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Congestion Pricing - A Primer: Evolution of Second Generation Pricing Projects

Case Studies

Several projects around the country exemplify the opportunities and challenges facing second generation pricing projects. Six case studies were selected to highlight projects that are in different stages of development and illustrate a wide range of topics. The case studies are generally organized starting with those that have made some progress, gradually building to the states/regions that have progressed the farthest.

Each of these six regions has achieved successful second generation pricing projects through very different means. There is a spectrum of successful approaches, ranging from Minneapolis, which is using minimal new infrastructure, to Houston, which has built substantial capacity increases. One common feature in each case study is the emphasis on providing more reliable transit service within the corridor or region.

Figure 2. Photo. I-95 Express Toll Lanes in Florida. Photo source: Florida DOT
Figure 2. Photo. I-95 Express Toll Lanes in Florida
Photo source: Florida DOT

Each of the following case studies describes the evolution of managed lanes, highlights key lessons learned, and defines the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) role in implementing the projects.

Table 3. Case Studies and Highlights
Case Study Highlights
Southeast Florida
  • The region developed a common vision and established project champions.
  • The project created dual express toll lanes by converting an HOV lane to a HOT lane and added a lane.
  • The focus was on building a managed lanes network with an innovative concept of operations.
  • The region instituted Express Buses and TSP as part of the project.
  • Multiple agencies and FDOT districts coordinated successfully. 
  • Early successes resulted in an extension of HOT lanes in the corridor and new I-595 ETLs.
Northern Virginia
  • The region is one of first to have HOV lanes, including systems that have been operational for over 40 years.
  • An unsolicited private proposal to build dual express toll lanes in median of I-495 created the impetus for the project.
  • Successful implementation of the I-495 project resulted in a new public-private express toll lane project on I-95/395.
  • The process required extensive reorganization and leadership within VDOT to adapt to the public-private partnership paradigm.
Puget Sound
  • An initial HOV to HOT lanes conversion evolved into a dual HOT lane system and full roadway tolling.
  • The region tied the regional managed lane system plan to the 2040 vision for managed roadways.
  • The region's managed lanes also function as key transit corridors.
  • Developing the initial portion of the network required extensive coordination within WSDOT and among 20 agencies.
  • The regional partners needed to deal with different operating rules on each facility.
  • The project resulted in expanded van pool and bus services.
Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • The initial conversion from HOV to HOT lanes on one project led to acceptance of pricing in other corridors.
  • The region instituted the innovative use of shoulders for bus travel.
  • The new corridor managed lane includes an HOV conversion and sections of new lanes.
  • Implementation of a vision for a regional HOT network is underway.
  • Katy Freeway represents a full evolution from reversible HOV lane to HOT lane conversion to dual express toll lanes within rebuilt freeway. 
  • Strong partnerships grew among State and regional agencies for planning, implementation and operations.
  • Partnership and strong leaders contributed to effective public communication.
San Diego
  • I-15 started as reversible HOV lanes, then became HOT, and is now operated as a dynamically priced by-the-mile system on a 20-mile, bidirectional managed lanes facility.
  • The region's emphasis is on new transit service and use of toll revenues to help support transit operations.
  • The successes have led to an express toll lane network expansion to I-5, I-805, and SR 52.
ETL = express toll lane
FDOT = Florida Department of Transportation
HOT = high-occupancy toll
HOV = high-occupancy vehicle
TSP = transit signal priority
WSDOT = Washington State Department of Transportation

Southeast Florida

Florida's first managed lane (1976) was a 14-mile segment of I-95 that operated as a concurrent flow high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane during peak periods. It was eventually expanded to 21 miles between I-395 and I-595. Over the years, this lane struggled with performance due to the high level of HOV 2+ vehicles, high violation rates in the HOV lanes, and congestion on the I-95 general purpose lanes.


  • Developed common vision and project champions.
  • Created dual express toll lanes by converting an HOV lane to a HOT lane and adding a lane.
  • Focus on building a priced managed lane network with innovative concept of operations.
  • Successfully coordinated among multiple agencies and FDOT districts.

In 2002, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) began to study the idea of converting the HOV lanes on I-95 to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. The study estimated the project would be feasible, so FDOT received a grant from the Value Pricing Program for funds to conduct public outreach and a tolling and revenue study, which was finalized in 2006. This ultimately led to FDOT's successful proposal under the Urban Partnership Agreement.

The resulting 7-mile I-95 express facility converted a single HOV lane each way into two HOT lanes in each direction. The extra lane was created by narrowing the travel lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet and narrowing the shoulders. Additionally, the existing HOV lane buffer was reduced to 1 foot of separation between the general use lanes and the proposed managed lanes. Construction also included some bridge and interchange improvements to maintain continuity of the dual managed lane facility. The design included pylon separation rather than concrete barriers, because of limited right of way. Innovative operational aspects of the project included shifting from HOV-2 to HOV-3 eligibility and requiring eligible carpools to register with the local ride-sharing agency. These characteristics differentiate I-95 from a conventional HOV to HOT conversion project.

The I-95 project was the first step in creating a two-county network of express toll lanes. Phase 1-A of the project, the southern half of northbound lanes, opened in 2008. Phase 1-B opened in 2010. Phase 2, extending the lanes 14 miles northward, will be opened in 2015.

Given the success of the 95 Express project, FDOT and its partners developed a plan to construct multiple Express Lane (EL) corridors across the Southeast Florida region to create an EL network. Four entities – FDOT District 4, FDOT District 6, FDOT Florida's Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) – will be involved in the EL network deployment. The roles and responsibilities of these agencies and specific design and operational guidance were prepared during the Southeast Florida Express Lanes Network Regional Concept for Transportation Operations (RCTO) project. The RCTO that was developed using Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) funding is one of the first of its kind and has been instrumental in making it possible for the region to move ahead with future corridors.

The Federal Highway Administration Role

Florida was awarded congestion pricing funds under the original program to vary the toll on two bridges in Lee County. That original project led to several follow-on studies in Lee County in addition to other parts of the state. Miami's first project was a project on the Florida turnpike in 2000. In 2003, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) was awarded Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) funds to evaluate HOT lanes on I-95 in Miami-Dade County. In 2004, they received additional VPPP funding to conduct outreach. Fort Myers and Orlando have also been awarded VPPP funds to examine pricing-related strategies.

