Road news

Florida toll system errs on charges
More than 5,000 E-Pass customers in central Florida, including truckdrivers, have been overbilled at SunPass toll gates since the first of this year, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The problem could exist across the state because the two separate toll systems are not fully compatible yet.

On one occasion, a driver was charged 80 times for one trip through a plaza. Another was billed $21 for a single trip through a plaza. The driver hit for the $21 toll got nailed because a SunPass lane mistakenly thought his vehicle had 15 axles, the newspaper reported.

Since the problem was uncovered, the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority has refunded E-Pass customers who were charged multiple times for one trip through a SunPass lane. Tweaking some computer software reportedly solved the problem.

Ohio looks to alleviate heavy truck traffic on major route
The Ohio Department of Transportation plans to build a new highway in the northwestern part of the state to ease heavy truck traffic on a major route between Toledo and Fort Wayne, IN. The 36-mile stretch would replace U.S. 24 between Defiance and the Indiana state line, primarily running south of the existing highway.

ODOT has yet to decide whether the route would have two or four lanes. Plans have not been finalized to replace the route between Defiance and suburban Toledo. The earliest construction would start in 2006, according to published reports.

Tolls could accompany Louisiana highway
Tollbooths are one of four proposed funding sources for an estimated $400 million project to extend Interstate 49 north of Shreveport, LA. Truckers would pay about $5.60 and passenger vehicles about $2.10 to drive the 35-mile extension of I-49 from Louisiana to Arkansas under a highway funding proposal to be submitted to Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster.

Tolls would charge trucks 16 to 20 cents per mile and passenger vehicles 6 to 7 cents per mile if the plan is approved. Studies are underway to determine the potential traffic count and to set toll rates, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported. Tolls would generate one-third of the cost of I-49’s construction.

Besides additional tolls, the proposal could include revamping the state’s fuel sales tax, which currently charges all drivers 20 cents per gallon. In addition, bonds requiring the state to dedicate future federal highway funds to the I-49 project and federal transportation appropriations, which would require lobbying by state delegates in Washington, DC, to secure federal dollars for the project could also be included.

Again, Arkansas considers toll roads
The Arkansas Highway Commission and members of the state’s congressional delegation met in April to discuss ways to pay for $3 billion worth of unfunded highway needs over the next 10 years. Among the items discussed was a proposal to increase road funds by charging tolls on some bridges and stretches of highway.

The highway department has hired consultants to complete a financing study by May 16, according to published reports. The study will include tolls and other funding options including federal loan programs and public-private partnerships.

The state has 16,367 miles of highway, but ranks 41st in the amount of revenue per mile generated from highway use.

Some projects being considered for toll segments include a proposed 19-mile stretch of U.S. 71 in northwest Arkansas, known as the Bella Vista bypass, the proposed Interstate 49 stretch between Fort Smith and Texarkana, an extension of I-530 from I-69 to Pine Bluff, the U.S. 412 corridor in north Arkansas and several proposed bridges spanning the Mississippi River into Mississippi and Tennessee.

Colorado considers toll lanes near Denver
The Colorado Department of Transportation is looking into building toll lanes down the middle of C-470 to relieve congestion on the highway southwest of Denver. If approved, the C-470 toll-lane project would connect with the E-470 tollway and create a perimeter with tolls three-fourths of the way around the Denver metro area.

Alabama north-south freeway planned
Alabama is planning a major freeway that will run north-south through the western portion of the state, from Mobile to Muscle Shoals. The planned highway is aimed at spurring economic development where many rural counties are among the state’s poorest.

Anti-traffic jam technology?
Kansas and Missouri highway officials are about to build a system that will warn of tie-ups and suggest alternate routes around traffic jams. The project is being touted as among the most ambitious intelligent-transportation projects in the country and is being closely watched by highway officials in other states.

There still will be wrecks, road debris and disabled vehicles to contend with, but the new system will use technology to monitor highways, warn drivers and speed response when things go wrong. “Kansas City Scout” is a partnership between the Missouri and Kansas transportation departments and eventually will include more than 200 miles of highway.

The system will use hundreds of sensors and video cameras to keep track of traffic flow along main highways. The information will be fed by fiberoptic cable to an operations center in Lee’s Summit, MO.

“If a mattress falls off the back of a truck, we will know within a minute or a minute and half that something is there, because there will be a sudden slowdown in operations on the highway,” Sabin Yanez, the intelligent-transportation system coordinator for Kansas City Scout, told the Kansas City Star.

Cameras will be used to view what is causing the slowdown and then the appropriate agencies will be contacted to take care of the situation. On the road, drivers will be alerted by electronic message boards and radio broadcasts.

Construction is expected to begin in September on the project’s first phase, which includes 65 miles of road. The estimated cost for the first phase is $40 million.

– by Keith Goble