Daily News Briefs, October 24, 2016

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Governor McAuliffe to Announce Toll Relief Plan for Downtown and Midtown Tunnels

WTKR News reports, “Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe will be in Hampton Roads [today] to announce a plan to ease toll burdens on the Downtown and Midtown tunnels.” The report adds, “According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, the announcement is part of a plan to reduce ‘the financial impact of major construction improvements on motorists in Hampton Roads.’ Elizabeth River Crossings has agreed to pay $500,000 a year for 10 years to help offset the costs of tolls on financially stressed users.”

Elizabeth River Tunnels Virginia


Hampton Roads Planners Approve Expansion of Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel

Associated Press reports that the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization voted unanimously on Thursday, October 20, to expand “the congestion-plagued Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.” The report adds, “The expansion is the cheapest and smallest of four proposals under consideration. The $4 billion project would be completed by 2024.” The project needs the approval of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization Virginia


A Look at Winners and Losers in Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion

The Virginian-Pilot transportation writer  reports, “An unexpected 17-0 vote to expand the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel was the most weighty vote I’ve covered in my year at The Pilot. It may be the weightiest transportation vote in a generation.” Pascale names some winners, including Virginia Beach, tourists and the Navy, and some losers, which include the Port of Virginia. He adds, “Granted, this project is not set in stone. The Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization recommendation is just that – a recommendation. But it is likely the biggest factor the Commonwealth Transportation Board will consider when it votes on the project Dec. 7, and a unanimous decision among 17 localities speaks volumes.”

Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization Virginia


The $190 Million Houbolt Road Bridge P3 Project Advances

The Herald-News reports, “The Houbolt Road bridge project advanced last week as Joliet signed off on an agreement that sets the terms on how the public-private venture will work. Joliet gets $2.1 million from the state to begin hiring engineers to start designing a new interchange after the City Council approved the intergovernmental agreement last week. The project, estimated to cost as much as $190 million, includes building a [toll] bridge over the Des Plaines River, rebuilding the Houbolt Road interchange, and widening Houbolt between Interstate 80 and the bridge.”

Illinois P3 & Privatization


PA Turnpike Chair Makes Case for Enforcement Legislation

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publishes an op-ed by Sean Logan, chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, who writes, “Unfortunately, a very small minority of our customers simply do not believe they should pay their share — or any share at all. Millions of dollars in revenue vanish each year in unpaid tolls. Again, the vast majority of customers follow the rules of the road, but the number of violations and the lost revenue continue to climb.”

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Scofflaws


The Dingmans Ferry Bridge: A Reminder of a "Slower, Stranger and Kinder" America

The Record (Bergen County) profiles the Dingmans Ferry Bridge, one of the country’s 13 private toll bridges, reporting, “As the Bridgegate trial reaches its climax, and hundreds of thousands of motorists waste hours each day battling to get onto the George Washington Bridge, the little crossing at Dingmans Ferry . . . offers a reminder of an America that still exists, one that is slower, stranger and kinder.”

New Jersey


The Good News: WI Tolls Could Help Close $1 Billion Gap. The Bad News: Those Pesky Feds.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “Toll roads could help close Wisconsin’s nearly $1 billion gap on transportation funding over the next two years but there’s a catch — the federal government would need to approve their use on existing interstates. For now, neither Democrat Hillary Clinton nor Republican Donald Trump are saying definitively whether they would back such a move as president, though Trump strongly signaled he opposed tolls.”



MoPac Express Lane Without a Toll Sign - by Design - Confuses Some Motorists

Austin American-Statesman reports that a MoPac Express lane entry ramp doesn’t display the prevailing toll rate, which means that “those unfortunate folks who enter MoPac from the Far West Boulevard ramp and want to take the southbound express lane” have to guess the toll rate. CTRMA spokeswoman Dee Ann Heath explains why no sign is planned for the ramp and the newspaper provides every detail.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Express Lanes


Bridgegate: Former Christie Aide Expected to Return to the Stand Today

The New York Times reports that Bridget Kelly, Governor Chris Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, began testifying on her own behalf on Friday (October 21). She told jurors that David Wildstein told her he wanted to close some of the Fort Lee access lanes to see if that would improve traffic flow across the George Washington toll bridge. She described a chain of discussions (in which Christie took part) that preceded the lane closings and took account of gubernatorial reelection campaign politics, but focused primarily on policy. Kelly returns to the stand today.

The Record’s Charles Stile writes that “Christie world” will never be the same because of Friday’s testimony by two witnesses: Kelly and Michael DuHaime (a political “consultant and confidant” of the governor).

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


Local Officials Eye Pensacola Beach Congestion Fixes. (AET at Bob Sikes Bridge Cited.)

Pensacola News Journal reports that local officials are evaluating a handful of potential fixes for Pensacola Beach traffic congestion, including an AET conversion at the Bob Sikes Bridge. The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners will present three congestion management options at a Tuesday, October 25, meeting, according to the report.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Florida


Ohio Pike Maintenance Crews Prepare for Winter (and an Open House)

The Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, OH) looks at Ohio Turnpike winter prep work, reporting that “the toll road’s veteran drivers, mechanics and other personnel are again gearing up to have their fleet of snow plow trucks and equipment at the ready when winter inevitably descends along the 241-mile toll road.” The turnpike held its annual open house event for the public at maintenance centers across the state on Saturday, October 22.

Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission


CT Newspaper Eulogizes the Plan to Finish Route 11, a Potential Toll Project

The Day editorial board laments, “It is with deep regret that we note the passing of the long-debated, but ultimately unrealized plan to finish Route 11 and provide a better transportation link between this region and the Greater Hartford area.” The editors note, “Even with the state legislature giving the nod to assessing a toll on the new stretch of highway to help pay for it, the cost became impracticable, crowded out by more pressing and affordable needs.”



VA Columnist Rips HOT/HOV Lanes and the "Trickle-Down Theory of Traffic"

The Virginian-Pilot columnist Kerry Doughtery takes on VDOT’s decision to convert Hampton Roads HOV lanes to HOT lanes, writing that, “Our highways were built with tax dollars. Much of it from the gas tax. The construction worker filling his beat-up Ford F-150 pays as much as the developer gassing up his new Mercedes. We built those lanes together. Open them up.”

Virginia Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)


Self-Driving Vehicle Technology May Stimulate Motorcycle Sales

Bloomberg reports, “Self-driving technology promises to transform the auto industry as we know it. It may also change the business of selling motorcycles – but in a very different way. It all comes down to safety, according to Karl Viktor Schaller, head of development at BMW Motorrad. When robots are at the wheel, far fewer bikers will die on the road, which won’t be lost on all those people who pine for a motorcycle but have always been too scared to buy one.”

Self-Driving Vehicles


The Crime Beat: Teen Takes Police on 110-MPH Chase on the ITR

WSBT News reports, “South Bend police took into custody a 16-year-old Saturday {October 22] after the minor led Indiana State Police on a 110-mph chase down the Indiana Toll Road. The teen had been reported missing and was driving a stolen vehicle form Illinois.”


Tulsa Columnist Welcomes OTA's "PlatePay" AET Test

Tulsa World columnist Michael Overall notes that the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) will begin testing a new AET system on the Creek Turnpike in Jenks in January. Overall writes, “[W]ith the idea proving so popular in other states, you have to think it’s only a matter of time before toll booths go the way of Dodo birds and train cabooses. The real puzzle is: How have they managed to survive this long around here?”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)