The I-95 express lanes serve as an important part of the growing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network. Additional BRT vehicles were purchased as part of the project. The service network operates on the managed expressway lanes as well as on special-use lanes on three major arterials: Biscayne Boulevard, Flagler Street, and Kendall Drive. The buses also have transit vehicle priority at 50 signalized intersections and two uniquely branded BRT stations. As the managed lane network expands, FDOT hopes to allocate a portion of the revenues to subsidize transit service to support the BRT system. The I-95 project involved two FDOT districts, the Florida Turnpike Authority, two counties, and two metropolitan planning organizations (MPO). There was no formal "agreement" between FDOT and the Turnpike Authority, but staff was given specific authority during project planning, construction and operation. The project team also gained cooperation with the various transit agencies agreeing to help with transferring passengers and setting up rules regarding fares.

Ongoing Work

FDOT is moving ahead with an express toll lanes network in South Florida. Since the opening of the I-95 project, FDOT has completed efforts to add three reversible express toll lanes on I-595 in Ft. Lauderdale, and work is under way on extending the I-95 managed lanes north to Ft. Lauderdale. Other ongoing work includes adding priced managed lanes in the median of I-75 and on the north-south portion of the Palmetto Expressway in Miami. The Florida Turnpike is also adding managed "premium toll" lanes to the southern portion of its Homestead Extension in South Miami-Dade and to the Veterans Expressway in the Tampa Bay Region. These would be the first managed lanes on a toll road in the United States.

FDOT's vision is to deploy express toll lanes and networks throughout the State. Work is underway in Jacksonville (I-295), Orlando (I-4 Ultimate Project), and the Tampa Bay region (I-4, I-75, and I-275). The FHWA VPPP also funded a Bus Toll Lanes Proof-of-Concept study in the Tampa- Hillsborough County region. The bus toll lane concept envisions premium transit service operating on newly built priced-managed lanes that would function as the "fixed guideway" component of a BRT network. The bus toll lane is not a HOT lane in that in would not give toll discounts based on vehicle type or occupancy. The bus toll lane concept could be considered a second or third generation priced managed facility if it moves ahead to implementation.

Table 4. Evolution of the Southeast Florida Managed Lanes
Initial Design
  • Concurrent flow HOV lanes on I-95. Peak period operation only.
First Generation Pricing Project
  • Went directly into a second-generation project by converting an HOV lane to HOT, combined with a lane addition and expanded buffer.
Second Generation Pricing Project
  • Extended HOT express lanes on I-95 using some new construction and added supporting facilities such as park-and-ride lots.
Next Steps
  • Complete I-95 Express Lanes and other regional express toll lane projects.
  • Continue to work on express toll lane system. Pursue bus toll lanes.
HOT = high-occupancy toll, HOV = high-occupancy vehicle


95 Express Managed Toll Lanes In Miami Dade & Broward Counties:

South Florida Express Lanes Network:

Figure 3. Map. The Current and Planned Express Toll Lane Network in the Greater Miami Area.Map of teh South Florida 95 Express Lanes managed network, with color coded roadways to indicate in operation, under construction, in design, undergoing study, or in planning. Roadways are also designated Interstates/Expressways, Turnpike, MDX, or County.
(Source: Florida Department of Transportation)

Table 5. Southeast Florida Challenges and Opportunities.


  • Anticipated transit technical challenges related to passenger transfers and fare integration.
  • Accounted for time to develop dynamic tolling software.
  • Used existing SunPass transponder technology and back-office operations.


  • Defined a strong project vision.
  • Determined organizational structure from the onset, with clear lines of responsibility among the various agencies.
  • Developed a concept of operations early and refined as project was implemented.
  • Coordinated with authorizing agencies in the initial stages.
  • Appointed a strong project manager, who delegated responsibility to team members.


  • Planned for future phases of project.
  • Established a comprehensive schedule.
  • Included design/operations professionals in planning process.
  • Planned additional resources for project opening.
  • Planned for the future network integration.


  • Obtained additional lane on I-95 through lane and shoulder narrowing.
  • Provided additional buffer width by using pylons.
  • Developed adopted standard for express toll lane signing.
  • Designed toll gantries for potential future roadway expansion.


  • Enforcement was difficult during HOV operations but simplified during the HOV-to-HOT conversion project with widened buffers and limited access points, along with the carpool registration requirement.
  • All users must have SunPass transponder.


  • Each entity that implements portions of the express toll lanes network will use financing methods authorized by its governing legislation.
  • Public-private partnership delivery will be considered based on State law.


  • Kept public officials informed of project changes.
  • Coordinated communications among the project partners.
  • Developed a distinct "flying e" logo and name: "Southeast Florida Express Lanes Network."
HOT = high-occupancy toll, HOV = high-occupancy vehicle

Northern Virginia


  • One of first regions to have HOV lanes, including systems that have been operational for over 40 years.
  • Unsolicited private proposal to build dual express toll lanes in median of I-495.
  • Successful implementation led to new Public Private express toll lane project on I-95/I-395.
  • Public private partnership required extensive reorganization and leadership within VDOT

Northern Virginia was one of the first regions to implement high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, which eventually developed into a system of HOV lanes on I-395, I-66, and I-95. A missing piece to the HOV system was the Capitol Beltway (I-495), which provides a cross-county connection between the radial freeways. In response, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) initiated a large planning process along I-495 focused on adding HOV lanes. During the Environmental Impact Study (EIS), an opportunity was created through a private sector proposal (see text box) that changed the focus of the managed lanes project.

VDOT signed a contract with the concessionaire in December 2007, and construction began on the 495 Express Lanes, rebranded as the E-ZPass Express Lanes. Opened in 2012, the 14-mile priced managed lanes segment of I-495 extended from the Springfield Interchange to a point north of the Dulles Toll Road. The design added two express toll lanes in each direction, replaced more than 50 overpasses and bridges, reconstructed ten interchanges, and added direct HOV/high- occupancy toll (HOT) connections to the I-95/I-395 HOV lanes. The HOT lanes allow HOV 3+ and transit vehicles to travel free, while dynamic tolls are used to manage the other traffic.

