1. Toll road privatization may result in more crashes on other roads.
2. Meetings Begin in Texas Toll Road Plan.
3. CTRMA looks for funding support for toll projects.
4. Bill proposes leasing Pa. Turnpike in 3 parts.
5. Central City Council weighs services proposal.
6. Toll increases in New Jersey would be steep.
7. Corzine touts toll plan as poll shows more than half oppose it.
8. I-95 toll job gets a jump start.
9. Maine’s mental health care facility may go private.
10. Ex-S.C. ports board official cites privatization issue as cause of his ouster.
11. Operating terms proposed for privatized health care center.
1. Toll road privatization may result in more crashes on other roads. Science Daily reports on a new study that warns that privatizing toll roads in the U.S. may result in significant diversions of truck traffic from privatized toll roads to "free" roads, and may result in more crashes and increased costs associated with use of other roads. The study concludes that if governments allow private toll road operators to maximize profits, higher tolls will divert trucks to local roads, depending on the suitability of substitute roads. The authors estimate that for 2005, a for-profit, private operator of the Ohio Turnpike could have raised tolls to roughly three times what they were under the public turnpike authority, resulting in about a 40% diversion of trucks from the Ohio Turnpike to other roads. Peter Swan of Penn State Harrisburg and Michael Belzer of Wayne State University presented the findings of their study, "Empirical Evidence of Toll Road Traffic Diversion and Implications for Highway Infrastructure Privatization," on Jan. 14 at the 87th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C.
2. Meetings Begin in Texas Toll Road Plan. AP reports that the biggest construction project ever attempted in Texas comes under public debate beginning today in the first of a series of town hall meetings about a proposed 4,000-mile network of superhighway toll roads. The Trans-Texas Corridor, or TTC, as it has become known, was initiated six years ago by Gov. Rick Perry. It has rankled opponents who characterize it as the largest government grab of private property in the state’s history and an unneeded and improper expansion of toll roads. "We really are getting ripped off," says Terri Hall, of San Antonio, who heads TURF — Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom. The group is suing the transportation agency, alleging its promotional campaign violates a ban on state officials using their authority for political purposes.Some 580,000 acres will be needed for the project, primarily in rural areas that will take "some of the best farmland in the state," says Texas Farm Bureau spokesman Gene Hall.
3. CTRMA looks for funding support for toll projects. The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has put out requests for proposals among firms to help finance the next round of toll projects that the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization approved in October, according to a report in the Austin Business Journal. In October CAMPO approved a $1.4 billion toll road package, reduced from $2.4 billion. And in December, TxDOT announced that it would have to cut back its 2008 and possibly its 2009 budgets drastically. The department started talking with CTRMA at that point about the authority taking on $25 million worth of design contracts.
4. Bill proposes leasing Pa. Turnpike in 3 parts. An AP report in the Pittsburg Tribune-Review says that a Republican state senator said Monday he plans to introduce legislation to privatize the Pennsylvania Turnpike in three sections and repeal a seven-month-old law that authorized tollbooths on Interstate 80.The idea behind the legislation is to raise more than $1 billion annually for the state’s crumbling highways and bridges and cash-strapped mass transit agencies.
5. Central City Council weighs services proposal. Baton Rouge’s The Advocate reports the City of Central is expected to decide Thursday whether the city will pay a private company $3.5 million a year to run virtually every public service for the new municipality. The city council called a special meeting to vote on a proposal by Denver-based CH2M Hill OMI, the only company to bid on the contract. Central officials are planning to take over public services from the East Baton Rouge city-parish government by March.
6. Toll increases in New Jersey would be steep. Driving the family car on the New Jersey Turnpike from the Lincoln Tunnel to the Delaware Memorial Bridge â€” just about the length of the highway â€” could rise to $48 from $5.85. For truck drivers, navigating that same stretch of highway would soar to $186 from the current $23, according to an article in the New York Times. With a sense of resignation in his voice, Ed Daly, who had stopped for a snack at the Joyce Kilmer rest area, just north of Exit 8A, said, â€œTolls fall heaviest on the working man.â€
7. Corzine touts toll plan as poll shows more than half oppose it. Newsday reports that a poll found 52 percent of NJ residents oppose Corzine’s idea of increasing highway tolls to pay debt and fund transportation. Another Newsday article says that motorists who live near toll roads could get hit hardest, which may boost fears among many that Corzine’s plan to increase tolls will unfairly affect residents who live near the roads.
8. I-95 toll job gets a jump start. The Miami region was one of five traffic-plagued metropolitan areas that received federal grants to accelerate plans aimed at reducing congestion and enhancing mass transit with technology and free-market principles, according to a report in the Miami Herald. The state Department of Transportation is planning to spend $248 million to convert the underused and unpopular High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on 21 miles of I-95 into all-electronic High Occupancy Toll express lanes. The new configuration will be four ”free” lanes and two barrier-separated ”express” lanes in each direction from I-395 in downtown Miami to I-595 in Fort Lauderdale.
9. Maine’s mental health care facility may go private. The Bangor Daily News reports that the state-owned and -operated Elizabeth Levinson Center, which provides care for severely mentally retarded Maine children and young adults, would be handed over to a private company by early next summer under the terms of Gov. John Baldacciâ€™s supplemental budget. The proposed change is not sitting well with some employees and client families, but a state official says privatization of the program is needed to help trim Maineâ€™s overblown budget down to size.
10. Ex-S.C. ports board official cites privatization issue as cause of his ouster. A former member of the board of South Carolina’s State Ports Authority (SPA) has claimed that Gov. Mark Sanford replaced him this week because he disagrees with the governor’s policy of privatizing ports. But a spokesman of Sanford denied the claim of Carroll A. Campbell III saying he was replaced because of conflict of interest, according to AHN News. Campbell, son of former Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr., called Sanford’s move offensive because he refused to turn over control of state ports to private operators. He believes privatizing ports would subject the state to union strikes that could shut the ports down and hurt the economy. "I’m opposed to 100 percent privatization when it means 100 percent union labor. I don’t want to be held hostage by the unions at our ports," said Campbell.
11. Operating terms proposed for privatized health care center. The proposed buyer of Wisconsin’s Manitowoc County Health Care Center may not be required to admit residents who are morbidly obese, have a history of behavior problems or require more than a typical level of nursing care, according to a draft contract released by County Executive Bob Ziegelbauer, reports the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter.