Daily News Briefs, October 7, 2016

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Mass Turnpike AET Toll Rates Approved. Many Drivers Will Pay Less.

The Boston Globe reports, “Drivers with a Massachusetts-issued E-ZPass transponder will pay the same or less in tolls on nearly two-thirds of trips when all-electronic tolling begins later this month, under new rates approved Thursday [October 6]. The rates are largely unchanged from those recommended in late August, with a few exceptions. . . . Drivers will pay a bit less at gantries . . . on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Weston and Allston, and a bit more at one in Newton.” The report adds, “Under the initially proposed rates, drivers would have paid higher tolls for about nearly half of all trips, officials estimated. Now, tolls will be the same or less for about 64 percent of trips.”

According to a news release, Highway Administrator Thomas Tinlin told the department’s board of directors, “MassDOT received over 100 comments during the public process, and we adjusted our rate proposals according to the feedback we received.”

A turnpike toll calculator displays the current and new rates at each interchange.

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


MassDOT Approves Six-Month "Grace Period" (It's Really an E-ZPass Incentive Program)

MassLive.com reports, “Massachusetts transportation officials are offering a ‘grace period’ for drivers as the state converts to a cashless tolling system on the Mass. Pike.” As MassDOT official Thomas Tinlin describes the program, when a motorist without a transponder receives a “pay-by-plate” bill in the mail, he or she will have the opportunity to open an E-ZPass Massachusetts account. Motorists who open an account and pay the entire bill will receive an automatic credit on the new E-ZPass account “equal to the difference between the Pay By Plate Rate and E-ZPassMA rate.”

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


MTA's Cashless Tolling Transition Comes with "Major Security Component," Including Facial Recognition Technology

The New York Times follows Governor Cuomo’s announcement that all MTA bridges and tunnels will be converted to cashless tolling, reporting that, “The announcement . . . also included a major security component: Mr. Cuomo said an extra 150 state troopers and 150 National Guard members will be placed at the ends of tunnels or bridges. Sensors and cameras will be suspended over the highway to capture E-ZPass transactions and record license plate numbers at each tolling site. Along with the additional security personnel, each crossing will incorporate new facial recognition software and equipment. “There are security concerns about our tunnels and bridges in this age of terrorist activity and lone wolves,” Mr. Cuomo said. “If you look at points of vulnerability, you’ll go to our tunnels and our bridges.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City


AET Transition Won't Displace MTA Toll Collectors

The New York Times reports that, according to MTA spokesperson Beth DeFalco, “no jobs would be cut as bridges and tunnels transitioned to automated tolls; tollbooth personnel will be reassigned to other posts focused on safety, security and enforcement.” The newspaper adds, “Wayne Joseph, the president of Bridge and Tunnel Officers Benevolent Association, said the changes announced by the governor had been foreseen for years.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)


Despite Praise for MTA Cashless Toll Plan, Governor Cuomo Draws Criticism from "Transportation Wonks"

Crain’s New York Business reports, “Transportation wonks and industry sources are not gung ho for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Penn Station plan. They’re grumbling about the Gateway project, too. And even his announcement [on October 5] about modernizing toll collection and beautifying bridges did not brighten their mood.” One complainant, the newspaper reports, is that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority “will have to postpone something in its capital plan” to pay for the new AET system and other bridge and tunnel improvements, although the authority says it has already identified the necessary funding sources.

The Village Voice also reports on concerns about MTA’s funding of the governor’s initiatives.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City


Kiplinger Columnist Plugs Upside of Toll Road Revenue Debt

Nasdaq posts a Kiplinger column on “one of the best-performing and most secure municipal bond sectors: toll-road revenue debt.” The report adds, “Even before this year’s acceleration in miles driven, public toll authority revenue was already demonstrating steady growth. State and regional highway agencies publish periodic financial reports, to little fanfare. If these agencies were publicly traded companies, I’d wager that their stocks would be sizzling alongside those of utilities and real estate investment trusts.”


