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Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE), of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), initiated the Integrated Congestion Pricing Plan (ICPP) study in January 2011. The ICPP is a three-phase, comprehensive study to evaluate the potential for implementing congestion pricing strategies on the Turnpike System, with an emphasis on the large, urban areas of the state.
Phase I of the ICPP was completed in December 2011. Activities in Phase I included the development of the study goal and objectives, identification of various policy questions, evaluation of future roadway widening needs, and assessment of tolling plans for potential projects. In addition, some preliminary engineering evaluation was completed to help make recommendations regarding preferred design criteria. Several operational issues were also evaluated including tolling considerations and traffic management needs. The ICPP Phase I Final Report contains more information about activities conducted during this part of the study.
The FDOT received two federal grants through the Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) to help fund Phases II and III of the study. Phase II was the evaluation and coordination portion of the overall study whereby customer input regarding pricing options was solicited through market research and focus groups. Also in this Phase, FTE/FDOT began a public outreach and education program to obtain feedback from stakeholders on the study, and completed a traffic and revenue evaluation.
During the development of the ICPP Study Phase II, the Project Team had the opportunity to evaluate two major widening projects on Turnpike facilities for express lanes. The two projects are located on the Veterans Expressway/SR 589 in Hillsborough County and on the Turnpike/SR 821 (HEFT) in Miami-Dade County. These facilities serve two of the major urban areas in the state (Tampa and Miami), and the results of the study evaluation identified them as strong candidate projects for the implementation of express lanes. Due to funding availability, these two projects were selected for implementation, and are currently under construction.
Veterans Expressway/SR 589
The Veterans Expressway/SR 589 is a four-lane, limited-access toll facility that extends 15 miles from west of the Tampa International Airport near Courtney Campbell Causeway to Dale Mabry Highway in northern Hillsborough County. Current traffic levels in certain sections of the facility exceed 60,000 vehicles per day, and are expected to reach 90,000 in 2025.
The project widens the roadway from four to eight lanes by adding one general toll lane and one express lane in each direction. The express lanes extend between Memorial Highway and Hutchison Road for a length of approximately nine miles. The new general toll lanes continue north for an additional two miles to Van Dyke Road. The entire Veterans Expressway was converted to AET in phases during 2014. Figure 1 shows the limits of the express lanes on this facility.
Limits of Express Lanes on Veterans Expressway/SR 589
Turnpike/SR 821 (HEFT)
The Turnpike/SR 821 (HEFT) in Miami-Dade County has between four and six travel lanes, excluding auxiliary lanes, along 47 miles of roadway. The facility begins at US 1 in Florida City and extends north to Broward County and then to a junction with the Turnpike/SR 91 at Miramar. Since this facility spans the largest and the most heavily populated urban area in Florida, it has become an urban commuting facility, as well as a long-distance intercity highway, subject to prolonged periods of heavy congestion, particularly during the peak hours. Traffic on the Turnpike/SR 821 (HEFT) exceeds 170,000 vehicles per day in certain sections, and is expected to approach 220,000 by 2025.
The southern section of the facility will add one express lane in each direction from SW 288th Street to Eureka Drive. In addition, the roadway section between Eureka Drive and Don Shula Expressway/SR 874 will be widened by adding one general toll lane and one express lane per direction. The central and northern sections from Killian Parkway through the Dolphin Expressway/SR 836 north to I-75 will add two express lanes per direction. Direct-connect ramps to the express lanes will be constructed at SR 874, SR 836, and I-75 (see Figure 2).
Limits of Express Lanes on Turnpike/SR 821 (HEFT)
The toll pricing policy to be implemented on Turnpike express lanes projects was developed in coordination with FDOT’s Central Office, and addresses a variety of tolling parameters. The policies described below are approved for projects involving express lanes on the Turnpike System, and included in the FDOT Express Lanes Handbook. They are developed after examining a wide range of parameters including safety, design standards and signage, traffic operations, back office requirements, revenues, and capital cost.
Express Lane Separation
The express lanes will be separated from the general toll lanes using 36-inch high, flexible express lane markers (also known as delineators), and placed at 10-feet intervals. The use of concrete barriers is allowable where right of way permits. Instances where the spacing of express lane markers along a horizontal or vertical curve does not meet the minimum stopping sight distance requirement will be evaluated accordingly and certain design exceptions may be considered. In this case, a design exception is prepared which analyzes crash data, evaluates possible mitigating strategies, and documents the design deficiency. Possible solutions include increasing the spacing between delineators around horizontal curves. Other design exceptions are examined when right-of-way constraints prohibit the addition of standard 12-feet express lanes, in which case, slightly narrower lanes may be considered.
Toll Rates and Frequency of Updates
Tolls in the express lanes will be collected electronically using mainline toll gantries, and are set to be at least $0.25 more than the general toll lanes during off-peak hours. During peak hours of the day, tolls are dynamically adjusted to reflect actual traffic conditions in the express lanes. These tolls are established on a per-segment basis. The FDOT established a policy to implement dynamic pricing on the Turnpike’s express lanes to maintain free flow traffic conditions, allowing demand on the facility to determine the maximum toll at any point in time.