The public-private project created several institutional challenges for VDOT. While the State already had public-private partnership authority with the Public-Private Transportation Act (PTA) of 1995, the Legislature was reluctant to relinquish control over the public-private partnership projects. Also, since the HOT lane proposal from the private sector was unsolicited, there initially was no project champion from a public agency or the political sectors. The State appointed an independent review panel, which ended up voting in favor of the private consortium proposal. Once the design with HOV/ HOT lanes and transit provisions was clarified, the Virginia Secretary of Transportation supported the project. VDOT also created the Office of Transportation Public Private Partnerships (OTP3), renamed the Virginia P3 Office, or VAP3, effective in 2014. Both the public and private sector partners were integrated into a team to deliver the project successfully.

Injecting Private-Sector Initiatives to Create a Priced Managed Roadway

In Northern Virginia, a complex planning process was already underway for the Capital Beltway (I-495) expansion when the unsolicited high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane proposal arrived from the concessionaire. At that time, the I-495 alternatives being considered would result in substantial right-of-way acquisitions and high capital cost. The concessionaire proposal promised a smaller project footprint with a much lower price tag. It also brought high-occupancy vehicle (HOV)/HOT lanes and transit benefits into the corridor. After substantial review, this design concept was added as a new alternative and the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process was restarted and completed. Having the EIS process already underway streamlined the approvals and was seen as a positive factor by the private applicant, the Fluor Corporation/Transurban team.

While the 495 Express Lanes were being implemented, the topic of converting other high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes was explored. This led to the creation of the I-95 Express Lanes project, which is a separate public-private partnership. The project proposed to construct and operate HOT lanes along a 29-mile portion of the existing, reversible, HOV-3 facility on I-95 and I-395. A third reversible lane was also added from the Prince William Parkway to the project's northern terminus between Duke Street and Edsall Road. To the north of this point, the reversible facility will continue to operate as an HOV 3+ facility. New HOV ramps were constructed, park-and-ride lots were expanded and funds were used to make other local transit improvements.

The Federal Highway Administration Role

Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) awarded funds to the Virginia Department of Transportation to study high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in 2003. However, the funds were redirected to evaluate HOT lanes in the Hampton Roads area. In 2011 VPPP awarded the state funds to examine the public acceptability of pricing in the Washington, DC, region (project conducted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) Transportation Planning Board).

VDOT is currently studying the possibility of implementing HOT lanes along I-66 outside the Beltway for a distance of about 25 miles, to US 15 in the Haymarket area. The State is looking for approval in 2015 with an opening possibly by 2021. In addition, VDOT is studying I-66 inside the Beltway for conversion during peak periods only from HOV to HOT as a VDOT owned and operated managed lane facility.

Table 6. Evolution of Northern Virginia Managed Lanes.
Initial Design
  • HOV lanes on I-95, I-395, and I-66.  Combination of concurrent flow and reversible HOV lanes.
First Generation Pricing Project
  • None.
Second Generation Pricing Project
  • Construction of I-495 Express Lanes with two added HOT lanes in each direction on the Capitol Beltway.
  • I-95/395 Express Lanes, which is a combination of an HOV to HOT conversion and lane additions.
Next Steps
  • Exploring the possibility of creating HOT lanes on I-66 outside of the Beltway for 25 miles.
  • Studying conversion of HOV to HOT lanes during peak periods o nI-66 inside the Beltway.
HOT = high-occupancy toll, HOV = high-occupancy vehicle


Virginia Megaprojects – I-495 HOT Lanes:

I-495/I-95 Express Lanes:

Map of the Northern Virginia managed lanes facilities and projects, including the I-495 Express lanes, 495 shoulder-use project, I-95 express lanes, I-95 shoulder improvements, the ramp from Fort Belvoir to I-95, the I-395 Auxiliary lane, and the I-395 HOV ramp at seminary road. The map also identifies the routes for the Virginia Rail Express lines, the Dulles Corridor Metrorail expansion phases 1 and 2, and the metro and rail services locations.
Figure 4. Map. The Northern Virginia Managed Lanes Facilities.
(Source: Virginia Department of Transportation)

Table 7. Northern Virginia Challenges and Opportunities.


  • Needed new switchable transponders called E-ZPass Flex to support the Express Lanes. Allows users to declare as an HOV 3+ on the I-495 and I-95 Express Lanes.  New back-office operations were created by Transurban.


  • Extensive reorganization needed within VDOT to implement the public-private partnership project on I-495. This organization is now working well and facilitated the I-95 Express Lanes project.
  • Concerns by Arlington County and the City of Alexandria resulted in changes in the final design of the I-95 Express lanes project.


  • Ongoing planning for the I-495 improvements was interrupted by the unsolicited HOT lane proposal. A new alternative was added to the environmental impact review process.
  • Expanding network creates challenges for toll policy and public information.


  • Reconstruction of I-495 required new overpasses and interchanges along with supporting infrastructure. The result was a state-of-the-practice express lane design.


  • VDOT needed to revise the E-ZPass operations to allow self-declaration of HOV status. Enforcement areas were designated on I-495.
  • Similar operations are present on I-95/I-395, although tolled (non-HOV eligible) vehicles must exit the lanes at the Alexandria city boundary, where the facility reverts to an HOV lane.


  • Public-private partnership proposal provided needed funding to implement the projects along with State and Federal funding.


  • Extensive public outreach for the 495 Express Lanes gained support after previous planning efforts could not reach a consensus on a viable project.
  • Existing HOVs using I-95/I-395 must obtain an E-ZPass flex and switch it into HOV mode to receive a free trip. This is a change from several decades of ongoing HOV operations in the corridor.
HOT = high-occupancy toll, HOV = high-occupancy vehicle, VDOT = Virginia Department of Transportation
Photo of construction work on the I-495 Express Lanes in Northern Virginia.
Figure 5. Photo. Construction of the I-495 Express Lanes in Northern Virginia.

