Daily News Briefs, October 18, 2016

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IL Tollway's I-90 Smart Road Dubbed a "Technological Game-Changer"

Daily Herald reports, “When construction on the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) wraps up, motorists will sigh with relief and smile in anticipation of easy, breezy commutes.” The report includes a sharp Illinois Tollway graphic illustrating one of its 29 new “smart road” gantries. Tollway executive director Greg Bedalov tells Daily Herald, “The technology empowers drivers ‘to make wise decisions about lane usage. It’s about safety and congestion relief, which leads to environmental benefits, and positioning the tollway to be a 21st-century leader.’” Bedalov adds that “smart road” technology figures in the tollway’s planning for a rebuild of the central Tri-State Tollway.

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway)


Bridgegate: Baroni Testifies He Thought Traffic Study Was Legit, Puts Blame on Wildstein

New York Post reports, “Former Port Authority exec Bill Baroni took the stand in his own defense Monday [October 17] and pinned the blame for Bridgegate on ex-pal David Wildstein, insisting he knew nothing about the real reason behind the now-infamous lane closures.  Baroni said Wildstein told him they were closed for a traffic study, not as political payback for the mayor of nearby Fort Lee, who had refused to endorse their boss, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.”

Bloomberg.com’s report adds that Baroni “insisted time and again Monday that he believed the gridlock that paralyzed Fort Lee in September 2013 was the result of a legitimate traffic study — not a vendetta against the borough’s mayor, who refused to endorse the governor’s re-election bid.”

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


MoPac Lanes Open Smoothly as Variable Tolls . . . Vary

KXAN News talks with CTRMA’s Mike Heiligenstein after the new MoPac express lane’s smooth initiation to weekday morning traffic. The station notes, “The project contractors are facing up to $20 million in penalties for not having the project completed by the original deadline. So many are asking if they can finish [the entire facility] by the spring of 2017. To ensure the project isn’t delayed any more, Heiligenstein said additional contractors have been added to the construction crews.”

Austin-American Statesman helpfully reports that, “The variable tolls on North MoPac officially have begun to vary.” The newspaper says the toll peaked at 39 cents, 14 cents over the minimum, during the October 17 afternoon commute.

Community Impact Newspaper’s “5 things to know” about the new express lane includes this: “Once the project is complete, drive times will reduce to 10-12 minutes in the express lane versus 30-40 minutes in the main lanes, said Jeff Dailey, the agency’s deputy executive director.”

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Express Lanes


Most California RUC Pilot Program Participants Are Happy

ITS International reports, “As the California Road Charge Pilot Program enters its fourth month, participant feedback indicates that 65 per cent of 3,191 respondents surveyed are satisfied with the program as a whole.” [Link added.]

California RUC & VMT Programs


MassDOT Suggests Motorists Pass on Selfies as Toll Plazas Are Being Demolished

MassLive.com reports that MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas Tinlin and his staff are concerned about the “curiosity factor,” the behavior of motorists as they drive past turnpike toll plaza demolition sites. “‘For some people, their whole traveling life is going through these toll plazas,’ Tinlin told the [Boston] Herald. ‘We want to make sure people are not stopping and taking pictures and slowing down traffic. We really don’t want people to be taking a selfie when people are taking a toll plaza down.’”

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


Thank God or ERC for Traffic Improvements. Your Call.

The Virginian-Pilot reports, “The Lord God Almighty is getting a lot of credit for traffic improvements at the Midtown Tunnel. At least that’s what Twitter users are saying, after Elizabeth River Crossings opened up two eastbound lanes of traffic for the first time earlier this month. For months, cars have snaked all the way back to Churchland during morning rush hour. Then ERC announced it would open both lanes of the tunnel during morning rush hour. If there aren’t any crashes, breakdowns or bad weather, the daily 1½-to-2-mile backups have been eliminated.”

Elizabeth River Tunnels Virginia


OSHA Fines IL Tollway Contractor in Death of Worker at Jane Addams Tollway Bridge

Daily Herald reports, “Federal regulators rebuked an Elgin [IL] demolition company and fined it $152,000 for safety violations leading to a worker’s death on a Jane Addams Tollway bridge in Des Plaines this spring.” The report adds that federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators cited Omega Demolition Corp., a tollway subcontractor, for “overstressing” a 40-ton horizontal beam during its removal.

