Surface Transportation News: Louisiana I-10 bridge P3 approved, after all
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Surface Transportation Innovations Newsletter

Surface Transportation News: Louisiana I-10 bridge P3 approved, after all

Plus: A case for hybrid vehicles, new approaches to express lanes enforcement, and more.

In this issue:

Louisiana I-10 Bridge P3 Approved, After All

On Jan. 30, the Louisiana Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee voted overwhelmingly to approve the $2.1 billion revenue-risk public-private partnership (P3) project to replace the obsolete bridge over the Calcasieu River, which it had narrowly defeated back in Oct. 2023. The same Plenary-led team will design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the new state-of-the-art bridge, financed partly by toll revenue. How did this apparent miracle come about?

First, there was a state governance change: a new Republican governor and a new Secretary of Transportation and Development, Joe Donahue. Initial speculation was that, because the bridge public-private partnership had been championed by a Democratic administration, the project would not be revived. That turned out to be wrong. I have no inside information, but it seems obvious that the new state administration and the P3 team renegotiated the terms of the 50-year concession agreement. Based on the presentation given by Secretary Donahue to the Joint Transportation Committee, the parties agreed that toll rates had to come down, which means that with the project still costing $2.1 billion, the state would have to kick in more funding to make the numbers work.

Donahue’s summary presentation explained the negotiated changes. On toll rates, a new category of “local vehicles” was added, under which residents of the five parishes in the Calcasieu River area will pay only 25 cents per crossing; this applies to non-commercial vehicles of any size. All other personal vehicles will pay the original $2.50 transponder/$3.75 non-transponder rate. Second, the toll rates for large trucks were reduced from $12.50 to $8.25 for transponder users and from $18.73 to $12.36 for non-transponder. The toll rates are, of course, indexed to the Consumer Price Index.

To compensate for the reduced toll revenue, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) agreed to increase state funding from the original $800 million amount by an additional $409 million. But the parties also agreed to a revenue-sharing agreement, under which the DOTD will receive approximately 15% of any profit the P3 company realizes from tolls. Some long-term design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM) P3 projects in Texas and Virginia have similar revenue-sharing provisions, as a potential return on the state’s investment in the public-private partnership.

I can only speculate on what motivated the new administration to make this successful effort to save the $2.1 billion bridge replacement from being abandoned. DOTD’s own studies showed that a state-led toll bridge would take longer and might not have the same 50 years’ worth of guaranteed maintenance. And without using toll finance, replacing that obsolete bridge could not have been done for many years. It’s very encouraging to see the bipartisan support for this much-needed project in Louisiana.

This is Louisiana’s second revenue-based DBFOM P3 project, the first being the much smaller Belle Chasse Bridge project near New Orleans, now well along in construction. A few years from now it will be time to figure out how to finance and build the new Mississippi River bridge at Baton Rouge, which has already been designated as a toll bridge. It’s an obvious candidate for another DBFOM P3.

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A Possible Case for Hybrid Vehicles

Have national governments made a mistake by prioritizing the shift of all motor vehicles to electric propulsion over the next two decades? Let’s begin with a set of recent Wall Street Journal headlines:

These are just a few articles from a highly respected news source. They suggest that perhaps electric vehicles (EVs) and the infrastructure they require are not actually ready for prime time.

Another reason to question the all-out push for vehicle electrification is the likely impossibility of both replacing two-thirds of electricity generation that relies on fossil fuels and adding 40% to total electricity generation and distribution during the same two-decade period. A Wall Street Journal editorial added to this point based on an International Energy Agency assessment that to meet net-emissions goals worldwide will require 49.7 million miles of new transmission lines to be built and operational by 2040.

With that as a preface, let’s turn to a provocative commentary by auto industry technology expert Michael L. Sena from the Feb. 2024 issue of his newsletter The Dispatcher. As a more realistic path toward net zero emissions, Sena suggests:

“Instead of wasting billions of dollars and euros building electric charging stations and turning over money to consumers to purchase EVs, and instead of creating one more giant user of electricity that is forcing more countries to burn carbon to produce their electricity, governments should mandate today the sale of only hybrid vehicles.”

While I’m not in favor of government mandates such as that, I think Sena raises a very important question. If achieving net-zero cars and trucks by 2040 is nowhere close to possible—due to both lack of anywhere near enough electricity and the still-not-mature EV technology—governments might well do better to focus carbon-reduction efforts on more achievable targets over the next two decades.

In a long article headlined “It’s Still Not Too Late to Correct Our Course,” Sena provides a history of hybrid automobiles, dating back to early hybrids from pioneers like Ferdinand Porsche, a short-lived federal program in the late 1960s under which Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors produced hybrid prototypes, and a later federal Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles which led to larger hybrid prototypes from the Detroit big three. Nothing came of those, but Toyota began a serious hybrid development program in 1993, as did Honda. The 1999 Honda Insight and the 2000 Toyota Prius were the first production hybrids on the US market. Today, Toyota has sold six million Prius vehicles worldwide and 11 million other hybrids.

This is now a mature technology. And as Sena also points out, in 2023 pure hybrids outsold pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs) by a small margin worldwide. Judging from automotive publications, the current appeal of hybrids stems from their significantly lower price for a comparable-size vehicle, absence of charging hassles, and much higher fuel economy than internal combustion engines, depending on the model. They significantly reduce vehicle emissions, though definitely not as much as BEVs.

The bottom line for government policymakers is this: There is a finite amount of tax money available for reducing the carbon intensity of modern society. Since 100% vehicle electrification within 20 years is simply not achievable, might it make better sense to focus on a shift from ICEs to hybrids while putting scarce resources into investments that would produce more bang for the buck? Perhaps perfecting carbon capture and storage, accelerating small modular nuclear reactors, research and demonstration projects on geoengineering, etc. As the Rolling Stones sang in their classic Stairway to Heaven, “There are two paths you can go on, in the long run; there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” 

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A New Approach to Express Lanes Enforcement

Motorists stealing the time-saving benefits of express toll lanes (ETLs) is a real problem for departments of transportation (DOTs) and public-private partnership operators of congestion-busting managed lanes. Enforcement by highway patrols is costly and largely ineffective (e.g., how and where does the highway patrol pull over an offender?) so it is seldom even attempted. Until recently, Colorado DOT had a huge problem with non-paying motorists “crossing the line” into ETLs, especially on its I-70 Mountain Express Lane and the toll lanes on stretches of I-25 and C-470. But recently- installed technology has made a huge difference. These illegal intrusions were also causing an alarming number of crashes, especially on the I-25 express toll lanes.

I learned about this last month at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting, via a presentation by Kelly Brown, chief toll operations officer of the Colorado Transportation Investment Office (CTIO). Her 23-slide PowerPoint described the new technology that has dramatically reduced “crossing the line” illegally into CDOT’s express toll lanes. She recounted a “chance meeting” at the 2020 TRB annual meeting at which she discovered a start-up company called Blissway, headquartered in the Denver area. Its tech solution is called Wireless Autonomous Lane Enforcer (WAL-E). After CDOT ran summer pilot tests and decided that the technology did what it promised, in 2021, CTIO sought support for enforcement legislation from the governor’s office and key legislators. Colorado House Bill 1074, enabling the use of WAL-E for enforcement, was signed by Gov. Jared Polis in March 2022.

Here’s how it works. Solar-powered WAL-E units are installed at key points alongside ETLs, mounted either on the ground or on a jersey barrier, if available. The unit uses both optical and infrared cameras and detects vehicles via a magnetometer rather than needing loops buried in the pavement. Typical installation time is 45 minutes or less. The unit detects each vehicle and records the license plate number, so that CTIO can determine if it is a violator and who is the vehicle’s owner. CTIO can then proceed with enforcement measures. WAL-E was installed on the Mountain ETL in June 2023, on C-470 and I-25 North in Sept. 2023, and will go live on I-70 Central and I-25 South in June 2024.

The new safety enforcement program (SEP) initially provides a 30-day grace period after WAL-E installation on a corridor. Thereafter, there is a $75 civil penalty if paid within 20 days; it becomes $150 if unpaid. The law provides for online dispute resolution and administrative law court hearings. And the ultimate sanction for repeat offenders who refuse to pay is a “hold” on renewing vehicle registration by the DMV.

Brown reported some results of the initial SEP. She said their data show that 86% of drivers corrected their behavior after one violation. While 49% pay ($75) within 20 days and another 9% pay ($150), 42% aren’t paying at all (and 8% of those who pay are not changing their behavior). Overall, thus far SEP has led to a 60% reduction in the violation rate. By end-2023, the revenue from fines totaled $5.95 million. That revenue stays with CTIO, which will use it to support safety improvements in the ETLs.

Another interesting aspect of WAL-E is that Blissway does not sell the WAL-E units to the ETL operator. Instead, the company’s contract calls for it to receive a small portion of the revenue from the fines, which I see as reflecting confidence that the system will effectively identify violators from whom the SEP will collect.

This is a pioneering new answer to the problem of enforcing payment in express toll lanes. I expect it will find a large audience, as networks of ETLs continue to grow.

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Rail Automation Could Spur Freight Transport Competition
By Marc Scribner

On Jan. 2, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requested comments on a proposed pilot program involving autonomous electric railcars on 160 miles of track owned by two Georgia short-line railroads. The technology is designed to move intermodal containers over short distances, a freight market in which trucks have traditionally dominated. If successful, shippers could benefit greatly from a new dimension of competition in the movement of the highest-value freight.

Rail automation, more broadly, is likely critical to rail’s continued ability to compete with trucking, which is anticipated to become increasingly automated in the coming decades. Unfortunately, the Federal Railroad Administration, in recent years, has shown more interest in labor featherbedding than in supporting the future of railroading.

Last August, the two short-line railroads owned by Genesee & Wyoming (G&W)—the Georgia Central Railway and Heart of Georgia Railroad—submitted a petition to test new rail technology developed by Parallel Systems. Parallel was founded in 2020 by two former SpaceX engineers and has developed battery-electric, self-propelled railcars designed to transport standard shipping containers.

Parallel’s autonomous railcars are individually powered and controlled but can be directed to form platoons. Unlike traditional trains, Parallel’s railcars won’t be mechanically coupled together when operating in a platoon formation. Instead, they are equipped with bumpers and will touch one another but remain individually controlled. This allows Parallel’s container-laden railcars to enjoy the aerodynamic benefits of a train while reducing the required stopping distance by 90%.

According to the FRA waiver petition, G&W believes Parallel’s technology will allow its smaller railroads to compete in local container markets that are today generally unserved by rail. In freight railroading, the “500-mile rule” is usually the beginning of where rail can effectively compete with trucks, which dominate the short-haul market because of their more rapid cycle times and more direct routing. By behaving more like a truck but on steel wheels and rails, Parallel railcars would introduce a new dimension of freight competition that is impossible with conventional trains.

This would greatly benefit short-line railroads and their customers. The waiver petition also cites several other potential social benefits, including:

  • Reduced container transportation by truck, which would reduce wear-and-tear on public roadways, traffic congestion, crashes, local air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Improved quality of life for residents living near container terminals and truck routes; and
  • Increased location choice for distribution centers, which would enhance the resilience of logistics chains.

To carry out its proposed seven-phase test of Parallel’s technology, G&W’s short-line railroads have requested that FRA temporarily suspend dozens of regulatory provisions. This reflects how different Parallel’s railcars and operations are from conventional rail equipment and movements.

These differences may work to G&W’s and Parallel’s advantage. FRA under the Biden administration has taken a dim view of automation when applied to conventional freight trains. The evidence strongly suggests this has less to do with FRA’s statutory safety mission and more to do with the Biden administration’s alliance with organized labor.

At the beginning of January, FRA submitted a final rule on train crew size to the Office of Management and Budget for review. This is the last procedural step before FRA can finalize the regulations it proposed in July 2022 that aim to limit the use of single-person freight train crews. As Reason Foundation noted in comments to FRA opposing this proposed rule, the agency has presented no evidence that single-person train crews using mandated automation and communications technologies are less safe than two-person crews, with single-person crews long being the default in many peer countries.

However, while on the campaign trail in June 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden explicitly promised in a special video for rail union executives that, if elected, he would be “requiring two-person crews on freight trains…to get [unions] the thanks, respect, and opportunities that [they] so richly deserve.” As is often the case, politics trumped policy.

In another concession to organized labor, the Biden FRA reversed course on automated track inspection (ATI) technology when a union representing track inspectors objected. After it abruptly shut down ATI test programs that multiple major railroads had been advancing and refused to extend waiver petitions, BNSF Railway sued FRA in March 2022 alleging the agency’s decision was arbitrary and capricious.

A year later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found in BNSF’s favor and vacated FRA’s decision, allowing the agency to “articulate a satisfactory explanation.” On remand in June 2023, FRA again denied BNSF’s waiver petition. BNSF challenged the second waiver denial in August on the same grounds and the case remains pending in the Fifth Circuit. These actions, along with an Aug. 2023 ATI status report to Congress, suggest the Biden FRA is likely to continue to bureaucratically slow-walk ATI implementation absent forceful congressional or judicial intervention.

The Parallel Systems test program proposed by two of G&W’s short-line railroads in Georgia ought to avoid being caught up in labor politics for the simple reason that the proposed use case would create new opportunities for rail service rather than improve the efficiency of existing service. As such, there is no plausible claim that future technology deployments would supplant unionized rail workers. Nevertheless, it remains deeply troubling that a safety regulatory agency has seemingly been captured by special interests and commandeered to oppose safety-enhancing technology. Robust congressional oversight of the Federal Railroad Administration is sorely needed.

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A Mostly On-Target Grant Program
By Baruch Feigenbaum 

Transportation discretionary grants are not a new phenomenon. The grants were first popularized in the George W. Bush administration with the Urban Partnership Program and the Congestion Reduction Demonstration Program. The Obama administration created the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, originally as supplemental spending during the Great Recession.

President Joe Biden’s Undersecretary of Transportation, Polly Trottenberg, has long been a proponent of discretionary grants. She created the TIGER program while serving in the Obama administration. However, annual transportation appropriations funding is limited. Most transportation funding is based on formulas created in the surface transportation reauthorization bill. Therefore, the White House and congressional transportation leaders on the appropriations and transportation committees made expanding grants a priority in the latest reauthorization bill. 

They were rewarded when Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the current bill, which authorized more than $150 billion for grants over a five-year period. Discretionary grants comprise 10% of the total funding. In previous surface transportation bills, discretionary grant funds amounted to a rounding error.

This new funding has supersized several existing grant programs. For example, the 2024 Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program (previously known as TIGER and the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD)) program awarded $1.5 billion this past year

Any funded federal discretionary grant project should meet the following standards. First, it should fund projects that are federal in nature. An Interstate highway widening, a port deepening project, and an airport landside improvement project are federal. A local bus electrification project, a bridge replacement on a local road, and a sidewalk extension are not. Second, the project must be related to transportation. A roadway that transports commuters from home to work is transportation-related. A trail that is used primarily for recreational purposes is not.

I’ve previously examined the Biden administration SMART grants, 2021 RAISE grants, and 2022 RAISE grants. The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) and Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) programs funded a number of very questionable projects. This time, my focus is the recent INFRA Grants. 

The Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program awarded almost $3 billion to 28 projects for the 2023-2024 years combined. What makes the INFRA grants unique is that they are supposed to fund projects that are not competitive for funding under other discretionary or formula programs. The table below details each of the projects.

2023-2024 INFRA Grants








AARC Bridge Replacement

Alaska Railroad Corp.


