Wednesday, 8 August 2012

News briefs - Florida, Pakistan, Virginia, Chile, Indonesia

Florida talks about tolling a flyover

Tolling a bridge, tunnel, new highway or new lanes is considered to be feasible and worth considering. What about a simple flyover over a junction? Well Florida DoT is considering just that between the I-95 and SR 202 according to WOKV. The idea is that it could be tolled with free flow electronic tolling, but this certainly would test willingness to pay for a relatively small time saving. Certainly outside peak periods I’d be surprised if many paid at all. However, it is consistent with Florida’s policy of resisting increases in fuel taxation in favour of tolling to the extent practically possible. The bigger question is the extent to which tolls could recover capital costs for such a project when the alternative is so readily available (and the price would have to be very low to attract users).
Pakistan isn't ready for congestion pricing yet

Ahmad Rafay Alam in The Tribune of Pakistan, writes about the chronic condition of traffic congestion in major cities in the country.  He notes how the surfeit of road building has not sustained reductions in congestion as vehicle numbers grow and more people drive.  He also notes the lack of support for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.  Whilst slightly off topic for this blog, I'll particularly note that pedestrians are typically the poorest relation in urban transport policy in developing countries.  It can be a dominant "mode", but it is seen as a mode of the poor and a way of commuting that shouldn't be encouraged.  Wrong.  Since most trips in cities are short trips, it is a perfectly good way of getting around for distances of less than 1km.  It is a key to avoiding traffic congestion and tying up public transport networks with such trips.  It means ensuring footpaths are adequate and clear of too much obstruction. It means having crossing places on roads, including traffic signal crossings for pedestrians, that are enforced and clear.  Building roads or metro lines or bus rapid transit without recognising that everyone is a pedestrian, is going to start a trend that is harder to reverse.  A trend that major modern cities are now trying to reverse. 

The article notes that congestion charging could be a possible solution.  Indeed it could, but without good reliable means to enforce against vehicles that refuse to pay, it is impossible.  Pakistan is still some way away from having the basic information systems and regulatory requirements across vehicle (and vehicle owner) identification, before it can implement congestion pricing.  The first step should be a national vehicle ID programme., with reliable updates of ownership details and means to enforce failures to register or update details.

Virginia announces Transurban to extend I-95 toll lanes

The Washington Post reports that the state of Virginia "has made a formal agreement with private partners to build 29 miles of high-occupancy toll lanes along Interstate 95. Construction is scheduled to begin very soon and should be done by the end of 2014."

"the agreement with 95 Express Lanes LLC, a joint venture between Transurban DRIVe and Fluor Enterprises Inc., covers construction and operation of 29 miles of express lanes on I-95 from Garrisonville Road in Stafford County to Edsall Road in Fairfax County."

The full press release is here.   Key facts from the press release are:

The key components of construction include:
  • Extending nine miles of existing HOV lanes from Dumfries to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County, which alleviate one of the region's worst traffic back ups
  • Expanding existing HOV lanes from two to three lanes for 14 miles between Prince William Parkway to vicinity of Edsall Road on I-395
  • Making operational improvements to the existing two HOV lanes for six miles from Route 234 to Prince William Parkway
  • Adding eight new or improved access points to and from HOV/HOT network at key interchanges
  • Expanding and adding commuter parking lots
Financial and tolling highlights:
  • Project will cost $925 million with 95 Express providing $854 million in funding. This includes an anticipated TIFIA loan of $300 million, which is expected to be available in November 2012
  • VDOT will provide $71 million in public funds, a lower amount than the original estimate of $97 million, due to lower-than-expected financing costs at closing.
  • Tolls will be collected electronically using E-ZPass, including the new E-ZPass Flex, eliminating the need for toll booths
  • HOV-3+, vanpools, motorcycles and buses travel free. Vehicles with one or two people will pay a toll to use the express lanes or ride the general purpose lanes for free. Tolls will vary based on real-time traffic conditions to manage the number of toll-paying customers who choose to enter the express lanes. Most customers are expected to pay to use express lanes only a couple of times a week when they need a faster trip, with a typical trip during rush hour costing between $5 and $6.
  • Project will fund a safety and enforcement program including crews to assist disabled vehicles, incident detection technology and more Virginia State Police. The program is expected to significantly reduce HOV violators. 
 Maps are available here.

Brookfield Infrastructure buys part of Chilean toll road

Canadian Business reports that Canadian firm Brookfield Infrastructure  "and its institutional partners have signed a deal to pay C$590 million (US$589 million) for the 45 per cent stake in the Autopista Vespucio Norte toll road in Chile that they do not already own."  It raises the shareholding to 51%.

Commenting on the road, the firm said   "This Chilean toll road is a key artery in the ring road network surrounding Santiago, and it benefits from an attractive revenue framework whereby tolls escalate annually at inflation plus 3.5 per cent".  In addition it has had compounded annual growth in traffic of around 8% for each of the past three years.

The highway is essentially Santiago's primary northern ring route and is considered by tolling specialists to be very efficiently run, with electronic free flow tolling, and maintained to a very high standard.

RTT News claims that Brookfield is in discussions with Abertis to "create a joint venture to acquire a 60% interest in Obrascon Huarte Lain Brasil S.A. for approximately $1.7 billion, comprised of $1.1 billion of equity and $600 million of assumed liabilities."  Obrascon being a major Spanish toll road concession holder, with roads in Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Peru and Argentina.   Abertis and Brookfield are already bidding for Obrascon's Brazilian toll road assets

Bakrie wants out of toll road business in Indonesia.

Long standing Indonesian business consortium Bakrie Group has announced it is seeking to sell its toll roads business according to the Jakarta Post.

The report states the firm:

"wanted to sell its PT Bakrie Toll Road subsidiary for at least Rp 1.3 trillion (US$137.8 million), an amount equal to the subsidiary’s equity, to settle debts"

Its prime assets include the 35-km Kanci-Pejagan toll road between Cirebon, West Java, and Brebes, Central Java which has been criticised by the Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto for being of "poor quality".  Revenues are not particularly good, but the report concludes that this is largely an effort by the large investment firm, that has ties going well back into the Suharto era, to realise assets to pay down its debt burden and refocus the company (which is predominantly a property development firm) on its core business.

Indonesian state toll road company Jasa Marga has start to the year

The Jakarta Globe reports that state owned toll road operator Jasa Marga had a 30% increase in revenues in the 6 months to July 2012.   Part of this is due to an increase in traffic, with an over 11% increase compared to same period last year attributable to rising car ownership in Indonesia.  It also increased toll rates in Jakarta and Surabaya in response to inflation of around 5% per annum.  However, the result is distorted by Jasa Marga's sale of its shareholding in private toll road operator Citra Marga.  Jasa Marga is responsible for 13 toll roads listed here, plus another eight of which it has a partial shareholding.

Jasa Marga's corporate profile describes it as follows:

Founded on 01 March 1978, Jasa Marga is the pioneer in the development of toll road in Indonesia. With 32 years of experience, the Company remains the market leader in the country's toll road industry. Jagorawi (Jakarta-Bogor-Ciawi) Toll Road is the Company's toll road that marks the milestone in the historical development of Indonesian toll road industry. To date, the Company has operated 531 km toll road representing 72% of the total operating toll roads in the country.

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