Puget Sound, Washington

The Puget Sound region in Washington State has had one of the Nation's largest regional high- occupancy vehicle (HOV) systems for many years. It features 235 miles of managed facilities.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) first considered a priced managed roadway system in 2006 when the Washington State Legislature asked WSDOT to conduct a study on the feasibility of adding up to two express toll lanes to I-405 that would connect with existing high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on SR 167. This would form a seamless 50-mile Eastside Corridor.5 The first phase is scheduled to open in late 2015. It will include a dual express toll lane system from downtown Bellevue to Bothell/ Woodinville, and an existing carpool lane from SR 522 to I-5 will be converted to a single express toll lane. The remaining sections south of Bellevue will be added as funding becomes available to increase capacity along I-405.


  • Initial HOV to HOT conversion has evolved into a dual express toll lane system and full road-way tolling.
  • The regional managed lane system plan is tied to the 2040 vision for managed roadways.
  • Managed lanes also function as key transit corridors.
  • Developing the initial portion of the network required extensive coordination within WSDOT and among 20 agencies.
  • The regional partners needed to deal with different operating rules on each facility.

The other major priced managed roadway currently under construction is the SR 520 Bridge Replacement Project. This project is being partially funded with toll revenues generated by the SR 520 full-facility pricing project, which was funded as part of FHWA's Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA) grant program. The SR 520 full-facility pricing project charges variable tolls on all lanes of the existing floating bridge across Lake Washington. This project is unique because it initiated pricing on an existing bridge. The project was designed to manage demand and generate revenue to help fund the new bridge prior to completion of the replacement bridge, which is under construction.

An underlying objective of the managed lane program is to ensure ongoing reliability for transit, which relies strongly on the regional managed lane network to maintain efficient transit operations. Pricing provides WSDOT with another demand management tool to enable reliable speeds to be achieved on the managed lanes throughout the day.

Building a network of priced managed lanes creates design and operational challenges. Since most of the actions include converting and expanding the existing HOV lane system, the design needs to integrate those features without needing to totally rebuild the freeway infrastructure. For example, there are several HOV direct-access ramps along I-405 that are being retrofitted to better accommodate added toll traffic while maintaining reliable access for HOVs and transit. There are also different HOV eligibility rules that may be in place for each corridor. These will need to be reconciled as part of the concept of operations and public outreach process.

A key feature of the Puget Sound program is continuous interagency planning and collaboration. For example, the SR 520 Bridge tolling project has been a joint effort between WSDOT, King County Metro (transit service provider), and the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). These agencies collaborated on the Urban Partnership proposal and have remained active partners during implementation of the pricing project. WSDOT is the overall lead for the project, requiring coordination between Washington State Department of Transportation's (WSDOT) Toll Division, the Northwest Region, and the SR 520 mega-project office,6 which is constructing the new 520 floating bridge. Local agencies on both ends of the bridge are also actively engaged.

A Vision for Regional Pricing

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Vision 2040 plan (adopted in 2010) envisions priced freeways throughout the region. The intent is to manage and finance the highway network as a system of fully tolled facilities. The creation of priced managed lanes using the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane system as a backbone is the first step towards future fully priced roadways.

A strong public process has helped to build support for roadway pricing. A tolling implementation committee was established in 2010 to gauge and build public support and to provide guidance to the legislature. WSDOT also identified pricing champions in both the public and private sectors. The Secretaries of the WSDOT, past and present, have been stalwart supporters of the implementation of pricing to achieve the many PSRC regional policy goals. The following projects fit within those policy goals: the SR 520 Bridge (i.e., a fully tolled facility), priced managed lanes on SR 167, and forthcoming express toll lanes on I-405. Also important is the leadership provided by major businesses such as Boeing and Microsoft, whose employees commute along these roadways. The private sector leadership has helped bolster legislative support to continue the pricing program.

The Federal Highway Administration Role

The State's early Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) awards were focused on non-toll strategies (parking cash out and GPS-based pricing). In 2003, the State received funds to study high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on SR 167. The project was implemented in 2008. Subsequently, VPPP funded projects to evaluate the express toll lanes concept were undertaken in 2009 and they are currently piloting continuous access on SR 167. Full facility pricing began on the existing SR 520 bridge in December 2011. The facility is tolled by time of day, and toll revenue generated will be used to pay for part of the construction costs of the new floating bridge.

Map of the existing and proposed priced managed lanes on SR 167 and I-405. The map also indicates if the proposed segments are funded or unfunded.
Figure 6. Map. Existing and Proposed Priced Managed Lanes for SR 167 and I-405 in the Puget Sound Region.
Source: Washington State Department of Transportation)

Table 8. Evolution of Puget Sound Managed Lanes.
Initial Design
  • HOV lanes on 235 miles of regional freeways. Combination of concurrent flow and reversible HOV lanes.
First Generation Pricing Project
  • Converted single-lane SR 167 HOV lanes to HOT lanes.
Second Generation Pricing Project
  • Added variable tolls on SR 520, which includes an existing bridge crossing Lake Washington. A new bridge is under construction.
  • Creating dual express toll lanes on I-405, eventually tying to the existing SR 167 HOT lanes.
Next Steps
  • Complete I-405 Express Toll Lanes and SR 520 bridge replacement.
  • Continue to work on priced managed lane system and regional priced freeway vision.
HOT = high-occupancy toll, HOV = high-occupancy vehicle


WSDOT – I-405 Express Toll Lanes:

WSDOT – High-occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes:

Photo of the existing SR 520 Bridge in Washington during rush hour conditions and heavy weather.
Figure 7. Photo. Existing SR 520 Bridge in Washington Prior to Replacement
Photo source: WSDOT

Table 9. Puget Sound Challenges and Opportunities.


  • Needed to update Good-to-Go transponders and back-office operations to accommodate addition of SR 167 and SR 520 pricing projects. Toll system was originally developed for the Tacoma Narrows bridge project.
  • Switchable transponders allowed self-declaration of HOV status on SR 167.
  • The upcoming I-405 express lanes require WSDOT to change to a declarable transponder in order to allow HOV 3+ to travel free during peak periods and HOV 2+ to travel free during off-peak periods.


