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Five-Month Update: State of U.S. Transportation During COVID-19

By early August, weekly transactions on The Toll Roads recovered to approximately 1.3 million or nearly 70 percent of pre-COVID transactions

Washington, D.C. - August 26, 2020

(This is a press release of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association that includes information about and provided by the Transportation Corridor Agencies.)

The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), the worldwide association for the owners and operators of toll facilities and the businesses that serve tolling, reports that many of America’s major roadways continue to experience significant impacts from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  

Five months after a national emergency was declared on March 13th and three months since IBTTA held its briefing on “The State of U.S. Transportation During the COVID-19 Pandemic” in May, national, state and regional transportation leaders offer an update on how the pandemic continues to impact traffic, revenues, and is reshaping operations for many of the country’s most important and iconic transportation systems.  

“Transportation has seen many catastrophic events in our history from the 1989 Bay Area Earthquake to September 11th, and Superstorm Sandy, but the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on transportation systems across the globe is a different beast altogether,” said Patrick D. Jones, Executive Director and CEO of IBTTA.

Samuel Johnson, IBTTA President and Interim CEO of the Transportation Corridor Agencies in Irvine, California said, “Tolled roads, bridges, and tunnels throughout the country have seen a dramatic reduction of traffic over the last five months, and while we are seeing some increase in volume,  projecting when traffic will return to pre-pandemic levels is extremely challenging. The pandemic has presented monumental challenges and opportunities in planning for the rebalancing of demand across modes including transit and especially with teleworking achieving recognition as a strong and viable alternative. These changes in mode choice will likely shift over the next couple of years but the tolling industry will continue to be a strong contributor to the movement of goods and people.”

From traffic patterns, behavioral adaptations of drivers, changes to back-office operational systems, and budget constraints leading to difficult decisions about capital improvement projects, the COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping tolling and transportation as we know it.  

Transportation leaders from across the country in charge of operations on some of the country’s most important and iconic transportation systems provided updates on the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on mobility:

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

COVID Traffic Update: From April 1–7, 2020, traffic was down 60 percent, and continued to decline to 65 percent by mid-April. August 1–7, 2020, traffic volume was down 14 percent. These percentages relate to the same time periods in 2019.

  • “In a world that will have more telecommuting and some shift of transit riders to driving, we’re in a position where we will be serving a growing number of motorists that travel less frequently and we will need to find ways to embrace them as customers. Focusing on how we evolve and transform our approach to the business may end up serving us much better than just focusing on how we recover,” said Mark Muriello, Deputy Director of Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

New Jersey Turnpike

COVID Traffic Update: From March 28–April 3, 2020, traffic was down 69 percent on the New Jersey Turnpike and 64% on the Garden State Parkway. August 1–7, 2020, traffic volume was down 27% percent on the New Jersey Turnpike and 23% on the Garden State Parkway. For the period April 1–April 7, traffic was down 68.7% on the Atlantic City Expressway. For the period August 1–7, traffic was down 25.2% on the Atlantic City Expressway. These percentages relate to the same time periods in 2019.

Pennsylvania Turnpike

COVID Traffic Update: From April 1–7, 2020, traffic was down 63.3 percent. August 1–7, 2020, traffic volume was down 22.9 percent. These percentages relate to the same time periods in 2019.

  • “As we started this pandemic, our traffic revenues were down nearly 62 percent. Today, those traffic revenues remain down around 26.7 percent. From March through June, PA Turnpike toll revenues have dropped nearly $160 million compared to last year. Based on the information we have today, the Turnpike’s revenues may not come back for two years — and traffic may not recover for four to five years. Those projections may change, but today that’s where we stand,” said, CEO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and First-Vice President of IBTTA.

Ohio Turnpike

COVID Traffic Update: From April 1–7, 2020, traffic was down 49.44 percent. August 1–7, 2020, traffic volume was down 15.80 percent. These percentages relate to the same time periods in 2019.

