Daily News Briefs, November 30, 2016

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Metro Board Member Will Push to Kill the $5.8 Billion Silver Line Extension in Ploy for More Funding from Virginia

The Washington Post reports, “In an apparent effort to pressure Virginia and its suburbs to contribute more money to [the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority], a board member said Tuesday [November 29] that he will ask the agency to consider canceling the $5.8 billion Silver Line extension, which is expected to open in 2020. The proposal from board member Corbett A. Price, who represents the District, was immediately dismissed by Virginia officials, who said cancellation would break contracts and trigger lawsuits without necessarily saving any money. The second phase of the 23.1-mile line is well underway.” The report adds, “Dulles Toll Road users are paying for more than 70 percent of the project’s cost.”

Washington (DC) Metro Region


Latest Lake Pontchartrain Bridge Fatality Drives Home Need for New Guardrails and Funding

The New Orleans Advocate  reports that the brother of the man who drowned on November 27 after his truck went over the side of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge “passionately urged local officials to ratify whatever measures are necessary to install higher guardrails on the bridge and make it safer.” Causeway authority official Carlton Dufrechou told the newspaper that Evan Jefferson, 33, might still be alive if proposed new guardrails were already in place. Still awaiting action is Jefferson Parish approval of the bonds and toll increases necessary to fund the installation work.

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (Metro New Orleans)


Kapsch Selected to Modernize and Operate Austrian Toll Collection System

Kapsch TrafficCom announced that ASFINAG, Austria’s highway and expressway operator, has awarded the company a contract to “implement and operate the ‘GO Maut 2.0 – Mauttechnik’ toll collection system,” a national toll collection system for vehicles over 3.5 metric tons. “The contract comprises modernizing roadside infrastructure at around 500 locations, and bringing the corresponding center (RSE proxy) up to the latest technological standards. The contract has been signed and work is due to begin immediately.” According to the agreement, once ASFINAG approves the next-generation system, Kapsch will oversee its technical operation for an initial period of ten years, with the option of five one-year extensions.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Austria


Debate over Toronto Mayor's Tolling Proposal Continues

The Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee takes aim at liberal critics of Mayor John Tory’s expressway tolling proposal. “[I]nstead of applauding,” he writes, they are calling the plan “a ‘giant distraction,’ turning Toronto away from the much wider debate it should be having about how to pay its bills and help its poor.”

Canada Ontario


OK Turnpike's $420 Million Bond Deal Is Delayed as Interest Rates Rise

The Bond Buyer (subscription required) reports, “A request for state Supreme Court validation on $420 million of toll revenue bonds has sidelined the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority deal as rates rose in post-election investor uncertainty.”

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


Caltrans and SANDAG Kick Off $6 Billion I-5 Project

Times of San Diego reports, “A $6 billion project aimed at enhancing the environment and reducing traffic congestion along the Interstate 5 corridor between Solana Beach and Carlsbad kicked off Tuesday [November 29]. Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), along with local and state leaders, were on hand to commence construction on the first phase of the 40-year North Coast Corridor Program. Known as Build NCC, the first phase includes $700 million worth of transportation, public access and environmental improvements in the cities of Solana Beach, Encinitas and Carlsbad.” The project includes new express lanes.

Caltrans (CA Department of Transportation) San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)


New York City to Launch $1.7 Billion Rehab of Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Segment

Associated Press reports that New York City will undertake a five-year, $1.7 billion rehabilitation of a 1.5-mile segment of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a project expected to be the most expensive ever undertaken by the city’s transportation department. The report adds, “NYCDOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the BQE is one of the city’s most vital corridors, with roughly 140,000 vehicles traveling on the highway each day.”

New York City


Some Economists Are Questioning Trump Infrastructure Plan's Upside and "Backdoor Borrowing." Chao Tapped to Lead USDOT.

CBS News Moneywatch reports, “Investors have cheered President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure over the next 10 years. But economists are questioning the plan’s upside for the economy given its unusual and convoluted structure, which they say portends less actual infrastructure improvement and more private-sector profits.” The report adds, “Critics call it backdoor borrowing, with less accountability than direct government spending, and they say the plan will result in emphasizing projects with private sector profit potential and fewer badly needed maintenance projects and improvements in underserved areas.”