  • Extensive coordination was needed within WSDOT among the Toll Division, Northwest Region, and Headquarters Offices.
  • More than 20 agencies were involved in Eastside Corridor Express Toll Lanes. WSDOT created an executive committee to coordinate State, regional, and local interests.
  • The State Transportation Commission sets the toll rates with input from WSDOT and other stakeholders.


  • While there may be differing eligibility rules on each facility, WSDOT is striving to the extent possible to provide consistent messaging for the customer.
  • WSDOT conducted regional tolling studies with the goal of eventually implementing pricing on all freeways consistent with the regional transportation plan.
  • I-405 master plan was modified to accommodate the dual-lane express system.


  • SR 167 was a pilot HOV-to-HOT conversion with limited access points. It subsequently became a permanent facility, but the design was converted to allow continuous HOV/HOT access.
  • Freeway-to-freeway HOV/HOT connection is a high priority linking SR 167 and I-405 to provide seamless transition within Eastside corridor.
  • Creating express toll lanes on I-405 requires some changes in express lane buffers and direct HOV access ramps, which were not designed to accommodate non-HOV traffic.


  • Enforcement was straight-forward during first generation SR 167 HOV-to-HOT conversion project. Connection to I-405 may create modified HOV eligibility rules and self-declaration process.
  • SR 520 Bridge charges all vehicles, with the exception of transit and vanpools that are exempted[1] if registered and have a Good to Go! Pass.
  • The SR 520 corridor includes Active Transportation Demand Management.


  • Revenues collected on I-405 will be dependent on HOV eligibility rules.
  • WSDOT needing to collaborate with Sound Transit and FTA on funding responsibilities and performance requirements for existing direct access ramps along I-405, which were partially funded for HOV and transit access only.


  • The public has been supportive of HOV lane system; extensive public outreach is being conducted to gain support for the Eastside Corridor tolling project.
  • Implementing SR 167 HOT lanes as a "pilot project" helped to gain public support as it has become more successful.
  • There is a continuing need to educate the public on the function of pricing on SR 520 as a tool for both traffic management as well as funding. The success of the UPA project funded by USDOT helped to reinforce that message.
FTA = Federal Transit Administration
HOT = high-occupancy toll
HOV = high-occupancy vehicle
UPA = Urban Partnership Agreement
USDOT = United States Department of Transportation
WSDOT = Washington State Department of Transportation

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

The greater Minneapolis-St. Paul region has implemented two managed lane projects on I-394 and I-35W. Both of these facilities started as high- occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and were subsequently converted to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes under the MnPASS program. The HOT lanes allow HOV 2+ and transit to travel free, while single-occupancy vehicles (SOV) can buy into the lanes using dynamic pricing.


  • The initial conversion from HOV to HOT lanes on one project led to acceptance of pricing in other corridors.
  • The region instituted the innovative use shoulders for bus travel.
  • The new corridor managed lane includes an HOV conversion and sections of new lanes.
  • Implementation of a vision for a regional HOT network is underway.

The MnPASS project objectives, first applied to I-394, were as follows:

  • Improve efficiency by increasing the person- and vehicle-carrying capabilities of existing HOV lanes.
  • Maintain free-flow speeds for transit and carpools.
  • Implement electronic toll collection for dynamic pricing and electronic enforcement.

The I-394 conversion resulted when the facility's under utilized HOV lane came under increased political and public scrutiny. The new MnPASS managed lanes were opened along the 11-mile corridor in 2005 and featured dynamic pricing. These were the first HOT lanes to use double-striped lines rather than physical barriers.

The I-35W MnPASS lanes, supported under the Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA) program, were opened in 2009 and included 8 miles of an HOV to HOT conversion project, plus a 3 mile priced dynamic shoulder lane. The dynamic shoulder lane is used as a priced managed lane during peak periods, and then returned to a shoulder during off-peak periods. The priced dynamic shoulder lanes were an outgrowth of the region's system of bus-only shoulders and were considered a better way of utilizing existing infrastructure as an interim solution.

Both the I-394 and I-35W MnPASS lanes could be considered first generation priced facilities in that they converted existing HOV lanes into HOT lanes, and in the case of I-35W, converted an existing shoulder into a peak period HOT lane. The move into second generation priced facilities will occur in 2015, when MnPASS will add new lanes to a 4-mile section of I-35E, north of St. Paul.

In 2016, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) plans to extend the I-35E MnPASS lanes further north through a combination of lane additions and an innovative approach through the I-35E/I-694 commons area. Because there was no need to add lanes through this recently reconstructed commons area, MnDOT decided to convert the inside southbound general purpose lane to a HOT lane during the morning peak period. In the northbound direction through the commons, there will be no HOT lane designation. This approach will be evaluated for a 1-2 year period, and modifications could be made depending on the evaluation results.

MnDOT and the Metropolitan Council (the region's metropolitan planning organization (MPO) have a vision for a MnPASS system throughout the Twin Cities area. There are plans to extend the MnPASS lanes on I-35W south of Minneapolis, add MnPASS lanes on I-35W north of Minneapolis, and add MnPASS lanes on I-94 between Minneapolis and St. Paul. MnDOT is also evaluating and developing several other corridors for MnPASS lanes should additional funding become available.

The Federal Highway Administration Role

The first pricing funds were awarded in 1999 to conduct a regional study and public outreach. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) was awarded Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) funds the next 6 years to study both toll- and non-toll-pricing applications.

In 2007, MnDOT obtained UPA funding to test several innovations to managed lanes along I-35W. In 2012, MnDOT received a VPPP grant to conduct a pre-implementation study of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane options on I-35E.

Table 10. Evolution of Minneapolis Managed Lanes.
Initial Design
  • HOV lanes operated on I-394 and I-35W.
First Generation Pricing Project
  • Converted HOV lanes to HOT lanes.
  • Added priced dynamic shoulder to I-35W.
Second Generation Pricing Project
  • Expanding HOT lane system by adding lanes to I-35E.
  • Exploring conversion of existing general purpose lane capacity.
Next Steps
  • Planning and developing future priced managed lanes on several corridors.
HOT = high-occupancy toll, HOV = high-occupancy vehicle

Photo of vehicles on the I-35W MnPass Express lanes.
Figure 8. Photo. I-35W MnPass Express Lanes in Minnesota
Photo source: FHWA


Regional Transportation Management Center (RTMC) – Reports – MnDOT:

Table 11. Minneapolis Challenges and Opportunities.