Replace aging rail bridge




Gila River I-10 Project

Pinal County, AZ


Widen I-10 to six lanes




Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind

Humboldt County, CA


Marine terminal for wind turbines




San Dieguito Bridge Replacement

North County Transit District


Replace and double track railway bridge

Local Rail Bridge



I-76 Reconstruction

Morgan County, CO


Rebuild highway, replace bridges




US 160 Safety and Mobility

La Plata County, CO


Widen US 160




East Capital Street Safety and Mobility

District of Columbia


Improve street transit, pedestrians

Local Road



I-4 Truck Parking

Florida Department of Transportation


Add truck parking spaces




East River Terminal Berth Replacement

Georgia Ports Authority


Replace port and vessel berths




Hawaii Belt Road Bridges Rehabilitation

Hawaii Department of Transportation


Replace deteriorating bridges




Randall Road Grade Separation

Kane County, IL


Grade separation

Local Road



Southeast Connector

Des Moines, IL


New alignment




Louisiana International Terminal

Port of New Orleans


New container terminal




US 169 Rural Safety

Sherburne County, MN


Grade separated interchange




Blatnik Bridge Replacement



Bridge replacement




The Improve I-70 Program



Widen I-70




Mineral County I-90 Improvement Project



Rebuild I-90




I-80 Odessa to Kearney

Nebraska DOT


Rebuild I-80




Elko Nevada Rail Corridor Enhancement Project

Nevada DOT


Freight rail improvements




Route 168 Reconstruction



Roadway improvements

Local Road



Logistics Lane



Port Access




Hood River Bridge Replacement

Hood River—White Salmon Bridge Authority


Replacement bridge




ABE Airport Logistics

Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority


Multimodal cargo facility




Packer Avenue Marine Terminal Connector

Philadelphia Regional Port Authority


New bridge




Connecting the I-95 Missing Ramps



New on/off ramps




SD 73 Reconstruction



Rebuild SR 73




I-5 Truck Parking Information



Regional truck parking information system




I-90 Rest Area

Wisconsin DOT


Truck Parking




Overall, these grants do a much better job of funding federal transportation needs than the SMART and RAISE grants.

This program is meeting its objective of funding projects that cannot be funded by other programs. For example, new port expansion projects typically require an earmark to be funded. But four INFRA grants funded expansion of a ro-ro port in Georgia, a container port in Louisiana, and improvements to smaller ports in Ohio and Pennsylvania. This is a novel use of funding for needed infrastructure.

This program also funded several innovative projects such as Florida DOT’s Truck Parking grant. It is great to see a state transportation department rewarded for a plan to solve one of the biggest current transportation problems—having sufficient truck parking in urban and suburban corridors.

The program also awarded funding to DOTs focused on the core goal of Interstate rebuilding and widening. Reason Foundation has identified Interstate reconstruction as one of the most important tasks for all state transportation departments. The fact that five DOTs received funds for reconstruction is heartening.

Of the 19 highway projects, 15 are federal in purpose. The Hawaii project is not interstate in nature. But it addresses a deficient, critical roadway making it a good use of funding. The remaining three local roadway projects, the East Capital Street project in D.C., the Randal Road Grade Separation in Illinois, and the Route 168 reconstruction in New Jersey, would be better funded by local governments.

The program also funded three rail improvements. One is for the Alaska Railroad. The railroad is not a federal project, nor is it a particularly good use of federal funding. But it does check the best project we can find in the Alaska box. Worse projects in Alaska have been funded before.

The Elko Rail project provides public funding to a private rail project, something new at the federal level. I’ve not seen the justification for why this project needs public funding. Finally, the San Dieguito Bridge Replacement serves local, not national, rail needs.

It wouldn’t be a federal discretionary grant program without one award to a real clunker of a project. In this case, a grant provides almost $500 million for a marine terminal that has the sole purpose of building wind turbines for an offshore wind farm in California. I realize that the Biden administration has environmental goals but there should be plenty of other revenue sources, from both the general fund and the Environmental Protection Agency, for this project. Tapping funds from a transportation program for something that is clearly not transportation is borderline insulting to taxpayers and illustrates how federal discretionary programs are used as a way to fund projects not related to transportation. 

Overall, this is the best round of grants I have seen from this administration. Let’s hope the Biden administration continues to fund more Interstate widening projects and fewer recreational trails to nowhere. 

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Book Sheds New Light on U.S. Urban Transit

Cliff Slater has written an eye-opening book about U.S. urban transit. Since I am one of a dozen or so people cited in the front of the book as having been helpful to him over the years on transportation questions, I will acknowledge being friends with Cliff since the early 1980s. This review is not based on friendship but on my estimation of the fresh light the book sheds on transit systems that are poised on the threshold of major changes.

