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13th International HOV/HOT Systems Conference: Partnerships for Innovation - Conference Proceedings
September 7-9, 2008
Minneapolis, MN

Robert Benz, Texas Transportation Institute, Presiding

Charlotte Regional Fast Lanes Study

Lynn Purnell,
Parsons Brinckerhoff

Lynn Purnell discussed the Regional Fast Lanes Study being conducted in Charlotte, North Carolina. He described the study partners and process, existing HOV lanes in the region, and the study feasibility analysis. Lynn covered the following points in his presentation.

  • The Fast Lane study was initiated in June 2007. The study is co-managed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the City of Charlotte. Parsons Brinckerhoff is providing technical assistance. The study is analyzing the feasibility of managed lanes in 12 corridors in the 10-county region. The 12 corridors cover a total of 340 miles. Both arterial and freeway/express corridors are represented, as are both radial and circumference corridors.

  • Numerous organizations are participating in the study. In addition to NCDOT and the City of Charlotte, partnering agencies include the Cabarrus-Rowan MPO, the Gaston Urban Area MPO, the Mecklenburg-Union MPO, and the Lake Norman Rural Planning Organization. The Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study, the Rocky River Rural Planning Organization, the Town of Mooresville, and the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) are also participating in the study.

  • The existing HOV lanes or Fast Lanes on I-77 represent the first HOV facility in North Carolina. They are also the only HOV lanes in North and South Carolina. The I-77 HOV lanes were opened in December 2004. The project took approximately three years from development of the conceptual design to the opening of the lanes. A 2+ vehicle-occupancy requirement is used on the facility, which is reserved for HOVs on a 24/7 basis. There are some access restrictions along the lanes. A wide single white skip line is used in the sections with continuous access. Double-white solid lines are used in sections where access is prohibited.

  • Fast Lanes are being considered in the Charlotte area for a number of reasons. Travel demand is growing faster than population and rush-hour congestion is lengthening. Travel patterns are diverse and travel distances are increasing. There is a $65 billion gap between projected needs and future revenues at the state level to the year 2030.

  • The purpose of the feasibility study is to assess if there are there any potential corridors where HOV, HOT, or truck-only toll (TOT) lanes are viable, and how these facilities might be connected to form a regional Fast Lanes system. Based on similar studies in other parts of the country, a thorough analysis of technical, institutional, and financial elements is being conducted.

  • The technical feasibility component is using experienced-based criteria from previous studies to minimize possible delay in reaching decisions. A revenue optimization model is being used to quickly screen toll options for HOT Lanes. State and local conditions and standards are being considered.

  • A two-phase study process is being used with the technical feasibility analysis. Phase 1 uses screening criteria designed to quickly identify the most promising corridors. It employs a “Consumer Reports” style for presenting results, which permits easy comparison across multiple evaluation criteria. Phase 2 will involve a more detailed evaluation of the most promising roadways.

  • Phase I screening criteria include the presence of congestion, HOV demand, HOT/TOT demand, and physical attributes. Travel speeds and the volume-capacity ratio are used to assess the presence of congestion. HOV demand is examined by persons and vehicles, as well as travel patterns. HOT/TOT demand considers vehicles, travel patterns, and revenue potential. A scale of 1 to 5 is used, with 1 representing “not good” and 5 representing “excellent.”

  • The congestion-ranking summary indicates that most corridors will be congested by 2030. Even segments of freeways and arterials planned for widening will experience congested conditions in the future. Only new corridors constructed in the future and exurban portions will be less congested. Much of I-485 will not be congested, but the analysis indicates that this corridor will see the greatest growth in traffic and change beyond 2030.

  • The HOV demand-ranking summary indicates good HOV use levels in the radial corridors. HOV demand in the circumferential corridors is low, which is consistent with studies in many other areas. HOV demand is lower where congestion is not present. HOV demand is most favorable on US 74, I-85, and I-77.

  • The HOT/TOT demand-ranking summary indicates the same general findings as HOV demand – existing and projected congestion generates demand in both categories. The TOT demand is not high enough to justify two directional lanes.

