Daily News Briefs, September 22, 2016

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Bridgegate: How did PANYNJ Police Lose Control of the GW Bridge?

Salon asks, “In the Bridgegate federal criminal trial . . . the most egregious breach of the public trust never made it into the charging document. How could the Port Authority police, entrusted with protecting the George Washington Bridge, a top terrorist target, be enlisted on the anniversary of 9/11 in 2013, to execute the lane closures that prosecutors allege were part of a criminal conspiracy?”

New Jersey PANYNJ


Bridgegate Trial Wrap: PANYNJ Executive Director Foye Testifies

NJ.com reports, “Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority, wanted a witness when he confronted his New Jersey counterpart about a series of inexplicable toll lane shutdowns at the George Washington Bridge.” NJ.com adds that both Foye and Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich were cross-examined during the trial’s third day about why post-closure public statements did not say that the lane closures had a political motive.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


Governor Christie's Poll Numbers Drop . . . and This Was before the Bridgegate Trial Started

NJ.com reports, “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the third least-popular governor in the United States, according to a new poll out this week. The poll by the Morning Consult found that the New Jersey Republican’s popularity had been plummeting in the lead-up to the Bridgegate trial. Only Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, a Democrat were less popular in their home states, according to the data.”

New Jersey


WV Parkways Director Barr Testifies on Bridge Repairs, Financial Impact of Eliminating Tolls

The Register-Herald reports, “Many West Virginia bridges are aging past 40 years, according to the West Virginia Parkways Authority Director Greg Barr, and repairs will be necessary in the upcoming years. Barr told the Select Committee on Infrastructure [on September 20] that two bridge deck replacements per year now through 2021 will cost the state a total of $20 million.” The report adds, “Unless the Legislature votes otherwise, the West Virginia Turnpike will be turned over to the Division of Highways upon payoff of bonds in 2019 and tolls will be removed. Barr suggested starting to look more in-depth next summer as to how the conversion will take place. ‘I do have concerns about the future funding,’ he shared. ‘(Tolls) bring in $85 million a year. Over 30 years, that’s $2.5 billion.’”

The Bond Buyer (subscription required) also follows Barr’s testimony, reporting, “West Virginia will lose $85 million of revenues per year if tolls are removed from state’s turnpike in 2019.”

West Virginia Parkways Authority (West Virginia Turnpike)


State IG Hits MassDOT for Turnpike Towing Contract Award. (One Bidder Offers to Charge $1 per Tow.)

MassLive.com reports, “The Massachusetts Department of Transportation stacked the deck in favor of a single company when it was selecting a towing contractor for the Massachusetts Turnpike in 2013, according to a letter from the state’s Inspector General.” According to the article, the IG also alleges that MassDOT’s procurement team members “were ill-trained, its scorecard for selecting a towing company did not meet state specifications, its chosen company was allowed to skirt procedures and it excluded or disadvantaged a specific bidder. . . .”

Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Massachusetts Turnpike


Subcontractors Resume Work on I-69 Project in Indiana

Associated Press reports, “Subcontractors have resumed work on an Interstate 69 project after halting operations earlier this month due to lack of payment.” The report adds, “A non-performance notice the Indiana Finance Authority sent to I-69 Development Partners on Sept. 6 said more than $9 million was owed to highway construction contractors. The finance authority sold nearly $244 million worth of tax-exempt private activity bonds on behalf of I-69 Development Partners in July 2014 to help finance the project.” The report notes, “In the wake of the delays, two credit agencies have downgraded ratings on the bonds issued to help finance the project.”

Indiana P3 & Privatization


Fairfax County Supervisors Press VDOT to Bar Trucks from New I-66 Toll Lanes

WTOP News reports, “Just before plans are solidified for new toll lanes on Interstate 66 outside the Beltway, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is asking the state to keep trucks out of the lanes due to concerns about toll rates and noise. A letter to Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne notes that reviews and public hearings assumed there would not be trucks in the lanes, and the option for private companies to include a provision for trucks was only added in late July.”