Slater’s book is titled Transit: Its Growth, Decline, and Pending Demise (Booklocker, 2024). The focus is almost entirely on U.S. transit, with occasional comparisons to transit in the United Kingdom. It’s really two books in one. Parts I through IV are historical, covering transit growth (1831-1923), the automotive revolution to 1923, the roller coaster years 1923-1946, and turmoil (1946-1983). Those chapters tell a story of changes in technologies, from horsecars 1850-1885, to electric streetcars 1888-1923, and then on to motor buses and jitneys in the 1920s. A lot of this was familiar ground to me, having read books like Streetcar Suburbs, histories of the red car system in Los Angeles and the privately franchised subway companies in New York City.

Slater is a data maven, and the book includes 29 figures and 36 tables, drawn almost entirely from either federal data sources or from industry organizations such as the predecessor of today’s American Public Transportation Association. The data clearly show that peacetime U.S. transit ridership (then mostly streetcars and some buses) peaked in 1926, and only grew again during World War II when gasoline was rationed and no new cars were being built. The data from the 1930s shows unequivocally that motor buses (as they were called then) were faster and less costly than streetcars and that buses were rapidly replacing streetcars until the start of the war. And once the war was over, transit ridership plunged and new generations of diesel buses continued replacing streetcars, for sound economic reasons.

Only when it comes to part V, called Renaissance, do we get serious policy questions along with increased data. This section tells the story of how Congress was persuaded that transit systems were failing and that federal aid to enable them to replace ancient streetcars would lead to a transit renaissance. Slater cites the arguments made by transportation economists John Meyer (Harvard and Yale), John Kain (Havard), and Martin Wohl (Carnegie) in a 1962 book for the federal Office of Technology Assessment and in their highly regarded follow-up, The Urban Transportation Problem (1965) They had a decidedly different view from those who believed a transit renaissance would follow federal funding. They emphasized that suburbanization had already changed the role of traditional downtowns, and that flashy new transit could not bring it back. Slater cites quite a few other transportation economists such as Melvin Webber of the University of California, Berkeley, and George Hilton of UCLA, some of whom testified before congressional committees explaining why the envisioned transit renaissance was highly unlikely.

And, of course, Slater discusses and debunks the infamous 1974 Snell hearings, in which Senate staffer Bradford Snell set forth the idea that a conspiracy of General Motors and several other companies destroyed “more than 100 electric streetcar systems in 45 cities.” Slater’s scholarly debunking of this legend was published in the journal Transportation Quarterly in 2003 and is summarized in the book, following the detailed history of cities eagerly replacing run-down streetcars with faster, more flexible, and less expensive buses.

In Part V, Slater uses an array of detailed tables and figures to document how massive federal transit funding failed to restore pre-war central business districts and particularly failed “to get people out of their cars.” His numbers—all from federal sources—show that federally funded light rail and heavy rail systems cost a lot more than promised and, in most cases, delivered far less ridership. Some of the numbers in these tables, such as subsidies per boarding in different modes of transit will be news to even many well-informed transportation nerds. And as for large-scale heavy rail systems (like BART in San Francisco and the Red Line in Los Angeles) reducing congestion on their respective freeways, Slater cites urban planners’ making this impossible by approving huge increases in urban core density, which sparked enough additional auto commuting to offset any traffic reduction that heavy rail might have brought about.

I’ve only hit a few highlights of this eye-opening new book. I will close with a news note to me from the author. He says that Amazon is refusing to fill orders for the book from Hawaii, where Cliff lives, and where he has been an opponent of the $5.3 billion 20-mile elevated rail project, still only 75% built since construction began in 2010 and now estimated to cost $12.4 billion. There’s more about this online at

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News Notes

Brightline West Nears Full Financing
The 218-mile high-speed rail project linking Las Vegas with the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station in the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles is nearing completion of its $12 billion financing plan, with the latest addition being a January authorization for $2.5 billion in tax-exempt private activity bonds (PABs). Previous 2023 news included a $3 billion federal Intercity Passenger Rail grant for this public-private partnership project. Infralogic reports that the company has begun field work along its planned right of way in the median of I-15. The company is aiming to have the project in service in time for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. The promised top speed of the electric-powered trains is 185 miles per hour.

Port New Orleans P3 Highway Connector Under Study
The Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) board last month voted to hire WSP to study the feasibility of a long-term public-private partnership (P3) for a planned elevated highway corridor to link the planned $1.8 billion Louisiana International Terminal (LIT) with I-510, providing a direct link between the port and the Interstate highway system. The new corridor will be known as the St. Bernard Transportation Corridor.