  • Used intelligent lane control signs over each lane to enable tolling on the shoulder during peak periods and to control variable speeds on all lanes. Currently installing advanced transponder enforcement technology and fully digital pricing signs.


  • Built political constituency in first MnPASS projects and looking for opportunities to expand HOT lane acceptance throughout the region.
  • MnDOT is the region's sole toll agency and has a close working relationship with the region's MPO.


  • Two separate HOT lane system planning efforts led to the adoption of a HOT lane system vision in the MnDOT and MPO long range transportation plans.
  • In-depth HOT lane planning and development are underway on several corridors. The primary policy goals are to maximize the movement of people through corridors during congested periods, increase transit use and carpooling, and provide commuters with a reliable and sustainable congestion-free option.
  • MnDOT is currently considering interoperability policies


  • MnDOT used design exceptions as needed to fit lanes within I-394 and I-35W.  For I-35W, these variations were made easier due to the project being a UPA grant project and being on tight deadlines.
  • The priced dynamic shoulder design on I-35W was facilitated by a successful history with shoulder bus lanes.


  • Each corridor has some operational variations (e.g., reversible dual lane segment on I-394, priced dynamic shoulder lane segment on I-35W, and gap in the HOT lane on northbound I-35E), but most operational features are the same as or very similar to each other among the corridors (e.g., common signing, occupancy and pricing rules).
  • The managed lanes are primarily a single-lane system.
  • Managed lanes operate only during weekday peak periods


  • Objective of MnPASS is to manage congestion, not to maximize revenue.
  • MnDOT & transit agency negotiated revenue splits.
  • I-35W was almost entirely funded by the Federal UPA program, which was key in facilitating public and political acceptance.
  • A portion of the I-35E corridor is being delivered using design-build.
  • Utilizing high return-on-investment strategies is critical (e.g. implementing within existing infrastructure and right-of-way footprint; coordinating with bridge and pavement preservation work; including transit advantage improvements like Park & Ride lots).
  • Funding for HOT lane system expansion is a challenge when virtually all of MnDOT's revenue is going to preserve existing infrastructure.


  • Familiarity with existing MnPASS projects helped to facilitate understanding of I-35E project. Generally with each corridor there is a different set of users with different expectations.
  • Extensive public outreach and surveys conducted to determine the most acceptable mix of strategies to extend I-35E to the north.
  • Emphasizing expansion of transit benefits and travel choices is important.
  • Focusing on customer value is key.
HOT = high-occupancy toll
HOV = high-occupancy vehicle
MnDOT = Minnesota Department of Transportation
MPO = metropolitan planning organization
UPA = urban partnership agreement
Map of the Minneapolis/St. Paul region with existing and future managed lanes, as well as those planned to be opened in 2016, highlighted.
Figure 9. Map. The Existing and Future Managed Lanes in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Region.
(Source: Minnesota Department of Transportation)

Houston, Texas

Houston's experience with managed lanes started in the late 1970's with the North Transitway (I-45) contraflow lanes. Subsequently, transitways (i.e. reversible managed high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes) were developed along I-45 North (North), I-45 South (Gulf), I-10 (Katy), US 59 South (Southwest), US 59 North (Eastex) and US 290 (Northwest).


  • Katy Freeway represents full evolution from reversible HOV lane, to HOT conversion, to dual express toll lanes within rebuilt freeway.
  • Strong partnership among State and regional agencies for planning, implementation and operation.
  • Partnership and strong leaders contributed to effective public communication.

The transitways were primarily one-lane, reversible, barrier-separated facilities located in the median of a freeway. Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro) and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) jointly funded these projects under various agreements, which also involved Federal funding (Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the Gulf, North, Eastex, Southwest and Northwest corridors.

As this radial network of transitways was completed in the late 1990's, usage grew and several of the managed lanes started to have capacity problems due to high HOV usage. The region was also facing severe congestion on most of the general purpose lanes, leading to plans for freeway reconstruction and expansion on some corridors. The decisions that came next led to the development of second- generation managed lanes that also brought in pricing characteristics. The Katy Freeway (I-10) serves as a good illustration of this evolution. The Katy HOV lane opened in 1984, and vehicle eligibility for the HOV lane gradually decreased from only transit and vanpools to all vehicles with two or more occupants. Growing travel demand led to overcrowding and slower speeds on the HOV lane during peak periods. In response, the Katy HOV lane was restricted to HOV 3+ during the peak hours, leading to "empty lane" syndrome.

In January 1998, the QuickRide pricing program began. The primary goal of this program was to increase the person throughput on the Katy HOV lane and in the Katy freeway corridor. The plan added pricing to allow HOV 2 users to "buy into" the HOV lane during the morning and evening peak periods—hence the name QuickRide. A post- implementation study that evaluated the QuickRide program found that demand for paid HOV-2 was relatively low and did not lead to significantly better freeway operations. During this time, TxDOT conducted an evaluation process to assess the current condition and future needs of the Katy Freeway corridor including the general-purpose lanes, the HOV lane, and local access roads. The study recommended a full reconstruction of the Katy Freeway. Due to the need for substantial capacity above what could be environmentally approved, two lanes in each direction were reserved as special use lanes.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) made a proposal to finance the construction of the four special-use lanes in the median of the Katy Freeway between I-610 and SH 6 with the stipulation that the agency could operate them as a priced managed lane facility. The proposal by HCTRA to build, operate, and maintain the managed lane portion of the highway allowed the construction of the facility to be completed sooner. In turn, this action allowed TxDOT to prioritize funding for other managed lane corridors in the region.

Snapshot of other Houston Managed Lanes

NOTE: These are all considered first generation priced managed lanes.