The New York Times describes Elaine Chao, the Trump nominee for USDOT secretary as “a woman and an immigrant, a fixture of the Republican establishment for two decades. She is a savvy and professional practitioner of the capital’s inside game.” The Times adds that she is “likely to be one of the more essential players” in the new administration given the president-elect’s anticipated infrastructure renewal program.

P3 & Privatization US Department of Transportation (USDOT)


CFX's $79.6 Million Wekiva Parkway Project Advances

The Apopka Voice provides an update on the progress of the Central Florida Expressway Authority’s construction of Wekiva Parkway Section 2B. The $79.6 million project is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2018.

Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX)


ERT Expected to Open MLK Expressway Extension Today

WAVY (Portsmouth, VA) reports on today’s expected opening of the Martin Luther King Expressway extension by Elizabeth River Tunnels. According to the article, “ERT says drivers should be able to use the new expressway by evening rush hour.” Because of a $78 million agreement between ERT and the Commonwealth of Virginia, the expressway will not be tolled.”

Elizabeth River Tunnels Virginia


Missouri Grapples with Funding Shortfall, Gas Tax and "Fierce Opposition" to Tolls (Express Lanes Cited)

The Kansas City Star reports, “Despite years of debate, Missouri lawmakers continue to struggle to sort out how they’ll pay to repair thousands of miles of run-down highways and bridges. State funds for road and bridge repair have tumbled in recent years, from $1.3 billion in 2009 to an estimated $800 million by 2017.” The report adds, “The idea of toll roads always faces fierce opposition from the trucking and convenience-store industries and has never gotten any traction. But [Patrick McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation] said transportation officials are pondering the use of ‘managed lanes,’ which would be toll lanes that are not mandatory for drivers.”



Ohio River Bridges Construction in the Home Stretch

WLKY reports, “After three-and-a-half years of construction, the Ohio River Bridges Project is in the final stages of construction. . . . Project managers said construction reached substantial completion about a week-and-a-half ago, on budget and three weeks ahead of schedule. ‘Projects like this, projects of this size don’t happen like that, so it’s been very satisfying, and it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work that found us at this point,’ Kentucky Transportation Cabinet project manager Andy Barber said.” The newspaper adds that the project’s new and improved bridges are expected to boost the local economy by $87 billion over the next three decades.

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Newspaper Argues for Creation of Puget Sound Regional Transportation Board (with Tolling Authority)

The Herald editorial board contends that Puget Sound’s four counties need a regional transportation system managed by a board of representatives directly elected by voters. The proposed entity “would keep as a block grant the tax revenue it generates within its borders from the gas tax, vehicle tabs and other sources and use it for regional transportation needs. It would also have the ability to levy its own taxes and set regional tolls.”

Washington State


Solano Land Trust Could Tap Caltrans or MTC Toll Credits for Open Space Acquisition

Daily Republic (Fairfield, CA) reports that the non-profit, land conservation organization Solano Land Trust may be able to use toll credits — either through Caltrans or the Metropolitan Transportation Commission — to finance part of its share of the acquisition cost of new open space that includes pedestrian and bike trails.

California Caltrans (CA Department of Transportation) Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)


Faneuil Wins Contract to Design and Install Del Rio International Bridge Toll System

The Daily Press reports, “A team headed by [Hampton, Virginia-based] Faneuil Inc. was chosen by the city of Del Rio, Texas, to design and install a toll collection system for the Del Rio International Bridge.” The report adds, “Faneuil is the prime contractor on the project, which includes a vehicular toll collection system, that interfaces with the pedestrian toll collection system and account management support.”



Caltrans Continues Removal, Recycling of Old Bay Bridge Span's Steel Trusses

KCBS (San Francisco) reports, “The recycling of the old Bay Bridge continues Tuesday [November 29] with the removal of a massive steel truss. It takes as much planning and design to demolish a bridge as it does to build one, according to Bay Bridge spokeswoman Leah Robinson-Leach.” Click here to access a YouTube channel that provides a live stream video of each truss removal.

California Caltrans (CA Department of Transportation)


Fitch Rates Cameron County, TX, Bonds Scheduled for Pricing

Fitch Ratings announced that it has assigned an ‘AA’ rating to $15.2 million in revenue and tax refunding bonds (series 2016, SH 550 Project) of Cameron County, Texas. “Proceeds of the bonds,” Fitch reports, “will refund outstanding debt for interest cost savings. The bonds are scheduled to price during the week of Dec. 5. The Rating Outlook is Stable.”

Cameron County (TX) Investment Ratings