Daily News Briefs, October 4, 2016

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FDOT "Caves" on Howard Frankland Bridge Toll Lanes

Tampa Bay Business Journal reports, “After an onslaught of complaints from members of the public and some elected officials, the Florida Department of Transportation is reversing course on its plan to implement toll lanes on the Howard Frankland Bridge.” The newspaper notes that there was “public outrage” over the proposal (included in the TBX Express plan) to convert one general purpose bridge lane in each direction to a “pricy” tolled express lane.

Tampa Bay Times reports, “The Florida Department of Transportation reversed course Monday [October 3] and said it would no longer take away a free lane from the Howard Frankland Bridge when it is rebuilt in 2019. The department also canceled two public hearings on the bridge replacement scheduled for this week.”

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)


MDX and FDOT Finish "Insanely Complex," Half a Billion Dollar SR 836/Palmetto Expressway Interchange

Miami Herald reports on the “insanely complex, seemingly endless reconstruction of the State Road 836/Palmetto Expressway interchange. Some skepticism is understandable, but it’s here in a news release: The Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, who collaborated on the sprawling project, said on [October 3] that it’s officially complete, as of Sept. 27.” The report adds, “The project was pretty much on budget, but it took longer than the five years initially estimated. Most of the delay was weather-related, said FDOT spokesman Oscar Gonzalez.” The $563 million undertaking “required re-routing a major canal and included construction of 45 separate bridges, bringing the interchange from a mere two levels to five dizzying, splaying levels of ramps, connectors and exits.”

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX)


Poinciana Parkway Traffic Volume Is Triple the Projections

Orlando Sentinel reports that the Poinciana Parkway, “the newest toll road in Central Florida” is off to a fast start. “It opened April 30, and so far, ridership numbers more than triple what officials initially projected. More than 5,000 drivers took the parkway per day on average in June and July, well above the expected 1,400 daily drivers,” the newspaper reports. (The article provides an in-depth look at all toll road projects in the region.)

Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) Florida Osceola County Expressway Authority


CT Congressman Pitches $10 Billion Plan That Includes Two Tolled Tunnels for Hartford

Hartford Courant reports, “With Hartford largely blocked from its waterfront by major highways and often gridlocked with traffic, Congressman John B. Larson [D-Hartford] is calling for a massive, two-tunnel, multi-year solution that could cost an estimated $10 billion to remove the bottleneck at Interstates 84 and 91. The bold plan . . . would have tolls at the entrances to the tunnels, but Larson said the exact prices for motorists have yet to be determined. The state legislature, which has been consistently reluctant to approve tolls in the past, would be required to vote on the tunnel tolls.”



Mother and Child Found Dead on FL Turnpike Pike May Have Died of "Hydrogen Sulfide Intoxication"

WESH News reports that officials suspect the mother and daughter found dead in a 2006 Porsche Cayenne in June on Florida’s Turnpike “died of hydrogen sulfide intoxication, likely as the result of a defect in the car’s battery.” Assistant Medical Examiner Gary Utz tells WESH, “It’s unprecedented. I haven’t been able to find another case.” Three first responders reported breathing problems at the scene and were taken to the hospital.


MTC Report Finds a Surge in Bay Area "Congested Delay" and Ranks the Top (Er, Bottom?) 10 Most Congested Freeways

The Mercury News reports, “For just the second time in the two decades that Bay Area freeway congestion levels have been tracked, the morning commute from the East Bay across the Bay Bridge is not the worst. It’s in second place. The new honor — if that’s the right phrase — goes to the afternoon slog out of San Francisco from Highway 101 to the Treasure Island portion of the Bay Bridge.”

The rankings are derived from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s “web-based Vital Signs performance-monitoring initiative,” which includes the finding, “Across the region, ‘congested delay,’ which MTC defines as time spent in traffic moving at speeds of 35 miles per hour or less, surged 22 percent in 2015 to an average of 3.2 minutes per commuter each weekday from 2.7 minutes in 2014.  This marks the Bay Area’s highest recorded level of congested delay on a per-commuter basis and a nearly 70 percent increase over the 1.9-minutes-per-commuter-per-day figure registered in 2010.”

California Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)


NET RMA Cracking Down on Scofflaws Through "Habitual Violators Program"

KLTV News reports that the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority “is cracking down on people who don’t pay their fee to use a toll road.” The report adds, “According to NET RMA, the top 25 Toll 49 violators owe anywhere from $1,975.86 to $5,955.19 comprised of up to 2942 transactions that remain unpaid. It’s something NET RMA Executive Director Chris Miller said they want to address through a new program called the habitual violators program.” (Click here and scroll to section 3.7 for information about the program.)

NET RMA Scofflaws Texas


People on the Move

The South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) announced the appointment of a new CEO, Skhumbuzo Macozoma. HNTB has a new toll services chairman, Kevin Hoeflich. And the MDTA Police appointed a new public information officer, Lt. Kevin Ayd , a 14-year department veteran and Johns Hopkins alum.



US DOE Puts Hold on Plans to Move Nuclear Waste across Peace Bridge

The Buffalo News reports, “Plans by the U.S. Department of Energy that could involve trucking high-level liquid nuclear waste from Canada over the Peace Bridge are on hold until at least February. Court papers filed late last month show energy officials agreed to withhold shipments until after Feb. 17, 2017, “in order to ensure compliance with all legal and contractual obligations.”



Maine Turnpike Is Rolling Out State Farm Safety Patrol

The Portland Press Herald reports, “The Maine Turnpike Authority is stepping up its efforts to help stranded motorists with the help of automotive insurance provider State Farm. In the coming weeks, new signs will be posted along the turnpike advertising “Dial #999,” the number motorists can call from their mobile phones if they need help with issues such as fixing a flat tire or towing a disabled vehicle.”

Maine Turnpike Authority


Seattle's Bertha Tunnels Past the Halfway Mark

KIRO News reports, “Seattle’s massive tunnel-boring machine, Bertha, is just past the halfway mark as it digs in its journey under the city. When the machine tunneled past Pike Place Market on Friday, it pushed beyond the halfway mark of the 9,270-foot-tunnel that will lead to the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.” [Link added.]

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


Bridgegate: Testimony Raises a Red Flag on PANYNJ Grant. Columnist Looks at Christie's Once "Meticulously Managed Image."

NJ.com reports, “The Urban League of Hudson County is at the center of new allegations arising out of the so-called Bridgegate trial.” In short, David Wildstein testified last week that Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop sought and obtained a $1.5 million PANYNJ grant for the nonprofit in order to keep a potential rival out of the 2013 mayor’s race. The report adds that both Fulop and Cunningham “have denied any knowledge of the alleged purpose of the grant.”

The Record columnist Charles Stile writes that the trial has “so far produced a counternarrative to the meticulously managed image of Christie as the bold, bipartisan leader determined to restore New Jersey’s reputation and finances.”

New Jersey PANYNJ


The Case for Building I-73 in West Virginia: Think Tennessee Valley Authority.

The Herald-Dispatch (Huntington) publishes an op-ed by Richard Bullins, who “is involved in building and promoting the tourism industry in southern West Virginia,” in which he argues, “Building Interstate Highway I-73 from Bluefield to Williamson, as it is 90 miles from Bluefield to Williamson, 90 miles to Charleston and 90 miles back to Bluefield, would create a ‘triangle of development’ and make an excellent venue for the distribution of goods and services to foster economic development.” Bullins likens the potential project to the works of the Tennessee Valley Authority and suggests that bonds and tolls could be used as funding.


Tappan Zee Bridge "Jump Forms" Come Down

The Journal News reports, “The big blue boxes sitting atop the new Tappan Zee Bridge’s Rockland County-bound span’s towers are coming down. Known as ‘jump forms,’ the boxes were the means by which crews constructed the eight 419-foot towers.”

Governor Mario Cuomo Bridge (Tappan Zee Replacement Bridge) New York State Thruway Authority


RI GARVEE Bond Goes to Market Today (Truck Tolling Plan Cited)

Providence Journal (scroll down to “Oh, about those truck tolls”) reminds readers that the RhodeWorks truck tolling plan includes a $420-million refinancing and borrowing package, and reports, “The $120-million refinancing closed this summer and last week the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation approved the new $300-million Government Anticipation Revenue Vehicle, or GARVEE bond. According to R.I. Department of Transportation spokesman Charles St. Martin, the new bond is expected to go to market [today, October 4] and close by Oct. 26.”

Rhode Island