  • The physical attributes-ranking summary indicates that the wider and the newer corridors, which include I-77 North and I-485, provide the best alternatives. The recent widening of sections of I-85 poses a challenge. Implementation in these sections would require narrowing lanes and taking the inside shoulder. Input has been requested from NCDOT and FHWA on these issues. Implementation on I-77 South downtown to I-485 would require a full rebuilding. There is limited opportunity to borrow off-peak direction lanes on I-85, NC-16, and I-77 south of I-485.

  • The Phase 1 screening results indicate that approximately 167 miles, or 49 percent of the initial mileage advances to Phase 2 of the study. The HOV and HOT options are feasible on these corridors. Other conditional cases to carry forward include I-85, assuming major design exceptions can be accommodated, I-77 South, assuming the corridor is rebuilt, and NC-16, assuming a reversible lane north of I-85 is constructed.

  • The institutional feasibility analysis utilized strategies to measure travelers’ perceptions toward more HOV lanes, new HOT lanes, and TOT lanes being added to the freeway system. This element also focused on initiating communication with key stakeholders, and listening to their ideas and reactions to different HOV, HOT, and TOT strategies.

  • A regional technical team was established to help guide the study. The team is composed of representatives from the funding partners and other agencies with interest in Fast Lanes. The team meets on a regular basis to provide feedback on study findings and recommendations for the Charlotte region. The team also reviews information on HOV, HOT, and managed lane projects throughout the country.

  • Educational workshops have been held at key points in the study. These daylong sessions provide opportunities for more focused discussion by the regional technical team and other stakeholders. An initial workshop was held in August 2007 to review U.S. managed lanes experience and to discuss the potential for the concept in Charlotte region. A second workshop was held in February 2008 to present the Phase 1 findings and updates on managed lanes in other cities.

  • Stakeholder interviews were conducted with elected officials, business leaders, law enforcement representatives, and special interest groups such as the Sierra Club. These one-on-one interviews with 15 individuals obtained information on perceptions, concerns, and visions for Fast Lanes options in the Charlotte area. The Stakeholder Interview Report is posted on the study website.

  • A variety of outreach techniques are being used to communicate with the public, policy makers, and special interest groups. A unique, user-friendly study name and logo provide visibility. The study website is being used to disseminate key findings and provides links to other related sites. Business cards with Fast Lanes examples, the website address, and study contacts are being widely distributed. A video was produced by City of Charlotte for use on the study website, public television, and at meetings. Press releases are issued at major milestones. Media coverage of the study has been fair and positive.

  • Phase 2 will provide a more detailed analysis of the corridors emerging from Phase 1. Phase 2 will examine the type of lane treatment, the type of operational strategy, different HOV and HOT policies, and the potential for truck use. Revenue potential, access, connectivity, and phasing will also be examined.

  • The financial feasibility is using the Toll Optimization Model© developed by ECONorthwest, which provides revenue forecasts under both “static” and dynamic pricing strategies. The financial feasibility assessment will provide more precise estimates of vehicle volumes and revenues than those provided by the regional travel demand model.

HOV Lanes in the Dallas Area

Koorosh Olyai,
Dallas Area Rapid Transit

Koorosh Olyai discussed the HOV lanes in the Dallas area. He described the current HOV lanes, use levels, and other performance indicators. He also summarized the development and implementation of managed lanes projects in the Dallas area. Koorosh covered the following points in his presentation.

  • The mission of DART is to build, establish, and operate a safe, efficient and effective transportation system that, within the DART service area, provides mobility, improves the quality of life, and stimulates economic development through the implementation of the DART service plan as adopted by the voters on August 13, 1983, and as amended from time to time.

  • The HOV lanes in the Dallas area represent the coordinated effort of DART and TxDOT. The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), FHWA, and FTA are also partners in the HOV program and overall transportation system in the region. DART and TxDOT have different roles and responsibilities related to the HOV facilities. Both agencies share planning and design activities. TxDOT is responsible for construction, DART is responsible for operation and enforcement, and both agencies support maintenance.

