Most of America’s 20 most congested metro areas either have variably priced managed lanes already in place or have plans to implement such lanes. Of the 15 most congested “very large” metro areas in the 2011 Urban Mobility Report from the Texas Transportation Institute, nine have one or more managed lane projects in operation, with two others planning similar projects. Thus 73% of these major urban areas have embraced the managed lanes concept. Of the next tier of large urban areas with significant congestion problems, 12 of the next 25 most congested have one or more managed lanes projects in operation, under construction, or in the planning stages (48% of them).
In this second group, the newest members are Austin, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Riverside (CA) and Tampa. Austin has begun work adding a single express toll lane each way to 11 miles of its MoPac Expressway. The $200 million project is being done in-house by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which is taking the traffic and revenue risk. North Carolina DOT is under way on converting the HOV lanes on I-77 in Charlotte to HOT lanes. Nevada DOT has plans worked up for managed lanes on I-15 in Las Vegas, but has not yet obtained legislative authority to implement them. Riverside County, CA has embarked on a $1.3 billion project to extend Orange County’s 91 Express Lanes eastward to I-15; in April 2012 Riverside County’s request for a $444 million TIFIA loan for the project was approved. In Tampa, the Florida DOT has studies under way on express toll lanes for portions of I-4, I-75 and I-275. In addition, under a federal Value Pricing grant, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit are studying “Bus Toll Lanes” that could be added to expressways and/or arterials in that county.
Should urban toll roads implement variably priced managed lanes? This idea has been somewhat controversial within the toll agency community, but two public agencies have decided it’s a good idea. The Florida Turnpike Enterprise will implement premium-priced express lanes on the Veterans Expressway in the Tampa area and on portions of the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike (HEFT) in the Miami area. The first sections of these new express lanes will open, respectively, in 2016 and 2017. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is working to gain public support for similar projects for three congested tollways in that region: the Stevenson (I-55), Eisenhower (I-290), and Jane Adams (I-90). An earlier version of the idea was proposed by the Illinois Tollway in 2009, but not implemented.
Many of the “very large” metro areas have adopted plans for networks of priced managed lanes. Here is a brief recap of where those plans stand as of 2012.
Atlanta: In December 2009, the State Transportation Board adopted a $16 billion plan for a 300-route-mile network of priced managed lanes, covering most of the metro area’s expressway system. The first conversion of an HOV lane to express tolling took place in autumn 2011 on a 16-mile stretch of I-85, in a joint effort of the State Road & Tollway Authority and Georgia DOT. The latter is still trying to finance its first major project to add new managed lanes, the Northwest Corridor project on I-75. Despite studies showing a significant funding gap for the $16 billion system even with limiting free use by carpools to those with three or more occupants, Gov. Nathan Deal has declared that the policy should be HOV-2, thereby putting the entire funding plan in jeopardy.
Dallas/Ft. Worth: The 2030 long-range transportation plan includes an extensive system of managed lanes and toll roads, covering nearly all the expressway system. It aims to have 450 lane-miles in place by 2019 and 843 lane-miles by 2030. Three major projects are under way as P3 toll concessions, and others are in the planning stages.
Houston: This region was one of the first to complete a managed lanes network plan, in 2008. After implementing two managed lanes each way on the rebuilt Katy Freeway, Houston Metro is converting all 83 route-miles of its remaining HOV lane system to priced managed lanes.
Los Angeles: The first two HOV conversions are under way in Los Angeles County, on I-110 (operational November 2012) and I-10 (to open February 2013). Orange County is considering widening I-405 from John Wayne Airport north to the L.A. County line with managed lanes replacing HOV lanes; the Orange County Transportation Authority board voted against the plan in 2012, but it may be reconsidered in 2013. Riverside County, as noted, is extending the existing express toll lanes on SR 91 eastward to I-15. And San Bernardino County is pursuing express toll lanes for its portions of I-10 and I-15. The Southern California Association of Governments has completed a large-scale planning study for a six-county managed lanes network, but it has not yet formally been added to the region’s long-range transportation plan.
Miami: Phase 2 of Florida DOT’s I-95 express lanes project is now under construction, adding 14 miles to the initial 7 miles, extending the lanes all the way from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale. FDOT and partner agencies (Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, Florida Turnpike Enterprise and three county transit agencies, among others) are well along in a federally supported project that is developing the concept of operations for a three-county managed lanes network. The second portion of the network—reversible express toll lanes on I-595 near Ft. Lauderdale—is well along in construction. And in November 2012, FDOT announced the next two components: express toll lanes to be added to I-75 in Broward County and to the Palmetto Expressway in Miami-Dade County. The Turnpike’s planned express toll lanes on its Homestead Extension will also be part of this network.
Minneapolis/St. Paul: With two HOV lane conversion projects accomplished in recent years (on I-394 and I-35W), Minnesota DOT did a “next stage” study that identified eight other expressway corridors as good candidates. The most likely near-term ones are I-35E in St. Paul and I-94, the major east-west expressway.
San Diego: This region’s metropolitan planning organization (MPO), SANDAG, was the first in the nation to include a managed lanes network in its long-range transportation plan. It has completed a major project to expand the HOT lanes on I-15, which now extend a full 20 miles and include four lanes with a movable barrier. Direct-access ramps connect park-and-ride lots and bus stations to the HOT lanes. The network plan includes such lanes on I-5, I-805 and SR 52.
San Francisco: In 2008 the Metropolitan Planning Commission, the region’s MPO, included an 800 route-mile managed lanes network in its long-range transportation plan, of which 500 would be conversions of HOV lanes and the balance lane-additions. Budget cuts in 2010 led to a scaled-back version of 570 route-miles. As of late 2012, two HOV conversions had been completed and opened to traffic—on I-680 (the Sunol Grade) and on SR 237 in Silicon Valley. In November 2012, MTC announced the next stage, developing another 76 miles of express toll lanes on I-680 in Contra Costa County, on I-880 in Alameda County, on the westbound approaches to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, and on the Dumbarton Bridge. A team led by Atkins will manage the development, procurement and initial operations of the toll systems. The entire 570-mile network is estimated to cost $4.1-$4.5 billion.
Seattle: In its Vision 2040 project several years ago, the Puget Sound Regional Council embraced a 300 route-mile managed lanes network for the Seattle metro area, similar in concept to that adopted for the San Francisco Bay Area. Only one small project is in operation thus far, converted HOV lanes on SR 167. The next likely project is a combination of lane additions and HOV conversions on I-405.
Washington, D.C.: The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments studied a regional managed lanes network in 2008, but no decision has been made about including it in the long-range transportation plan. The region’s first express toll lanes opened on the I-495 Beltway in northern Virginia in November 2012, and an extension from the Beltway south along I-95 was financed and put under construction in the second half of the year. As of now, the envisioned network may evolve piece by piece.