Daily News Briefs, October 11, 2016

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Fine Print in MassDOT AET Contract Raises Concerns about Possible Expansion of Tolling, VMT

CBS News Boston pores over a MassDOT contract with the Jacobs Engineering Group (after a song and dance to gain access to the document) and reports, “Along with the traffic and revenue studies for the AET implementation, MassDOT also included a request to study congestion pricing, which could mean collecting higher rates during rush hour.” CBS adds that “MassDOT’s request for bidders mentioned studying new toll locations, potentially at the New Hampshire border. The document also lists possibilities like carpool lanes and vehicle miles traveled. . . .” MassDOT’s highway administrator, Tom Tinlin, essentially tells CBS to take a deep breath. “I can tell you this right now: We are not looking to raise the price on anything.” Tinlin added, “[W]e are not looking at congestion pricing or anything other than taking new technology to an old way of doing business.” He noted that Governor Charlie Baker is opposed to a vehicle miles traveled system.

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


San Antonio and Austin Officials Pitch Converting I-35 into Double-Decker Road with Four Toll Lanes

Fox 29 San Antonio reports, “Leaders in San Antonio and Austin are proposing plans to turn I-35 into a double-decker highway stretching from San Antonio to Georgetown. The stretch of interstate between San Antonio and Austin is the fastest-growing freight corridor in the country. Just 75 miles separate the cities, but the drive is punctuated by traffic jams and delays.” The report adds, “The upper level would likely have four toll lanes.”



MDX Resumes Toll Collection in Wake of Hurricane Matthew

Miami Herald reports that the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) began collecting tolls at midnight Monday [October 10] in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. As for the recent state-local mix-up over when MDX tolling should resume,  “Now, that’s all water under the bridge. Or cars under the toll collector,” the report adds.

Florida Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX)


Zombie Highway, Take I: Is the Lake County-IL Tollway Route 53 Project Dead or Alive?

Lake County News-Sun (via Chicago Tribune) publishes a David Rutter column that takes a dim view of the non-death and possible revival of the Route 53 project. “In the universe of political feints, hints and winks, here’s what we know [about the proposed $2.5 billion project]. It’s dead. Croaked. Gassed. You’d think that would be defining. But you would be wrong.” Rutter adds, “The 53 Highway to perpetual indecision has become a zombie highway, and zombies theoretically can’t be killed because they’re already dead.” Rutter’s news hook: Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn this week “asked for help to keep the road upright and mobile. . . . ‘If I can’t go to the governor and say there’s significant support for this — we’re not going to do it,’ [Blankenhorn] told reporters, colleagues and assorted undead observers at a Deerfield forum.”

Illinois Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway)


Zombie Highway, Take II: The Illiana, Re-Re-Re-visited.

Streetsblog Chicago reports, “A new filing in the court case against the Illiana Tollway – a proposed 47-mile highway through farmland and nature preserves that would cause exurban sprawl and lead to Illinois jobs being lost to Indiana — indicates that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner may actually be in favor of the project. In recent years it looked like Rauner was making moves to kill the project, but now it appears the Illiana is becoming a so-called ‘zombie highway’ project that just won’t die.”



Tolling on New Stretch of South Florida I-95 Express Scheduled to Start

Palm Beach Post reports, “Toll collection for the latest stretch of Interstate 95 Express Lanes, between Miami-Dade and Broward counties, will go live this weekend.” The report adds, “The express lanes now extend 21 miles from the junction of I-95 and the Dolphin Expressway in the south to Broward Boulevard in the north.”


Express Lanes Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)


Ohio River Bridges Project Is On Track for December Tolling Start

WDRB News reports, “Five lanes of the Kennedy Bridge are now open to anyone driving south across the Ohio River,” and progress on the Lincoln Bridge continues. Mindy Peterson, Ohio River Bridges Project spokesperson, tells the station that “all six southbound lanes on the Kennedy, all six northbound lanes on the Lincoln and all ramps will be open by early December,” when tolling is expected to begin.

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Tow Truck Operator Killed on NY Thruway

Times Union (Albany) reports, “A tow truck driver from Canajoharie was struck and killed by a passing tractor-trailer [on October 10] as he tried to get a disabled vehicle onto his truck along the Thruway, State Police said.”

New York State Thruway Authority


NY City Civil Liberties Union Takes on MTA Cashless Tolling and Facial Recognition Technology Plans

Silive.com reports that the the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is raising concerns about the plans to convert to cashless tolling at all MTA tunnels and bridges, which include use of facial recognition technology.  “The NYCLU scoffed at the increased use of cameras and recognition technology, warning that a database could take New Yorkers down a slippery slope. . . .” Silive.com invites readers to weigh in and the comments are, well, interesting.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City


Battle over Tolls on PEI's Confederation Bridge Continues

CBC News Prince Edward Island reports that controversy over the Confederation Bridge toll is still very much alive, and now involves the potential impact of a bridge toll elimination on provincial ferry service operations.



International Bridge Resurfaces Lane that Fails to Meet MDOT Standards

9&10 News (Cadillac, MI) reports, “Road construction is back for the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie, leading to even more headaches for drivers. The International Bridge Administration says they have to fix one lane because it does not meet Michigan Department of Transportation standards.”

Sault Star explains how a contractor’s default left its bonding company responsible for the lane repair and for other bridge upgrades the contractor failed to complete in 2015.

Canada International Bridge Administration (Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge)


Tennesseans Spend More on Smartphones Than Roads Says State Transportation Commissioner Confronting the Highway Funding Challenge

Kingsport Times-News reports that Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer “is still attempting to drum up grassroots support for changing Tennessee’s transportation funding model. At the heart of that model is a 21.4 cents per gallon gas tax last set in 1989.” The article cites the National Conference of State Legislatures, which says many states are “thinking about how to create new transportation user funds, by investigating the feasibility of road use charges for drivers, tolling, fees and taxes for alternative vehicles that don’t use gasoline, private-public partnerships and other emerging strategies.”



Atlantia Group Sounds Out Potential Investors in Its Toll Roads Network

Reuters  reports that Giovanni Castellucci, CEO of Italy’s Atlantia Group, is now sounding out investors for the sale of a 15 percent stake in the company’s toll road network operator, Autostrade per l’Italia (Aspi). Castellucci says Atlantia is looking for a “financial investor with a long-term strategy such as a pension fund.”


Fitch Ratings on Central Texas Turnpike System Debt

Fitch Ratings “has affirmed Texas Transportation Commission’s (TTC) $1.56 billion first tier debt at ‘A-‘ on behalf of the Central Texas Turnpike System (CTTS, the system). Fitch has also affirmed the ‘BBB’ rating on $1.16 billion of CTTS’s second tier debt. The Rating Outlooks on both liens are Stable.”