May 8, 2014


FL: DOT official close to pulling plug on Pasco toll road. Florida Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad says he is close to pulling the plug on a controversial toll road project across southern Pasco County. “We’re at a point where I don’t think the project looks very promising,” Prasad told The Tampa Tribune. . . .  The Florida Department of Transportation has been in negotiations since January with a consortium headed by the Spanish construction company OHL to build and operate an elevated toll road over State Road 54. If approved, it would be the state’s first private toll road and would have linked U.S. 19 and U.S. 301. Prasad said he met last Thursday with OHL representatives, who presented various options for the road in an effort to respond to overwhelming public opposition to the project. That’s when the firm said it could not build the project without taxpayer dollars.  Suncoast News

IN: States sign deal for Illiana toll road. Indiana and Illinois have signed an agreement to build the Illiana Expressway toll road, with Indiana paying $80 million to $110 million, Illinois agreeing to pay at least $250 million, and the rest of the $1.51 billion for the project coming from private investors. . . . The agreement calls for the two states to have contracts for design, construction and operation and maintenance of the road by early 2015 and to use their “best efforts” to have the road completed by the end of 2018. . . . Critics argue the road won’t have much of an effect on economic development and will harm the environment. Andrew Armstrong, a staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which has filed two lawsuits trying to stop the highway, said the agreement highlights the financial risks to both states. “This is a time of really uncertain funding levels at the state and federal level for transportation, and there’s no need to build this project using very precious taxpayers’ funds when it’s going to be used by so few vehicles in comparison to the existing roads that need maintenance and upkeep,” he said. Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

MI: State employee unions cite safety as privatization ramps up. Unions representing state employees asked the Michigan Civil Service Commission on Wednesday to consider not just price, but quality, when approving deals to lay off state employees and privatize government services. The commission took no action after state officials testified that quality assurances are built into privatization contracts. The unions allege that recent deals to privatize food service in Michigan prisons and nursing aides at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans have hurt quality and decreased safety. . . . Wednesday’s move by state employee unions came as state lawmakers are considering further privatization efforts, including a bill that would place a cap on the inmate population in state prisons, possibly sending any overflow to private prisons. Lansing State Journal

NY: Prosecutor suggests Bruno orchestrated NYRA coup to help friend. For three days, federal jurors hearing the retrial of former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno . . . .Bruno, 85, is charged with two counts of honest services mail fraud in connection with hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting payments he received from Abbruzzese between 2004 and 2006, as well as the $80,000 sale of a horse called worthless by the prosecution.. . . . Earlier Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Coombe suggested to Barr that in 2005 Bruno tried to oust then-NYRA chairman Steve Duncker in favor of a chairman who supported privatizing the racetracks. By supporting the privatization, she suggested, Bruno would be in step with Abbruzzese.

Albany Times Union