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Daily News Brief, March 15, 2016

March 15, 2016

Toll Roads News

Original News item appeared at: http://tollroadsnews.com/

Congressional Aides: It’s Imperative We Find Alternatives to Gas Tax

KING5-TV News (Seattle) reports, “As state and local transportation policy leaders from around the country gather in Washington D.C., for the 2016 IBTTA Transportation Policy and Finance Summit, the message from congressional staff members is to expect less from the federal government. The Highway Trust Fund and the traditional gas tax are being compared to a well run dry and agencies being told the time for other creative ways to find ‘water’ is now.” The station suggests that Washington State motorists may see a road usage charge alternative to the gas tax in their future.

Hogan Administration and Locals Disagree over Need to Replace Harry Nice Toll Bridge

The Baltimore Sun reports, “The only practical connection between Southern Maryland and Virginia is a steep 76-year-old toll bridge with two narrow lanes, no shoulder, no sidewalk and no barrier in the median. According to the Hogan administration, that’s good enough for at least another 30 years.” However, some local officials and legislators disagree and are pushing legislation to force a replacement. The newspaper observes that “the administration’s generally popular decision to cut tolls last year has contributed to the state having little money for projects like replacing the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge.” [Link added.]

Toronto RFP Moves City Closer to Tolling Two Major Highways

Toronto Sun reports that the city has issued a request for proposals (No. 9118-16-5000) for a study examining “the likely benefits and impacts of charging a fee for use” of the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway. “The 54-page RFP calls for a ‘study’ on what type of toll technology is ‘best suited’ for Toronto, where the toll booths or facilities would be located, what would be charged and how it would be charged, as well as how the tolls would be enforced.”

Maine Pike Swaps Food Services at Two Plazas

Portland Press-Herald reports, “The Maine Turnpike Authority announced that it will close the Gray and Cumberland service plazas for nine weeks beginning next Monday [March 21] so that renovations can be carried out.” An MTA spokeswoman said in a news release that the plazas’ existing Starbucks coffee shops will be removed and replaced by 24-hour, drive-thru Burger King restaurants. Peter Mills, MTA executive director, tells the newspaper he expects the change to improve the profitability of both locations.

Opposition Mounts to NY Thruway Toll Relief Proposals

Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester) reports that senate Republicans have joined assembly Democrats in opposing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to give a tax credit to the New York Thruway’s frequent toll payers. The senate also opposes Cuomo’s proposal to “wipe out Thruway tolls for farm vehicles” through another tax credit. The governor’s budget proposal calls for “spending $1 billion on the Thruway to keep tolls constant until 2020, cover the tax credits and cut into infrastructure costs. . . . The plan, however, has drawn concern even from some transit advocates who have consistently pushed back against toll increases.”

Local Official Wants Bridge Toll Removed Despite Need for Revenue

WIVB-TV News (Buffalo) reports that a local government official wants the state to remove tolls from the New York Thruway’s South Grand Island Bridge even though he acknowledges the revenue is needed. “The tolls aren’t going anywhere,” Nathan McMurray, a Grand Island supervisor tells the station. “We need that revenue. Just like any tax, once that tax is in place, it’s hard to get rid of it but I want to get rid of it.”

Time Warner Cable News Buffalo carries a response from thruway authorities, who point out that “over the past five years, $120 million of toll money has been invested on capital improvement projects on the Grand Island bridges with another $47 million earmarked over the next two years.”

Indiana Toll Road Figures in Company’s Site Selection

WSBT-TV News (Michiana) reports that Furrion, a supplier of recreational vehicle equipment, is moving its headquarters to Elkhart, Indiana, and bringing “dozens of high paying, high-tech jobs.” A spokesman for the local economic development agency tells the station, “It’s really a high profile company. It’s part of the reason they chose the site they did. That site, you know, being so close to the Toll Road, they really want to build the type of premiere facility that is going to attract attention.”

CalTrans Picks Azuga as an RUC Pilot Partner

Azuga announced it will be “partnering with the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) as a commercial account manager (CAM) for the state’s new road charging pilot program that will launch in July of 2016.” Azuga volunteers will receive a self-installed on-board diagnostics (OBD) telematics device to record the number of vehicle miles they travel. The device will also enable them to use some “fun and personal features,” such as a vehicle locator. Volunteers will not be charged any fees. CBS News Los Angeles has a report on the state’s road charge pilot program.

Transurban Chief Cites “Dire” Need for Sydney Road Usage Charges

The Sydney Morning Herald reports, “Australia’s toll road king, Transurban, warns congestion in Sydney will match the clogged streets of Mexico City within decades unless motorists are properly charged for their use of the road network. The dire warning from Transurban chief executive Scott Charlton follows attempts in recent days by the federal Minister for Major Projects, Paul Fletcher, to kickstart debate about a national system of road pricing. Mr. Charlton said a shift to a user-pays model was the only way to ensure Australia’s cities did not grind to a halt over the next two to three decades.”

Report Says Minnesota Plans $18 Billion in Highway Spending over Next Twenty Years

Star-Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul) covers the release of a report by Minnesota’s Legislative Auditor that recommends more transparency in the process of selecting and funding road projects. According to the newspaper account, Minnesota “expects to spend at least $18 billion in the next two decades on the state’s highway system, with most of that on maintenance of existing infrastructure.”

Highway Traffic’s Toll on Law Enforcement Officers

Philly.com reports on the considerable risks that officers face policing busy highways in New Jersey and other states.