Daily News Briefs, September 26, 2016

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Hampton Roads HOT Lane Tolls Will Make Metro DC Commuters Envious

WTOP News reports that motorists who choose to use the future I-66 HOT lanes “may feel some pangs of jealousy when they see the bill. Toll prices in a similar conversion of HOV lanes to HOV or toll lanes in the Hampton Roads area are expected to be just a fraction of the cost. A Virginia Department of Transportation presentation to the Commonwealth Transportation Board last week indicated that expected tolls on the stretch of Interstate 64 between Interstate 564 and just beyond Interstate 264 would be less than $2.” According to Virginia transportation department chief Aubrey Layne, the difference in toll rates reflects “two different markets.”

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


PA Turnpike's Mounting Debt Worries Securities Analyst

Bloomberg (via Transport Topics) reports, “Pennsylvania’s reliance on toll revenue from the nation’s oldest turnpike to fund other road and mass-transit projects is starting to worry Janney Montgomery Scott’s Alan Schankel.” Schankel cites the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s recent refunding of $650 million in revenue refunding bonds as a well-timed move to take advantage of low borrowing rates, but he fears that the projected toll increases necessary to pay off the securities may cause drivers to switch to alternate, non-tolled highways. “‘I have concerns about the massive amount of debt they’re accumulating to fund transportation projects in the state unrelated to the turnpike,’ said Schankel, a municipal strategist for Janney in Philadelphia. ‘That bothers me because it accumulates a lot of debt, and they’re going to have to pay for that with regular toll increases.’”

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC)


Wildstein Implicates Christie in Bridgegate Scheme. Newspaper Lists Seven Key Takeaways from Bridgegate Trial's Opening Week.

The New York Times reports, “The admitted mastermind of the mysterious George Washington Bridge lane closings,” former PANYNJ official David Wildstein, “broke a three-year silence on Friday [September 23], testifying in federal court . . . that everything he did in his job was at the direction and for the benefit of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.” [Link deleted.]

NJ.com provides a day-by-day review of week one of the Bridgegate trial and a slide deck highlighting “7 things we learned,” the first being, “Christie was told, prosecutors say.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer focuses on David Wildstein, the “government’s principal witness” and his “many idiosyncrasies, which some at the Port Authority feared bordered on the malevolent.”

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)


MTA Sign Seems to Encourage Texting while Driving

CBS News New York reports that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority “seems to have posted a sign telling drivers they should text. Approaching the Henry Hudson Bridge, it is hard to miss the electronic message board. It reads ‘No E-ZPass? **826 to pay toll now or bill will be mailed.’” The report adds, “CBS2 asked road safety expert Robert Sinclair, of AAA, what he thought. ‘“You might see that message and think that you need to get on your phone right then and text in order to pay the toll,’ Sinclair said. ‘This is one bad instance that needs to be changed pretty quickly.’” MTA tells CBS there are no plans to change or remove the sign. CBS notes that motorists who text the number receive information, but cannot actually pay a toll.

New York Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (MTA Bridges and Tunnels)


Congresswoman Goes to Bat for IL Tollway in Land Fight with Canadian Pacific Railroad

Daily Herald reports, “Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth has asked federal regulators to intervene on behalf of the Illinois Tollway in a standoff with the Canadian Pacific Railroad over land for a western bypass road to O’Hare International Airport.” The report adds, “Duckworth . . . took the tollway’s side Friday [September 23] in a letter to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, saying that ‘through their misleading actions and current legal tactics,’ Canadian Pacific had ‘endangered a vital infrastructure project’ that is expected to create thousands of jobs.”

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (IL Tollway)


NY Thruway to Pursue "Additional Enforcement Options" as Uncollected Tolls Mount

WGRZ News, covering the news that almost “$11 million in tolls went unpaid on the New York State Thruway from 2010 to 2014,” and “[f]rom 2013 to 2014, uncollected tolls jumped from $2 million to almost $2.5 million,” connects with an authority spokeswoman who “was quick to point out . . . that the rate of toll violators decreased. She would not do a recorded interview, but issued a statement saying: ‘[The authority] will continue to work with our state partners to pursue additional enforcement options to ensure everyone pays their fair share.’”