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Washington (DC) Metro Region


Attempt to Stop CDOT's Launch of C-470 Expansion while Lawsuit Is Pending

Littleton Independent reports, “While work on an expansion of C-470 between I-25 and Kipling Parkway is set to start early next month, a group of Highlands Ranch residents that has sued over the project wants construction to halt until the lawsuit is settled.” The report adds, “The biggest change to C-470 will be the addition of toll lanes, with two of them westbound between I-25 and Colorado and one from Colorado to Wadsworth Boulevard, and one eastbound toll lane from Platte Canyon Road to I-25.”



CTRMA Faces Possible Preliminary Injunction on SH 45 SW Project

Community Impact Newspaper reports, “Mid-October could mark a turning point for the SH 45 SW project — a proposed 3.6-mile toll road that would connect Loop 1 with FM 1626 in Hays County.” Earlier this month, a federal judge denied a motion by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and TxDOT to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a coalition of project opponents. Now, the newspaper reports, “Bill Bunch, executive director of Save Our Springs Alliance, which is part of the coalition, said in mid-October there will likely be a preliminary injunction hearing. If the judge grants the coalition an injunction, that could delay the project.”

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Texas


Texas County and NTTA Agree to Block Vehicle Registration Renewals for Motorists with Unpaid Tolls

Herald Democrat (Sherman, TX) reports, “Grayson County Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Stidham told commissioners Tuesday [September 20] that the North Texas Toll Authority and the county have entered into a contract whereby those who have 100 or more unpaid toll charges can be denied [vehicle] registration renewal.”

North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) Scofflaws Texas


NY Thruway Toll Scofflaws Spur More Collection Efforts and Concerns

The Journal News has a report on New York Thruway toll scofflaws, the highest number of whom are Tappan Zee bridge users. According to the article, “While the revenue loss is a small part of the authority’s $2 billion annual budget, some state lawmakers said the Thruway should do more to recoup the uncollected tolls and reconsider the cashless system [to which the Thruway is gradually advancing].”

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


Officials Eye AET for Card Sound Road in the FL Keys

WLRN News looks at the push toward AET on the Card Sound Road, “the only connection between the islands and the mainland other than U.S. 1,” reporting that, “The Monroe County Commission this week heard from consultants who . . . reported that the county could reduce its overall costs at the toll station by 20 percent. The county currently collects almost $1 million annually in tolls.” Card Sound Road leads to North Key Largo, the report adds.

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Florida


The East End Bridge Is "Coming Together"

Louisville Business First reports, “The East End Bridge is really coming together. WVB East End Partners, the developer of the bridge between eastern Jefferson County near Prospect and Southern Indiana near Utica, recently connected the bridge’s huge deck and is putting the finishing touches on the span, which is expected to open late this year.” (The article includes new images of the construction project.)

Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges


WA Newspaper Conducts Reader Survey as Anniversary of I-405 Express Toll Lanes Nears

The Daily Herald (Everett, WA) is conducting a reader’s poll as the one-year anniversary of the opening of WSDOT’s I-405 Express toll lanes nears.

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)


DC Region Survey Says Commuters Who Walk, Bike or Share Are Happier

WTOP News reports, “Commuters across the D.C. region look to more shared modes of traveling to work as driving alone becomes less popular. Carpooling, walking or biking are the more satisfying commuting options, according to the findings of a survey released [on September 21]. The survey for Commuter Connections, a program run through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, says people who biked or walked to work reported the highest satisfaction with their trips to work, followed by carpoolers.”

Washington (DC) Metro Region


Austin Chamber Report Says Easing Congestion Hinges on Revised Land Development Code

Austin Business Journal reports, “If Austin wants to make a dent in its rush-hour congestion, it needs to first do a wholesale re-write of the city’s land development code to allow for more density in key locations, according to the Austin Chamber of Commerce,” which cites the close link between mobility and land-use planning in a new report. The chamber notes that rush-hour commuters to the city have increased by 21 percent over the past 10 years, and the vast majority of those motorists drive alone and come from the suburbs in increasing numbers.



Moody's on FDOT Turnpike Revenue Bonds

Moody’s Investors Service has assigned “a rating of Aa2 to Florida’s Department of Transportation’s (DOT) $134.56 million senior lien Turnpike Revenue Refunding Bonds, Series 2016C. The rating outlook is stable.”

Fitch also released its rating of the bonds.

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Investment Ratings