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway)


Study Suggests Aggressive Drivers and Self-Driving Cars Are Not a Good Combo

Financial Times reports, “Aggressive drivers are looking forward to sharing the road with autonomous cars as they believe they can cut in front of them easily, research suggests. Drivers who are more ‘combative’ tend to ‘see autonomous vehicles as easier agents to deal with on the road’ than humans, because they think they will be able to ‘bully’ them, according to a study by the London School of Economics and Goodyear.” The findings, which come out of a pan-European research project, were presented at a recent ThinkGoodMobility conference in London.

Self-Driving Vehicles


A Look at Each of 19 Companies Racing to Put Self-Driving Cars on the Road

Business Insider provides a look at the “19 companies racing to put self-driving cars on the road by 2021″ and leads with Tesla, reporting that, “Tesla CEO Elon Musk committed to the 2018 timeline last September, but it’s unlikely we’ll see one on the road. Musk himself said that it’s unlikely regulators will be ready for driverless cars to hit the roads in 2018, so we’ll have to wait to see how that plays out.”

Self-Driving Vehicles


TxDOT's US 290 Project Nearing Completion

Houston Chronicle reports that the US Highway 290 project is nearing completion, according to an update provided by TxDOT via two Houston area state representatives. “Construction will continue through the fall and into 2017, and 290 is on track for completion in 2018, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The current interim plan from the 610 Loop along 290 out to the Grand Parkway will be completed at a cost of $1.27 billion.” The newspaper adds, “TxDOT’s ultimate vision for the U.S. 290 Corridor involves the construction of a parallel Hempstead Tollway from Loop 610 to Grand Parkway. Due to current funding conditions, that roadway will not likely be built for 20 years.”

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)


NTTA to Consider Renaming TX 360 "Texas Ranger Tollway"

Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, “The North Texas Tollway Authority this week will consider renaming a new stretch of Texas 360 the Texas Ranger Tollway, but an official says it has nothing to do with the upcoming election for a new $1 billion ballpark. ‘This has to do with history. This has nothing to do with the baseball team,’ said tollway authority board member Mojy Haddad, an Arlington architect, explaining that the name would honor the state’s legendary law enforcement unit.” The NTTA board will take up the naming issue at its meeting tomorrow, October 19.

North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) Texas


Caltrans Implodes Another Bay Bridge Eastern Span Pier

KGO News reports, “Caltrans continued with the removal of the original east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Saturday [October 15] by imploding Pier E5 of the Old Bay Bridge. Pier E5 was imploded with 8,000 pounds of explosives and done in less than three seconds. Caltrans says this method reduces the environmental impact and costs to taxpayers.” (The report provides video.)

Caltrans (CA Department of Transportation)


I-75 South Metro Express Lanes (Atlanta) to Open in January

WABE News reports, “In January, new toll road options will open along a 12-mile stretch of Interstate 75 South of downtown Atlanta. Officials call it a highway within a highway, according to this week’s Atlanta Business Chronicle.” [Link added.] The report adds, “Bringing toll lanes to I-75 is sure to reopen the same philosophical debate over charging motorists to get out of traffic that was waged when the I-85 project opened in 2011.”

Express Lanes Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT)


With One Week Left Until the Turnpike Goes AET, MassDOT Keeps Giving Away Transponders

WWLP reports that MassDOT will be hosting another transponder giveaway in advance of the October 28 launch of AET. “The transponders are free, but there is an initial $20 fee payable by credit card, cash, or check, which will be used to put money into the transponder account as a starting balance,” the report adds.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Massachusetts Turnpike


Business Columnist Says Transurban Makes for a Sound Investment Thanks to Results, Assets and Market Share

The Australian Business Review (subscription may be required) looks at the upside of infrastructure investment and reports, “investors may be able to use any volatility stemming from interest rate uncertainty to find attractive entry points into high quality infrastructure with solid yields. Transurban remains chief among such stocks. Recent strong results at the roads company were a timely reminder of TCL’s enviable position in the market. The assets — some of the busiest toll roads in Australia and the US, are unique.” The report adds, “Meanwhile, market share — bordering on monopolistic, continues to solidify, as TCL is recognised more and more as the premier operator in the country.”