New York State Thruway Authority Scofflaws


ERT Temporarily Trims Violation Penalties

The Virginian-Pilot reports, “ERT is trimming fees by 50 percent on violation notices and final notices for customers whose accounts had a negative balance when they incurred a toll” through November 1, 2016. “The reduction is being offered to help customers start over ‘with a clean slate and hopefully better educate them on how important it is to maintain their E-ZPass accounts in order to pay the lowest toll and avoid fees and penalties,’ Greg Woodsmall, ERC CEO said in [a news release].”

Elizabeth River Tunnels Virginia


Local Officials Huddle on Non-Toll Alternative to Proposed Cibolo Toll Road

San Antonio Express-News reports, “Ahead of next week’s third public hearing on the possibility of building a toll road in Cibolo, Schertz mayor Michael Carpenter said area officials have begun to talk about addressing the area’s transportation issues in a different way.” The report adds, “Carpenter cited three primary benefits of creating a highway – a non-toll road – to link two of the largest highways in Texas. . . .”



FDOT's TBX Plan Includes a Bridge Lanes Conversion that Has Some Concerned

Tampa Bay Times reports on FDOT’s plan to add express lanes (one in each direction) on the Howard Frankland Bridge, leaving non-tolled drivers with “three lanes instead of the current four. State officials say this has been public knowledge for years, part of [the Tampa Bay Express plan] that includes rebuilding the bridge. But transportation activists and even top officials who voted on the proposal thought TBX would add extra lanes to the new bridge for tolls — not replace lanes that already exist.”

Express Lanes Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Tampa Bay Express


Toll Hike Could Accompany AET Conversion of Card Sound Bridge

FlKeysNews.com reports, “A new automated toll system likely to be installed at the Card Sound Bridge would reduce traffic slowdowns but probably would lead to increases in the current $1 toll for cars.” The report adds that the revenue is needed to pay for a new $32 million replacement bridge and “Tolls — 50 cents per axle, with discounted tickets for daily commuters — have not been raised since the toll took effect 47 years ago.”

AET (All-Electronic Tolling) Florida


MD Newspaper Looks at Possible Solutions to I-270 Congestion

The Frederick News-Post editorial board looks at the congestion on I-270, noting that, “An economic lifeline it might be, but most days of the week, Interstate 270 between Frederick and Montgomery counties looks more like a clogged artery.” The editors tackle the “induced travel” phenomenon and note, “Toll lanes and a high-speed bus service are two options proposed by a newly formed coalition of civic, business and elected leaders are also pushing for alternate solutions to resolve the gridlock. Members of Fix 270 Now say they want state officials to dust off two studies completed in the 1990s for possible solutions.”

Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA)


Toll Roads, Carpool Lanes to "Linger" for Years in VA and MD

The Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock tackles readers’ confusion about the difference between HOV and HOT lanes, and suggests, “This issue of toll roads and carpool lanes will not only linger for years in Virginia, but also across the Potomac River, where it will spawn debates in Maryland.”

Maryland Virginia Washington (DC) Metro Region


LA Times: "Self-Driving Trucks Threaten One of America's Top Blue-Collar Jobs"

Los Angeles Times reports, “Carmaking giants and ride-sharing upstarts racing to put autonomous vehicles on the road are dead set on replacing drivers, and that includes truckers. Trucks without human hands at the wheel could be on American roads within a decade, say analysts and industry executives. At risk is one of the most common jobs in many states, and one of the last remaining careers that offer middle-class pay to those without a college degree. There are 1.7 million truckers in America. . . .”

Self-Driving Vehicles


Retired OTA Collector and Silver Star Recipient Will Enter State Military Hall of Fame

The Oklahoman profiles a retired Oklahoma Turnpike Authority toll collector and Vietnam veteran, Willard F. Parish, who will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on October 21. The report adds that Parish was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry after the Ia Drang Valley battle that was the subject of the memoir We Were Soldiers Once and Young and the movie, “We Were Soldiers.”

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)


Press of Atlantic City Backs E-ZPass for Cape May Bridges

Press of Atlantic City editorial board writes, “The Cape May County Bridge Commission may allow travelers to pay with E-ZPass, the electronic toll-collection system that has become the standard in the Northeast. It should.” The editors add, “Offering a significant convenience to such a large share of tourists is reason enough to equip the bridges with the technology.”

E-ZPass New Jersey