts have sold their beloved Camp Cookieland to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. The Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma closed on the property in the middle of November, officially selling it to make way for the new turnpike.” [Link added.]

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


Louisiana Funding Task Force Likely to Call for Gas Tax Hike

The Advocate (Baton Rouge) reports, “A $700 million yearly hike in state transportation spending would be a practical way to tackle Louisiana’s road and bridge problems, state Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson said Monday [November 28].” The report adds, “Wilson made his comments three days before a key meeting of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ transportation task force, which is supposed to come up with ways to solve the state’s $13 billion backlog of road and bridge needs and other issues.” The report cites a hike in the gas tax as the likely funding option, but does not mention tolling.

Louisiana Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD)


US Senator Pitches Michigan as Self-Driving Proving Ground

The Detroit News reports, “U.S. Sen. Gary Peters is pushing federal regulators to designate a mobility center” — the American Center for Mobility — “that is under development in Ypsilanti Township as a ‘proving ground’ for self-driving cars. The U.S. Department of Transportation through Dec. 19 is accepting [ ] applications for facilities that want to be designated as ‘qualified proving grounds for the safe testing, demonstration and deployment of automated vehicle technology.’”

Michigan Self-Driving Vehicles


Fitch on OCTA Bonds

Fitch Ratings “has affirmed Orange County Transportation Authority, California’s . . . $109.13 million of (91 Express Lanes) senior lien revenue refunding bonds, series 2013 at ‘A’. The Rating Outlook is Stable.”

Orange County Transportation Authority (CA)