Congressman, Local Officials Push for ORT at Some Upstate NY Thruway Interchanges

Time Warner Cable News Buffalo reports that US Representative Brian Higgins (D, NY-26) has “teamed up” with Williamsville and Grand Island officials to push open road tolling. Higgins tells the station, “Why are we making people wait and be delayed and ruining our environment when we can expedite that process? We’re just simply saying, let’s unleash the great technology that’s currently available to us.” The proposal encompasses the thruway’s Grand Island, Williamsville and Lackawanna toll barriers, the station adds.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) New York State Thruway Authority


WSDOT's Puget Sound Gateway Program Includes a Tolled Hwy 509 Extension

KIRO News (courtesy of MYNorthwest.com) looks at a second facet of WSDOT’s Puget Sound Gateway Program — a proposed extension of Highway 509 that will provide new access to Sea-Tac Airport, reporting that, “The . . . extension would be a tolled facility if the Legislature approves the idea. [Gateway Project manager Craig] Stone said the preliminary data shows a variable toll of between $0.30 and $2.”

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


American Trucking Associations Launches Another Attack on RI Truck Toll Plan

WJAR News reports, “The American Trucking Associations is fighting back against the proposed truck tolling plan in Rhode Island. The industry group says parts of it are unreasonable, and it points to the plan that local law enforcement officials will be asked to ticket trucks that are traveling on side roads to avoid the tolls.”

Rhode Island


Ohio River Bridges on Track to Start Tolling by December

WAVE News reports, “Detours, cones, lane restrictions and backups. Drivers have had to deal with their share of headaches due to the Ohio River Bridges Project, but officials say those headaches will soon ease. As key ramps are reopening and roadways are getting closer to open at full capacity, tolls are one step closer to being collected.” The report adds, “Tolling is still on track to be in place by the end of the year.”

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


KY Fire Chief Sweats Loss of Firefighting Funding when Ohio River Bridges Construction Wraps Up

WDRB News reports, “A local fire chief says he’s losing sleep over the potential danger to drivers when the new East End Bridge opens. The Harrods Creek (KY) Fire Chief doesn’t think his department will be able to do what’s needed when there’s an emergency.” The report adds, “Chief Tyler said the ‘issue’ is funding to keep 15 firefighters and operate truck 1288, which is equipped to respond to emergencies in tunnels and the East End bridge.” Those resources were funded by InDOT, “[b]ut when construction ends, so will the funding, and the [fire chief] says cutting firefighters and equipment puts drivers’ lives in danger,” the report adds.

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


Residents Question Maine Turnpike's Stand Against AET Configuration at York Plaza

Portland Press Herald reports, “York residents and Maine Turnpike Authority officials sparred again Wednesday [October 5] over plans to build a new toll plaza on the highway. Many residents said the project will cause environmental damage and that the turnpike authority hasn’t fully considered an all-electronic collection system. But authority officials said such a system would result in millions of dollars in lost revenue annually.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Maine Maine Turnpike Authority


VA Newspaper Hits the New US 460 Replacement Project

Daily Press editors hammer the new US 460 replacement project that was recently approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, writing that, “Virginia has already wasted a lot of money on a U.S. 460 project, out of haste to meet a need that may not really be that acute. That haste landed us in a spendthrift public-private partnership.” The editors add, “Let’s move more deliberately to see if there’s a less costly way of doing what we really need to do on 460 — ensure that truck traffic flows safely and that the highway isn’t flooded when we need it.”

P3 & Privatization Virginia Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)


Bridgegate: Witness Backs Off "Christie Lied" Text

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “The former Christie administration official who texted a friend that Gov. Christie ‘flat out lied’ to the news media in saying his aides were not involved in the George Washington Bridge lane closures now says she didn’t know whether the governor was lying. ‘It was a poor choice of words. I had no knowledge of whether or not the governor was lying’ during a Dec. 13, 2013, news conference, Christina Renna testified in federal court” during the October 6 session of the Bridgegate criminal trial.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


Utah Officials Announce Enforcement Blitz on New I-15 Express Lanes, Reportedly the Longest in the US

KSL News reports, “Drivers along I-15 will have to closely monitor how they use the recently completed express lanes on the state’s busiest freeway. With the Point project from Lehi to Draper now complete, the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Highway Patrol on Thursday [October 6] announced the launch of an enforcement blitz aimed at educating drivers on correct use of the express lanes that now span 72 miles from Layton to Spanish Fork — the longest continuous stretch in the nation.”

Express Lanes Utah