  • The objectives of the HOV lanes are to increase vehicle-occupancy levels, to increase person-movement capacity, to provide a cost-effective transportation improvement, and to generate public support. Other objectives include improving air quality and reducing fuel consumption. A final objective is that HOV lanes should not adversely impact the freeway general-purpose lanes. These objectives have generally been met. The person-movement capacity of the freeways has been increased. The HOV lanes are cost-effective. Public support for the HOV lanes on I-30 has been quantified through surveys, and NTCOG estimates indicate decreased fuel consumption. There have been no adverse impacts on freeway speeds.

  • The HOV lanes are a key part of the overall transportation system in the Dallas area. Other elements of the system include the TxDOT DalTrans Transportation Management Center (TMC), the motorist assistance program, the DART bus and LRT system, commuter rail, the freeway system, and the toll roads operated by the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA).

  • The HOV lanes in the Dallas area include a mix of designs and operating strategies. These types include contraflow, reversible, buffer-separated concurrent flow, and barrier-separated concurrent flow. HOV lanes are currently in operation on I-30, I-35E, I-635, I-35E/US 67, US 75, and I-30W. Some 14 percent of the workers in Dallas carpool. The HOV lanes are a key reason for this high level of carpooling.

  • The important role HOV lanes play in the Dallas area is evidenced through a number of measures. DART monitors key performance indicators including subsidy per passenger and mode share. The HOV lanes have the lowest subsidy per passenger, $0.14, of the modes operated by DART. By comparison, the subsidy per passenger for LRT is $3.18 and $3.70 for buses. All of the HOV lanes provide travel-time savings and trip-time reliability compared to driving alone in the adjacent general-purpose freeway lanes.

  • HOV lanes and managed lanes are an important part of the future transportation system in the Dallas area. TxDOT, DART, and NTTA are working together on a number of managed lane projects, and NCTCOG has developed policies related to pricing on the managed lanes. For example, a fixed-fee schedule will be used during the first six months of operation, with dynamic pricing used after six months. Transit vehicles will not be charged a toll, and carpools with two or more people will receive a 50 percent discount during the peak periods. This discount will be phased out after the air quality attainment period. HOVs will pay the full toll during off-peak times. A framework for allocating future revenues from managed lane toll projects has also been developed. This framework defines excess revenues and allocates these revenues for use in the TxDOT district where the facility is located. Research on signing for the managed lanes, especially at the entrance points, has also been conducted.

I-495 Capital Beltway HOT Lanes Public/Private Partnership

Declan McManus,

Declan McManus described the I-495 Capital Beltway HOT lanes public/private partnership in Virginia. He reviewed the project objectives and discussed the financing elements, including contract features to protect the public interest. Declan covered the following points in his presentation.

  • The I-495 Capital Beltway HOT lanes project represents the first dynamic pricing HOT lanes public/private partnership in the country. It is the first public/private partnership concession agreement in the U.S. that has reached close to contemplated refinancing gain share by the public sector. It is the first Private Activity Bonds (PABs) transportation public/private partnership project in the U.S.

  • The I-495 Capital Beltway HOT lanes will provide a choice for travelers on one of the nation’s busiest highways. Travelers will have the option of using dedicated, congestion-free lanes for a fee or using the congested general-purpose lanes for free. Free use of the HOT lanes will be provided to 3+ carpools.

  • The Capital Beltway HOT lanes project is intended to accomplish a number of objectives. These objectives include providing the residents of northern Virginia with additional traffic capacity and expanding the regional HOV network. Another objective is to transfer key risks to the private sector, such as construction scheduling and budgeting, and traffic and revenue projections. Increasing transit ridership and HOV use represents another objective. Finally, the Commonwealth is not restricted from advancing surrounding transportation improvement projects.

  • The contract on the I-495 Capital Beltway HOT lanes project includes an 80-year concession agreement with a new entity called Capital Beltway Express (CBE), which is sponsored by the Fluor/Transurban Consortium. The CBE’s responsibilities include completion of the $1.4 billion fixed-price design build contract within five years, providing operations and maintenance for the HOT lanes for 75 years, providing financing for almost $1.6 billion worth of project costs, and accepting the traffic risk. Transurban has the operations and maintenance contract with CBE, while Fluor/Lane has the construction contract. Debt financing from a TIFIA loan and PABs are also being used. The Commonwealth of Virginia is also using KPMG as financial advisors and Troutman Sanders as legal advisors.

