Thursday, 29 September 2011

News briefs: Russia, New Zealand, Texas, New York

Russia

The Moscow Times reports that a consortium led by investment company VTB Capital, has won the right to build the 120 rouble (US$4 billion) segment of the Western High Speed Diameter in St. Petersburg.  The 11.5 km northern segment will be tolled.   The consortium includes Russian firm Gazprombank, Italian firm Astaldi and Turkish firm Ictas Insaat.  The concession last for 30 years, with revenue estimated at an average 9.67 billion roubles (US$304 million) per annum, indicating a lucrative return if revenue meets forecasts, although the City of St.Petersburg will be required to compensate if traffic forecasts are not met.  Apparently one of the key reasons for the consortium winning was because its rival wanted a guaranteed 14 billion rouble p.a (US$440 million) from the city.

Tolls remain a growing source of revenue for major new Russian motorways, and PPPs are increasingly of interest as a way to progress such projects.

New Zealand

Following on from the Auckland Mayor, Len Brown, proposing congestion pricing to help fund an underground inner city rail loop, the New Zealand Herald now reports that he is praising the proposal of the contractor lobby ground Council for Infrastructure Development.  The suggestion is that every motorway onramp in the city have a NZ$3 (US$2.33) toll at peak times, NZ$2 (US$1.55)interpeak and NZ$1 (US$0.78) off peak, with a cap of NZ$6 (US$4.66) a day.

It is an interesting idea for a city with three major radial motorways (and a north-west and south-west peripheral ones), but also with short distances between interchanges which could mean quite some diversion onto local roads.  Yet it should still be investigated to determine how much impact it could have on congestion, and revenues.

Texas

Frum Forum reports on how Republican Presidential Contender, Rick Perry, achieved considerable success with his toll road policy as Governor of Texas.  It said:

The secret lies with locally chartered toll road authorities that exist in every major Texas metropolis and were largely created under Perry’s administration. As Perry envisioned with the TTC project, the private sector has played a role. Cintra, the company that would have built the TTC, has built one decent-sized Austin-area road without a dime of public money. It is one of only a handful of enitrely-privately-financed roads in the United States...Most prominently, by opening up new land for development, the new roads have played a role in keeping Texas housing affordable for just about everyone. Today, the typical home in Texas costs less than 3 times the median income; while multiples of 8 or 12 are common in California and New York.

There is enough commentary about Presidential contenders for this blog to stand to one side, but it looks like at the very least, Rick Perry brought a free market approach to toll roads.

New York

The Gothamist writes about whether the increases on tolls on the tolled crossings from New Jersey to New York could be a trojan horse to tolling the remaining crossings.   It floats an idea from ex traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz “His plan would raise all tolls into Manhattan below 60th Street to $13, charge drivers to cross 60th Street from uptown, and impose tolls for the first time on the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Ed Koch Queensboro bridges. The price at other crossings would stay flat or be lowered, to reward drivers who aren’t contributing to Manhattan congestion - reducing tolls at the RFK Triboro, Verrazano Narrows, Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges from $13 to $8.” Then the issue arises as to why some bridges remain free...

Indeed. How can it be politically acceptable for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to increase tolls (without there being any dedication of money to new transport projects), but not toll the other crossings?  It is time for a decent study on the economic and environmental benefits of New York congestion pricing, with multiple scenarios.

USA truck tolling?

The National Review has published an article by Reihan Salam supporting distance based truck tolling, with a voluntary option for cars.  The benefits of it would mostly be in revenue protection, but also far better pricing for freight.  Yet it neglects the benefits of reducing congestion, which only will really be effective if all cars are priced too.  However, to get that far will take a long time, and the merits of starting with trucks are considerable, especially if tolling is priced to reflect economic efficiency combined with usability and practicality.

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