Potential New Investors in Colorado’s Northwest Parkway
News that DIF Capital Partners is reducing its share in ownership of the 99-year P3 concession under which the toll road is operated and managed has drawn the interest of several major transportation firms. Infralogic reports that Abertis, Globalvia, and Transurban are interested. Last fall DIF hired Evercore to assist it in selling its stake in the concession. The Northwest Parkway is a link in the beltway around Denver, which still has a missing link, dubbed the Jefferson Parkway. Were that link implemented, traffic and revenue of the Northwest Parkway would be significantly increased.

Daimler Trucks and Uber Freight Planning Trucking EV Corridors
FleetOwner in December reported that Daimler Truck North America’s “Greenlane” project to develop truck charging and hydrogen fuel cell corridors is working with data from Uber Freight to identify promising freight corridors for such facilities. The first identified corridors will be in Southern California, the Texas Triangle, and the Northeast. Greenlane is a $650 million joint venture of Daimler Truck, NextEra Energy Resources, and financial firm Blackrock.

Florida Completes $1.6 Billion Tollway Through Nature Reserve
The final 25-mile link in the beltway around Orlando was completed last month. The Wekiva Parkway links I-4 in the east with several tolled expressways in the western suburbs. The project was authorized by 2004 state legislation that made preserving the adjoining state nature reserve and state park a pre-condition. Much of the east-west section through the reserve is elevated. The Wekiva Parkway was a joint effort of Florida DOT and the Central Florida Expressway Authority and spans portions of Lake, Orange, and Seminole Counties.

Los Angeles Transit P3 Project Gets Federal Grant
The Inglewood Transit Connector is a $2 billion 1.6-mile project that will connect an existing light-rail transit line to the newly-developed sports and entertainment complex in Inglewood, just to the east of Los Angeles International Airport. The project won a $1 billion Federal Transit Administration New Starts Grant in December, adding to a $407 million state grant and $230 million in local transportation sales tax funds. Three private-sector teams have been short-listed for the project, and the winner will presumably finance the remaining $363 million.

Electric Trucks for Ports Lead the Industry
FleetOwner reports that Class 8 “yard trucks” used in large ports are “the most electrifiable heavy-duty trucking applications.” The lead company that has pioneered this market segment is startup Orange EV. Since its first sale in 2015, the company delivered its 1000th electric yard truck in Nov. 2022. As of June 2023, there were 1,134 electric yard tractors in service at U.S. ports, outpacing 867 over-the-road heavy electric trucks. Orange EV says that its yard trucks offer 90% fuel savings and eliminate diesel exhaust emissions of conventional yard trucks.

New Express Lanes Open in Denver
On Jan. 17, the new express toll lanes opened on I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock—the so-called South Gap. The lanes will operate 24/7 and the variable tolls will range between 70 cents and $2.00. Carpools of three or more with a switchable high-occupancy vehicle transponder will not have to pay. The same express toll passes used on the express toll lanes on US 36, Central 70, North and Central I-25, C-470, E-470, I-70 Mountain Corridor, and the Northwest Parkway will work on the South Gap lanes.

Georgia Peach Pass Now Works in 10 More States
Thanks to a partnership agreement with E-ZPass, Georgia’s State Road and Tollway Authority last month announced that its Peach Pass toll transponder is now accepted in 18 states, ranging as far north as New Hampshire, as far west as Minnesota, and as far south as Florida.

Political Interference in Tolling Proposed in Virginia
Two Virginia House members have introduced bills that would interfere with existing tolling policies. House Bill 135 would require operators of high-occupancy toll lanes to give free passage to disabled veterans with disabled-veterans license plates. And HB 811 would limit the amount of toll charges to any individual in any given month to no more than $200.

Kansas Turnpike Shifting to Per-Mile Tolling
The Kansas Turnpike Authority will soon shift to a per-mile tolling system, which anticipates the eventual shift to per-mile charges, called road user charges (RUCs) in western states. The rates will vary by the number of axles and whether the vehicle has a registered transponder. For two-axle vehicles, the rate for those with a K-Tag transponder is 4.8 cents per mile, while those choosing license-plate billing will be charged double that, reflecting the much higher cost of collection for tolls that must be billed.

