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DOT Closes Down Everett Turnpike Toll Collection in Merrimack, N.H.

WMUR Manchester – July 19, 2014

MERRIMACK, N.H. – Vehicles traveling on the Everett Turnpike are passing by Exit 12 in Merrimack free of charge. After over two decades, New Hampshire Department of Transportation officials shut down the toll booths at 9 p.m. Friday. Crews spent the day removing signs, E-ZPass systems, and other parts of the tolling establishment.

In 2007, protestors of the tolls demonstrated their opposition by paying the fees in pennies. The N.H. Department of Transportation pushed to keep the tolls in place, saying the town of Merrimack is still repaying bonds that funded its three exits on the Everett.

The closure of the area tolls is part of the gas tax increase compromise passed by the Legislature earlier this year.

Louisiana Restructures DOTD, Creates Multimodal Agency

Land Line Magazine – July 18, 2014

Louisiana – The state Department of Transportation and Development in Louisiana is going to be restructured under a bill signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal. It will also create a new state sub-agency to maximize the state’s multimodal transportation infrastructure. The new law, which takes effect July 1, 2016, establishes the Office of Multimodal Commerce inside the Department of Economic Development. The office will be directly supervised and directed by the commissioner of multimodal commerce, appointed by the governor and approved by the Louisiana Senate.

When the new law is implemented, the authority of powers, duties, and responsibilities for ports, terminals, railroads and aviation, and all corresponding facilities, employees, funding and equipment will be transferred from the state DOTD to the Office of Multimodal Commerce.

Sen. NorbyChabert, R-Houma, said the measure represents “a major policy change” in the functions of the DOTD relative to the ports and harbors, maritime and water transportation systems, railroads, commercial trucking, aviation, and intercity public transit.

“Louisiana’s multimodal transportation system impacts almost every element of our lives,” Chabert said in a news release. “The difference between commerce infrastructure and basic transportation needs must be better defined in order to support the state’s most valuable economic engines. DOTD’s main focus should be on building and maintaining roads to address the massive backlog of transportation projects in Louisiana.”

Texas’ Flagship Toll Road Faces Financial Trouble

Lane Line Magazine – July 17, 2014

Texas – Eight years after opening, the SH 130 public-private toll road between Austin and San Antonio is facing financial hardship, as a result of low traffic volume and a low bond rating from financial analysts.

Moody’s Investor Service downgraded SH 130’s bond rating twice in 2013, and earlier this month announced the SH 130 Concession Co. had failed to make a full debt-service payment to lenders on the money borrowed to construct Segments 5 and 6 of the roadway.

The SH 130 Concession Co. has a 50-year contract with the Texas Department of Transportation, in which the builder-operator carries the financial risk and the roadway remains under ownership by the state of Texas. An actual default could result in a termination of the contract and TxDOT would be forced to decide whether to operate the roadway itself or lease it to another operator.

A spokesperson for the SH 130 Concession Co. said new terms have been negotiated with its lenders.

“The SH 130 is not in default,” spokeswoman Megan Compton told Land Line. “It has reached an agreement with lenders that modifies the payment date such that no failure to pay occurred. A portion of the payment was made recently and the remainder is due in the future. As a result of the modification, as a matter of fact, and a matter of law, there is no default.”

Sales Tax Boost in Missouri would Pay for Road, Bridge Repair

The Star – July 26, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY – One of the debated issues on Missouri’s Aug. 5 statewide ballot is how the state should pay for road and bridge repairs. The ballot will ask voters whether to amend the state’s constitution to increase the sales tax by three-fourths of a cent in order to pay for transportation repairs. If approved, the tax increase would last for ten years and be the largest in the state’s history. Over the ten-year period, the gasoline tax would be frozen and new toll roads would not be allowed.

The campaign for the proposal has been funded by the businesses and groups that would benefit from the $5.4 billion expected to be raised over the life of the tax. These organizations include highway construction contractors, labor unions, engineering firms, and concrete and asphalt producers.

“Missourians understand that our roads and bridges are deteriorating,” said Jewell Patek, campaign manager for the group supporting the amendment, Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs. “We need to make our roads and bridges as safe as possible, and we don’t have the revenue to do that.”

The opponents to the issue include a variety of groups with varying political backgrounds, who say the impact of a sales tax increase unfairly affects the lower-income classes. In some parts of the state, the overall sales tax would increase to more than 11 cents when local taxes are added in.

Ninety percent of the funding raised by the tax increase – an estimated $480 million per year – would be dedicated to transportation initiatives. Ten percent, or $54 million annually, would be divided between cities and counties for transportation work.