Dynamic pricing will typically be updated in 15-minute intervals. More frequent updates can be implemented when warranted by significant changes in roadway conditions. As a result, various tolling equipment, back office processes, and dynamic message signs all have to be synchronized to properly convey the correct toll to customers without error. Tolls in the adjacent general toll lanes will remain static throughout the day. The current static toll amounts in these lanes at most locations along the Turnpike System vary between $0.50 and $1.25 per tolling point.
Results from 95 Express in South Florida suggest drivers are using the express lanes not only because of their value of time, but also because of reliability and safety factors. As a result, multi-axle vehicles are prohibited from using the express lanes on the Turnpike, unless they are designated as emergency vehicles responding to specific incidents, they are being used for maintenance, or are authorized for emergency evacuation. All buses, regardless of number of axles, whether they are public transit or public school buses or over the road motor coaches, along with HOV, hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles, and motorcycles are permitted to use the express lanes, but will have to pay a toll.
The only vehicles allowed in the lanes are those equipped with SunPass® or interoperable transponders. SunPass® is a registered trademark of the Florida Department of Transportation. It is the State’s pre-paid electronic toll collection system. As such, TOLL-BY-PLATE (TBP) customers are not permitted in the express lanes. TBP uses advanced cameras to capture the license plate images of vehicles without transponders, and sends the vehicle owners an invoice for the tolls incurred. Today, the SunPass® technology is interoperable with toll roads in Georgia and North Carolina, with a plan to expand this interoperability to other states.
A total of seven signs will be included in the express lane advanced sign sequence. A three-line dynamic message sign (DMS), three advanced guide signs with a one-line DMS, two toll rate signs, and one vehicle eligibility sign. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices provides minimum spacing requirements for express lane signs, including toll amount signs. Both toll rate signs use static messages for destinations along with dynamic toll amounts.
All destinations out of the express lanes will be shown on the toll rate signs, with each sign panel structure designed to accommodate up to three destinations. Shortly before reaching the third destination listed on the sign, a new toll rate sign is placed overhead in the express lanes providing drivers with toll amounts to the next three destinations. Engineers may use engineering judgment when placing signs along arterial roadways that connect directly to the express lanes where space is limited.
Express Lane Segment
An express lane segment is the distance between an entry point to the express lanes and the next point of exit (Figure 3, Example A). If there are multiple entry points before an exit point, the segment is defined to be the distance between the first entry point and the exit point (Figure 3, Example B). If there are multiple exit points following an entry point, the distance between two successive exit points is also a segment
(Figure 3, Example C).
Express Lane Segments and Gantry Locations
Gantries will be placed between successive points of entry, between an entry point and an exit point, and between consecutive exit points, unless the entry or exit points are spaced less than one mile apart or physical constraints prevent the placement of such structures. Gantries placed between successive entry points (i.e., data gantries) do not charge a toll, but rather collect transponder data to accurately account for the time to travel from the rate sign to the tolling point. All other gantries will charge the toll in effect at the time. Every segment has only one toll gantry that charges a toll.
It should be noted that from a practical stand point, it is advisable to place the gantries close to the entry points in order to reduce the time it takes the driver to travel from the rate sign to the toll gantry. In addition, the use of delineators is expected to prevent queue jumps during peak hours when drivers try to leave the express lanes for the adjacent toll lanes before reaching the toll gantry to avoid paying the higher toll.
A key component of the ICPP Study Phase II was public outreach and education. The major activities within this effort consisted of focus group meetings, a stated-preference survey, and project reference materials consisting of an informational brochure, a video, and a project website. The project website can be accessed by visiting www.floridasturnpike.com.
A total of ten focus group sessions were conducted in Orlando, Tampa, and South Florida in order to obtain feedback from the public regarding the addition of express lanes to Turnpike facilities and general opinions about the Turnpike facilities. Overall, the feedback received regarding the addition of express lanes on Turnpike facilities was very positive as participants liked the idea of having a choice to pay a higher toll in the express lanes for a more predictable travel time. In addition, Turnpike roadways were perceived by most of the participants to be safer and better maintained than other roadways they use.
A stated-preference survey of Turnpike automobile users was also conducted in Tampa, Orlando, and South Florida. The primary purpose of the survey was to gather details about travel characteristics on Florida’s Turnpike facilities, and measure the respondents’ valuation of express lanes along certain Turnpike facilities as an option for improving travel speeds, travel time reliability, and reducing traffic congestion. Estimates of Turnpike travelers’ time and cost sensitivities were also evaluated in order to gauge interest in express lanes, as well as traveler acceptance of various toll rate levels associated with this premium transportation option.