  • Financing sources for the I-495 Capital Beltway HOT lane project include income during construction, VDOT funds, TIFIA funds, PABs, and equity. The contract for the I-495 Capital Beltway HOT lanes project contains a number of elements to protect the public interest. These elements include addressing super profits and toll escalation. Other elements address non-compete clauses, the length of the concession, ensuring adequate operating performance, and excessive HOV usage. It is important to consider these types of elements in a concessionaire contract to ensure the public’s interest is protected.

  • The concession agreement provides mechanisms to mitigate super profits, which might result from traffic volumes above forecast levels or gains from refinancing. The concession agreement requires the concessionaire to share a portion of the total gross annual revenue with VDOT if returns are higher than forecast. If the total return on investment is less than 7.95 percent, VDOT does not receive any share of the revenue. If the total return on investment is within Band One, which is greater than 7.95 percent but less than 8.5 percent, VDOT receives 5 percent of total gross revenues eligible for revenue sharing. If the total return on investment is within Band Two, which is greater than 8.5 percent, but less than 8.97 percent, VDOT receives the Band One’s share and 15 percent of the total gross revenue above Band Two. If the total return on investment is within Band Three, which is greater, but not less than 8.97 percent, VDOT receives the Bands One and Two share, plus 30 percent of the total gross revenue above Band Three.

  • Capping excessive toll escalation is also addressed in the project. Supply and demand, and the required level-of-service will determine the cap on tolls. Non-compete clauses have been the subject of much debate with public/private partnerships. The Capital Beltway HOT lanes project does not have a non-compete clause because there is no realistic competing route. On HOT lanes projects, the true competing routes are the general-purpose freeway lanes.

  • The original proposal for the Capital Beltway HOV lanes project included a 99-year concession. Through negotiation, the final contract was set at 75 years for operation and five years for construction. The length of a concession period is a function of the project economics and public policy goals. It is important to fix the end of the concession date to provide an incentive to the concessionaire, however.

  • The Capital Beltway HOT lanes project also ensures operating performance. It is the first public/private partnership in the country to have a performance points regime that leads to a default. For example, if the concessionaire fails to meet requirements for work zone safety, management, and maintenance of traffic, a maximum of five points per hour may be assessed. Points may also be assessed if other operating, maintenance, and performance criteria are not met. When a total of 245 points is reached, the public sponsor may remove the concessionaire.

  • There is a divergence of interests related to HOV use on a HOT project. The public sector’s objective is to facilitate growth of HOVs and transit. The private sector’s objective is to optimize capacity and maximize toll paying single-occupant vehicles. This divergence led the Commonwealth to provide a shadow toll payment for 3+ HOVs of 30 percent of the toll if certain conditions occur. Examples of these conditions include if the concessionaire has not yet earned a total return of 7.95 percent, if it is within the first 40 years (the term of the PABs and TIFIA debt), if there are more than 3,200 vehicles per lane per hour in the two HOT lanes for more than 30 minutes at a time, and if 3+ HOVs comprise more than 24 percent of the total vehicles for a specified period. Currently, HOVs on the Capital Beltway comprise about 2.5 percent of the total traffic.

Cars, Buses, and Trucks, Oh My! The Atlanta I-75/I-575 Managed Lane Project Experience

Jonathan Reid, Parsons Brinckerhoff and
John Orr, Atlanta Regional Commission

Jonathan Reid and John Orr discussed the I-75/I-575 managed lane project in Atlanta. They described the various regional and corridor plans and studies, as well as the implementation process for the managed lanes. The following points were covered in their presentation.

  • The Atlanta region is the transportation hub of the southeastern U.S. The I-75/I-575 corridor is one of the most heavily congested corridors in the region. The corridor includes 10 to 15 lanes and carries more than 300,000 ADT. The corridor is important for interstate and intrastate travel and economic development. Future growth in truck traffic is anticipated.