  • “While the future of the Ohio Turnpike is bright, we have many changes and opportunities before us to consider and implement long-term. By delivering essential goods during the pandemic, truck drivers kept our turnpike going when passenger traffic was down about 70 percent at times over the last four months. Truck traffic was down only about 18 percent. We continue to operate our turnpike service plazas to make sure truck drivers have clean and safe facilities with amenities like hot showers, laundry, food and beverages,” said Ferzan M. Ahmed, P.E., Executive Director, Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission and IBTTA Board Member.

Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority

COVID Traffic Update: From April 1–7, 2020, traffic was down 79 percent. August 1–7, 2020, traffic volume was down 53 percent. These percentages relate to pre-pandemic traffic levels for similar weekdays.

  • “Over the past five months, SRTA saw an unprecedented decline in trips and toll revenue, but since May we have seen a slow but steady increase in both. Currently, we are at approximately 50% of our normal trip volume and about 25–30% of forecasted revenue. We will continue to see a slow but steady increase in trips, toll revenue and unfortunately in congestion, as overall traffic volume levels continue to climb on Metro Atlanta’s highways. We are constantly adapting and improving our operational procedures to enhance the safety and personal interactions within the customer experience to ensure that the quality of services Peach Pass customers receive remain optimum,” said Chris Tomlinson, Executive Director for the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA), the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) and Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority (the ATL), and Immediate Past President of IBTTA.

E-470 Public Highway Authority

COVID Traffic Update: From April 1–7, 2020, traffic was down 70.3 percent. August 1–7, 2020, traffic volume was down 36.9 percent. These percentages relate to the same time periods in 2019.

  • “E-470 has been closely monitoring traffic volumes since the outset of the pandemic,” said Tim Stewart, Executive Director, E-470 Public Highway Authority in Aurora, Colorado. “E-470 has taken many steps to respond to this pandemic. On the financial front, we reduced our 2020 operating budgets by over 10% and Capital Expenditure budget by 12%. We have delayed some planned 2020 projects until 2021 and beyond. We have also accessed our cash reserves to help bridge operating cash flow and debt payments in 2020.”

Transportation Corridor Agencies, Irvine, California

COVID Traffic Update: Prior to COVID TCA's weekly transactions were approximately 1.9 million. During the low point in April, weekly transactions had dropped approximately 66 percent. As of the week ended August 9, weekly transactions had recovered to approximately 1.3 million or 68% of pre-COVID transactions.

  • “On The Toll Roads, traffic numbers dipped dramatically, with similar impacts to non-tolled roads and transit. From a health perspective, this was positive in keeping people safe, but it created economic challenges for our customers and our business. We have taken steps to address these challenges by offering customers more time to pay, pausing our delinquent violation processes and tightening our expenditures to core needs and Board priorities,” said Samuel Johnson, Interim CEO of the Transportation Corridor Agencies in Irvine, California and IBTTA President. “I am optimistic with early signs of a quick recovery, but we don’t want to be over-confident and still have a ways to go.” 

San Francisco Bay Area Toll Authority

COVID Traffic Update: From April 1–7, 2020, traffic was down 56 percent. August 1–7, 2020, traffic volume was down 22 percent. These percentages relate to the same time periods in 2019.

  • “Revenue for the year has taken a significant hit in recent times and we are still trying to navigate that path. We have seven million people in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the start of the pandemic, four million commuters relied on the Bay Area Toll Authority for their transportation, transit, and ferry services. Obviously, those numbers have been dramatically reduced and continue today,” said Andrew B. Fremier, Deputy Executive Director, Bay Area Toll Authority, and IBTTA Board member.

The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) are two joint powers authorities formed by the California legislature in 1986 to plan, finance, construct and operate Orange County’s public toll road system comprised of the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads. TCA continues to meet the region’s growing need for congestion-free transportation alternatives.

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