Two More States Confront Diminishing Fuel Tax Revenue
Oklahoma DOT’s Road User Charge Task Force last month recommended that the state phase in a per-mile charging system to replace shrinking motor fuel tax revenue. The recommendation, made after analysis of an RUC pilot project, will be submitted to the legislature. And in their current session, Florida legislators are concerned about shrinking fuel tax revenues and electric vehicles paying nothing. The most likely near-term legislation would impose an annual $200 registration fee on EVs. Florida has not yet had a mileage-based user fee pilot project.

Pilot and General Motors Team Up for EV Charging Network
Pilot Travel Centers, General Motors, and EVgo recently opened their first 17 electric vehicle charging network locations, including at least one in each of 13 states. EV motorists will find the same amenities as at Pilot and Flying J travel centers, in addition to EV charging facilities. Features include multiple fast-charging stalls, canopies over the chargers, pull-through stalls to accommodate EVs towing trailers, and access to restrooms, food and beverage options, plus free wi-fi. The team plans to have 200 locations in operation by the end of 2024.

Oklahoma Turnpike to Widen All of Turner Turnpike
This year will mark the beginning of a multi-year project to widen all of the Turner Turnpike to three lanes each way. This is part of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s 15-year $5 billion ACCESS Oklahoma plan. The project is expected to take at least six years.

New FHWA Planning Tool
The Federal Highway Administration has released the Contracting Alternatives Suitability Evaluator, called CASE Webtool. The idea is to enable highway project planners to evaluate different procurement methods (such as design-bid-build, design-build, design-build-finance, and design-build-finance-operate-maintain). Infrastructure law firm Nossaman has provided an introduction to this tool.

Road Usage Charge Guide
A National Cooperative Highway Research Program project has developed a guide to the transition from per-gallon taxes to per-mile charges. The Road Usage Charge Guide is available as NCHRP WebResource 2 at

Safety Guide for High-Occupancy Lanes
Another NCHRP project has produced a detailed 136-page book, Safety Prediction Model for Freeway Facilities with High Occupancy Lanes. A PDF of this book is available.

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Quotable Quotes

“[Federal support of public transportation operating expenses would] open the flood gates. Moving a few essential workers to and from jobs in big buses at shift change times while keeping those buses running empty so as to maintain full employment of those drivers while those essential workers are performing their essential roles is a very expensive way to provide those few rides. If the objective is to have the public subsidize the provision of high-quality affordable mobility [for this purpose], then one should examine all modal alternatives. Under such scrutiny Uber/Lyft/taxi/Via/Waymo may well demonstrate better ‘supply-side productivity’ and would deserve to win the federal operating support that should NOT be earmarked for the local transit agency.”
—Alain Kornhauser, “Federal Support of Public Transit Operating Expenses,”, Jan. 20, 2024

“Will one of President Biden’s legacies be that he set in motion a force that destroyed one of the most successful companies the country has ever produced? Everything that Waymo does, and all the inputs and support it receives from Google’s businesses, are of one piece. This is true of all Google’s businesses. Waymo cannot survive if it gets spun out on its own with no connections back to the Google mother ship. That would leave the U.S. at the complete mercy of China, Inc. with all the data from vehicles equipped with China, Inc. driverless kit flowing back to clouds tethered to hosts in China.”
—Michael Sena, “The Real Case for Driverless Mobility,” The Dispatcher, Jan. 2024

“The same week brought forth a new study from one of the most venerable of climate warriors, former NASA scientist James Hansen, whose own brand of discordance throws the climate crowd into a tizzy of cognitive dissonance. Warming will be worse, his paper predicts, for an ironic reason: our success in reducing particulate exhaust from vehicles and power sources has reduced the atmospheric aerosols that slow warming. Mr. Hansen champions nuclear power, which remains anathema to many greens, and research into using aerosols artificially to cool the planet, even more anathema, since it doesn’t involve a giant convulsion of green socialism.”
—Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., “The Earth Is Warming but Is CO2 the Cause?” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 4, 2023

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