  • Project planning objectives in the 2000 Regional Transportation Plan include supporting regional express bus expansion, creating carpooling incentives, and supporting air quality conformity strategies. The I-75/I-575 improvement was initially envisioned as one HOV lane each direction of travel. The total cost estimate was approximately $770 million. The expectation was created that the facility would be open to traffic in 2005.

  • In 2001, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) commissioned a study to consider extending an existing HOV system on I-75 from I-285 on the perimeter beltway to the I-75/I-575 split. The study also examined the feasibility of interim HOV solutions, the desired minimum HOV lane travel time, and environmental impacts. The study found that there is no simple interim solution to meet future corridor demands. Geometric constraints were also identified as an issue. Moving toward the ultimate solution and focusing on an expanded HOV facility that could better support the transit system was identified as important.

  • The GDOT HOV Strategic Implementation Plan, completed in 2003, provides guidance for considering HOV facilities in the area. The policy guidance for barrier-separated lanes includes improved corridor safety, trip reliability, enforcement, and the potential to manage the lanes. The policy guidance for exclusive HOV interchanges includes simplicity with fewer driver decisions needed, better trip dispersion to the local arterial system, and providing drivers with an alternative to using congested general-purpose interchanges.

  • A number of alternatives were carried forward in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in 2007. These alternatives included different combinations of HOV, truck-only, BRT, and tolling facilities. These alternatives represented a microcosm of all forms of managed lanes. Design options considered locating the lanes both the inside and the outside of the freeway.

  • The 2008 Regional Transportation Plan includes the managed lanes concept. A public/private partnership is recommended to construct the project. An estimated completion date, with the facility open to traffic, is between 2011 and 2015.

  • The advantages and drawbacks of a barrier-separated alternative were examined. Advantages include enhanced safety and simplified tolling and enforcement. More difficult emergency access and the significant right-of-way required to allow trucks to pass are possible drawbacks to this alternative. There are also potential issues regarding truck tolling.

  • Advantages of the buffer-separated alternative include a reduced cross-section or freeway footprint and simplifying the ramps needed at the I-285 Interchange. The alternative provides easier emergency access to trucks. Safety concerns due to no barrier between HOV/BRT and the truck-only lanes represent one drawback.

  • Possible advantages of the managed lanes concept include additional tolling capacity and reducing the freeway footprint, impacts, and costs. This approach eliminates the potential of an empty-lane syndrome with the truck-only lanes and balances the peak travel of automobile and truck use. Possible drawbacks include safety concerns with automobiles and trucks operating in the same lanes, and making tolling and enforcement more difficult.

  • Toll collection and enforcement will be electronic and will be consistent with the Georgia-400 Toll Road. Enforcement will be more challenging if 3+ HOVs are allowed to use the lanes. Tolling provides needed revenue for the project.

  • There is a need for consistent signing, guidance, and lane designations. The project will possibly set a precedent for facilities in other corridors in the area. Issues related to truck access, variable toll signs, left entrances and exits, system trailblazing, lane restrictions, and user eligibility will need to be addressed.

  • The dual system urban interchange will replace the outdated and deficient cloverleaf interchange. This design reduces the interchange footprint and results in potential right-of-way cost savings. It also addresses comments in the DEIS to reduce community, right-of-way, and environmental impacts. The potential for off-line BRT stations also exists.

  • The initial project cost was approximately $1.8 billion. The cost has escalated to approximately $4 billion due to increasing costs for steel, concrete, the substantial BRT investment, and addressing all corridor design deficiencies. Limited local funds are available. A number of alternative financial options were examined, but none are close to being cost solvent.

  • GDOT is in the midst of a Strategic Improvement Plan Study. This study is considering the funding needs for the entire region. I-75 is one of four public/private initiatives on hold until this study is completed. While it is still an important strategic corridor for improvements, the timing of the managed lanes project may be shifted based on other regional priorities. The study is scheduled to resume in October 2008, including identifying alternative, cost-feasible solutions. A supplemental EIS will possibly be required, as the current EIS expires in 2009.

November 2009
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