Northwest Freeway (U.S. 290) QuickRide - Converted a reversible high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane to a high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane facility. The US 290 Northwest Freeway QuickRide conversion occurred in 2000 and was replaced in 2012 with a more advanced, dynamically priced ETC operation that allowed single occupant vehicles to pay to use the facility. This project is now in the process being replaced by an expanded, multilane, second-generation facility.

Gulf Freeway (I-45S) - Converted one reversible HOV lane to a HOT, HOV2+ free, time variable tolling (no tolling 7-8am / 4-6pm) lane with occupancy declared via declaration lanes at entrances.

North Freeway (I-45N) - Converted one reversible HOV lane to HOT (A1-33), HOV2+ free, time variable tolling lane with occupancy declared via declaration lanes at entrances.

Eastex Freeway (US-59N) - Converted one reversible HOV lane to HOT, HOV2+ / motorcycles ride free (5-11am / 2-8pm) lane.

Southwest Freeway (US-59S) - Converted one reversible HOV lane to HOT, time variable tolling, HOV2+ / motorcycles ride free (5-11am / 2-8pm) lane. Outer portion now transitions to one concurrent lane in each direction.

While Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) would operate the managed lanes, the general- purpose lanes remained under the jurisdiction of Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). A later pact with Metro was made in a tri-party agreement to allow transit vehicles to use the managed lanes for free as an effort to improve mobility on the corridor. This innovative delivery process provides a model for funding, operating, and maintaining the managed lanes. The tri-party agreement between TxDOT, HCTRA, and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) was also innovative because it included components not commonly involved in the delivery of major transportation investments: These include (1) having a shared operating agreement, (2) financing the construction of managed lanes on an Interstate Highway through a county-based toll operator, and (3) using open road electronic tolling

The Katy Freeway Managed Lanes on I-10, also referred to as the Katy Tollway, became fully operational in 2009. Two managed lanes operate (HOV 2+ discount) in each direction in the median of the facility, bounded by at least four general- purpose lanes in each direction and three or more frontage road lanes. The managed lanes terminate at the west end into a concurrent-flow HOV lane.

It was the first newly constructed managed lane project in Texas that included variably priced operations. The priced managed lanes occupy four lanes within the center of the freeway and contain channelized slip ramps with the general purpose lanes as well as flyover ramps with transit facilities and local streets. In 2014 HCTRA formally announced that they were no longer going to co-sponsor managed lane operations on the Katy Freeway Managed Lanes nor be a sponsor to the new US 290 Managed Lanes. TxDOT will likely take over sponsorship of these projects in 2015.

The Federal Highway Administration Role

Houston's first congestion pricing project was awarded under the Congestion Pricing Pilot Program in the late 1990s. Between 2002 and 2005, the Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) funded pricing feasibility studies in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio to evaluate the feasibility of dynamic pricing.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area performed one of the first evaluations of pricing from a regional perspective. The Katy managed lanes helped to test the design for multilane treatments that have since been implemented on corridors in Texas and elsewhere.

Illustrated map of the Katy Freeway (I-10) managed lanes facility that runs perpendicular between I-610 and Texas route 6. The map highlights the locations of the entrances, exits, tolling plaza, and HOV lanes as well as the managed lanes and general purpose lanes.
Figure 10. Diagram. The Katy Freeway Managed Lane Facility in Houston.
(Source: Harris County Toll Road Authority)

Photo depicts a set of Katy freeway entrances to both the toll only lanes as well as the HOV lanes.
Figure 11. Photo. Gulf Freeway High-Occupancy Vehicle and High-Occupancy Toll Lanes at the Eastwood Transit Center in Texas.
Photo source: Houston Public

Table 12. Evolution of Houston Managed Lanes.
Initial Design
  • Single reversible HOV lanes on four radial freeways. Expanded to a total of six radial freeways by 1990s.
First Generation Pricing Project
  • Converted reversible HOV lane to HOT. Katy Freeway charged HOV-2s during peak hours.  Project was subsequently replaced by freeway reconstruction.
Second Generation Pricing Project
  • Katy Freeway reconstructed and opened in 2009 with dual express toll lanes in each direction.
Next Steps
  • Continue to work on priced managed lane system with Katy Freeway style reconstruction on US 290 corridor as funding permits. I-45N (North) is the only other corridor slated for some reconstruction, and HOT lane may retain same design. A new managed lane corridor is planned for the median of SH 288.
HOT = high-occupancy toll, HOV = high-occupancy vehicle

Table 13. Houston Challenges and Opportunities.


  • Included state-of-the-art tolling equipment as rebuild of Katy freeway.
  • Used existing HCTRA back office operations, enforcement, and transponder technology


  • Extensive coordination was needed between TxDOT, FHWA, and the Harris County Toll Road Authority. Later this group grew to include Metro to handle transit use of the managed lanes.
  • The effort had strong project champions at technical, agency, and political levels.
  • TxDOT has since needed to take over operations, as HCTRA has withdrawn from its role on the Katy and other regional priced managed lanes projects.


  • TxDOT determined that the original reversible lane HOT operation (originally intended only for a short term 5-8 year operational life) was unable to provide sufficient priority treatment for the long term, and a more robust strategy was needed.


  • Two managed lanes operate in each direction in the median of the facility, bound by four or more general-purpose lanes and three or more frontage road lanes in each direction.
  • The roadways feature generous lane, shoulder, and buffer widths.
  • A wide inside shoulder at the tolling plazas gives enforcement vehicles a place to manually observe HOV occupancy compliance.
  • The Addicks Park-and-Ride Lot and the Northwest Transit Center are located at opposite ends of the Katy Managed Lanes project and provide services for users seeking carpools and transit services.


  • Having no formal concept of operations did not affect efficiency of operations, but would have been helpful in early concept design and placement of tolling infrastructure.
  • Differing occupancy policies created challenges in developing a seamless priced managed lane network.
  • Tolling operations are facilitated by long history of pricing in Texas.


  • Clear funding roles were achieved among the entities.
  • Funding was locally prioritized by agency partnering, thus accelerating the project schedule.