The effort to coordinate with project stakeholders focused on the Tampa and Miami-Dade areas where express lanes projects are moving forward. In these areas, presentations were made to the MPOs and their committees regarding the express lanes projects planned for their areas. Feedback from both MPOs was positive, with Miami-Dade MPO passing Resolution #38-12 supporting the express lanes on the Turnpike/SR 821 (HEFT). In addition, meetings with the local legislative delegations were held.
As part of the ICPP Phase II Project, a traffic and revenue study was conducted to evaluate the potential revenue that could be earned from the express lanes on the Veterans Expressway/SR 589 and the Turnpike/SR 821 (HEFT) in Miami-Dade County. The traffic and revenue estimates for this evaluation were accomplished through a multi-step process established to provide forecasts by hour utilizing three modeling tools: a travel demand model, a time of day model, and a revenue model. The ICPP Phase II Final report contains more information about activities conducted during this part of the study.
Phase III of the ICPP started in May 2014. During this phase, FTE added a third express lane project, the Beachline West Expressway in Orlando. Phase III of the project was designed to prepare a Master Plan for FTE’s congestion pricing program and to determine the economic impacts that the Integrated Congestion Pricing Plan would have on Florida’s state-wide economy. The master plan uses many of the analyses obtained in Phase II including input from focus groups, stakeholders, and the planning-level traffic and revenue study results. In addition, the public outreach effort that was initiated in Phase II continued through this phase.
Beachline West Expressway
The Beachline West Expressway in Orlando has four to six travel lanes along the eight miles between McCoy Road near the Orlando International Airport and I-4. Drivers who use this toll facility are evenly split between commuters who drive to work every day, and tourists who travel to the theme parks and other local attractions on International Drive. Traffic on the Beachline West Expressway exceeds 80,000 vehicles per day in certain sections, and is expected to reach 120,000 by 2025.
The widening project adds one to two express lanes between I-4 and McCoy Road. The four-lane section between I-4 and Consulate Drive/Turnpike is widened to eight lanes by adding two express lanes in each direction. The six-lane section between Consulate Drive/Turnpike and McCoy Road is widened to eight lanes by adding one express lane per direction (see Figure 4).
Limits of Express Lanes on Beachline Expressway
In addition to the funded express lane projects on the Turnpike, FTE also developed a Master Plan showing future networks of express lanes on the Turnpike System and the interstates by region. These future projects are currently at different stages of development including construction, design, Project Development and Environmental (PD&E), and planning. They have been developed in coordination with FDOT Central Office, the district offices at FDOT, and other stakeholders. FTE continues to modify the limits of these projects as the traffic needs change.
As part of the ICPP, FTE developed several measures to monitor and evaluate the performance of new express lane projects as they open to traffic. As such, the measures identified in this paper are designed to compare traffic and other parameters before and after the opening of express lanes. Initial data representing existing conditions on each facility will be obtained from the SunPass® database before the express lanes are open. The performance measures are grouped into different categories with similar characteristics. These measures are described briefly below. The ICPP Phase III Final report contains more information about activities conducted during this part of the study.
- Mobility and Level of Service: Such measures include daily and peak-hour traffic in the corridor. They also include a level of service evaluation of traffic volumes. In addition, vehicle types in the corridor are monitored, along with transit usage and ridership. Average travel speed in each corridor is obtained using GPS-based travel time data or derived directly from time-stamped SunPass® transactions.
- Reliability: These measures include average travel time between interchanges and travel time reliability in the peak hour and peak direction. They also include travel time variation depicted by the standard deviation of travel times.
- Revenue: This measure includes the amount of gross toll revenue collected on a monthly basis, and the cost associated with operating and maintaining the facility.
- Safety: Safety is measured in terms of the number and type of vehicle crashes on a facility by month. This data is obtained from the Traffic Management Center monthly reports.
- Electronic Toll Collection: Two measures are assessed under this category. The first is the number and percent of SunPass® users on the facility, and the second is the number and percent of toll violations.
- Environmental: The measures include average fuel consumption before and after the lanes are open, with a target to reduce the per-mile fuel consumption for vehicles traveling in the express lanes. They also include a measure of air quality comparing vehicle emissions in the corridor.
- Public Perception: The measures include public awareness of express lanes. They also include public acceptance and perception of their benefits, as well as the perception of transit users.
During Phase III, an independent study was completed to measure the economic impacts of the express lane projects identified in Phase II on the State’s economy. For this purpose, FTE’s Work Program was divided into two distinct categories: (1) widening projects on Veterans Expressway/SR 589 and Turnpike/SR 821 (HEFT), and (2) express lanes in which dynamic pricing will be implemented for each project. As such, the economic impacts were analyzed for widening alone and for widening with express lanes.
The results show that the widening plus express lane construction will be responsible for nearly $623 million in direct construction spending within Florida from both projects. In addition, the average annual jobs created from express lane construction is estimated to be 600 jobs during the Veterans Expressway/SR 589 construction and nearly 1,100 jobs during the Turnpike/SR 821 (HEFT) construction.