  • TxDOT and other local agencies built on the many years of experience with the Katy HOV and HOT lanes to build support.
  • Clear and coordinated messaging throughout project development and implementation contributed to the project's success.
HCTRA = Harris County Toll Road Authority
HOT = high-occupancy toll
HOV = high-occupancy vehicle
TxDOT = Texas Department of Transportation

San Diego, California

The I-15 Express Lanes facility in San Diego offers an example of a priced managed lane project that contains an integral transit component. The I-15 facility, located northeast of downtown San Diego, started as a reversible, two-lane high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) facility that extended for 8 miles. Opened in 1988, the HOV lanes were underutilized for several years, with demand decreasing during the early 1990s. Also during this time, agencies sought to expand peak commuter transit service to the northeastern San Diego region.


  • I-15 started as reversible HOV lanes, then became high-occupancy toll (HOT), and is now operated as a dynamically-priced by-the-mile system on a 20-mile, bi-directional managed lanes facility.
  • Emphasis on new transit service and use of toll revenues to help support transit operations.
  • Success leading to express toll lane network expansion to I-5, I-805, and SR 52.

Using a Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) grant from Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), San Diego converted the HOV lanes into a high-occupancy toll (HOT) facility. Renamed FasTrak, the I-15 HOT lanes' purpose was to better utilize the HOV lanes and ensure fast, reliable transit service. The managed lane operation was simple in that there was only one entry and exit point. Revenues from the HOT lanes were allocated to new corridor transit service, providing an additional travel choice to commuters.

The success of the HOT lane conversion led to a major freeway reconstruction/expansion effort in 2012 between SR 163 and SR 78. This project added two HOT lanes in the existing section to create a bi-directional, four-lane facility and extended the project north by 12 miles, completing a 20-mile barrier-separated HOT facility. The managed lanes have a movable barrier that can allow various combinations of operations for the 4 combined HOT lanes and multiple access points to the general purpose highway lanes. In addition, direct access ramps, park-and-ride lots, and transit stations were added along the HOT lane section.

The HOT lanes allow HOV 2+ and transit to travel free, while single-occupancy vehicles (SOV) can buy into the lanes using dynamic pricing. This operation allows demand to be fully managed throughout the HOT lane facility.

The initial HOT Lane project included a new express bus service. Further expanded as part of the second- generation project, a 35-mile all-day bus rapid transit (BRT) line was implemented in 2014 connecting Escondido to downtown San Diego via the I-15 Express Lanes (branded as "Rapid"). Five direct connector ramps allow BRT vehicles (and carpools/ vanpools/SOV toll users) access to off-line BRT stations and park-and-ride facilities. These connector ramps and stations are spaced roughly every 4 miles.

I-15 FasTrak currently generates toll revenues of nearly $1 million per year for BRT service in the I-15 corridor. After covering operating expenses, the remaining revenues are earmarked to be spent on improving corridor transit service, an arrangement that helped to gain political and public acceptability of the project.

The Federal Highway Administration Role

The FasTrak project was originally funded under the Congestion Pricing Pilot Program (CPPP). Future aspects of the project (exploring variable and dynamic pricing and enforcement) were funded under the Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP).

Due to the success of the FasTrak project, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is working to expand the express toll lane network to I-5, I-805, and SR 52. Each facility will have unique character and design features but will have common branding and basic operating rules.

Map of the I-15 corridor. Four express lanes are located in the middle of the 1-15 extending 20 miles from State Route 78 in Escondido to State Route 163 in San Diego. Every two to three miles, entrances and exits have been constructed for travelers to move on and off the main lanes to the Express lanes. Carpools, vanpools, motorcycles, public transit  vehicles, and permitted clean air vehicles can use the Express lanes free of charge. Single-occupant vehicles can also use the Express Lanes when they have a FasTrakĀ® pass to electronically collect tolls.
Figure 12. Screenshot. The San Diego 1-15 Corridor Express Lanes.
(Source: San Diego Association of Governments)

Table 14. Evolution of I-15 Managed Lanes.
Initial Design
  • Reversible HOV lanes with single entry/exit point (8 miles).
First Generation Pricing Project
  • Converted HOV lanes to HOT lanes. Added peak express transit.
Second Generation Pricing Project
  • Expanded HOT lane system to four lanes and extended to 20 miles. The system contains multiple access points and supporting facilities and services. All-day BRT service was also implemented.
Next Steps
  • Plans exist to expand FasTrak on the I-5, I-805, and SR-52 corridors.
HOT = high-occupancy toll, HOV = high-occupancy vehicle

Table 15. San Diego Challenges and Opportunities.


  • The complexity of dynamic pricing increased with the HOT lane extension and the addition of more access points.
  • SANDAG is investigating automated vehicle occupancy technology to identify and enforce a mix of users.


  • The project had strong political champions.
  • The agencies involved needed to work out agreements to fund transit service from toll revenues.
  • SANDAG consolidated internal responsibilities to help facilitate implementation


  • The project provided an opportunity to include new BRT transit service on corridor.
  • HOV 2+ vehicles were able to continue to travel for free on the corridor with multiple HOT lanes.


  • Expansion required design integration of direct access ramps, transit stations, and park-and-ride facilities.
  • The facility features more complex signing for access and changeable toll rates.


  • Enforcement was simple during the first-generation phase due to single access points.  Expanding the length and increasing access to the managed lanes creates additional enforcement needs.
  • Moveable barrier allows flexible management but must be adjusted regularly.


  • A major portion of revenues collected were earmarked to expanded transit service in corridor.


  • The public was supportive of extending HOT lanes and the supporting facilities and services.
  • Expansion of transit service with toll revenues addressed many of the equity issues.
BRT = bus rapid transit
HOT = high-occupancy toll
HOV = high-occupancy vehicle
SANDAG = San Diego Association of Governments

Photo of the I-15 express lanes in California.
Figure 13. Photo. I-15 Express Lanes in California
Photo source:

5 Priced managed lanes on I-405 were initially considered in 2002 as part of a programmatic Environmental Impact Study for the I-405 Master Plan. This concept was further studied and then supported with state legislation. Priced managed lanes were successfully tested along SR 167, helping to build support for the I-405 express lanes project. [ Return to note 5. ]

6 The mega-project office reports directly to WSDOT headquarters in Olympia, WA. [ Return to note 6. ]

Office of Operations