Commentary

Managed Lanes and Networks

Subsection of Annual Privatization Report 2013: Surface Transportation

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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.

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Robert Poole is director of transportation policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow at Reason Foundation. Poole, an MIT-trained engineer, has advised the Ronald Reagan, the George H.W. Bush, the Clinton, and the George W. Bush administrations.

Surface Transportation

In the field of surface transportation, Poole has advised the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the White House Office of Policy Development, National Economic Council, Government Accountability Office, and state DOTs in numerous states.

Poole's 1988 policy paper proposing privately financed toll lanes to relieve congestion directly inspired California's landmark private tollway law (AB 680), which authorized four pilot toll projects including the successful 91 Express Lanes in Orange County. More than 20 other states and the federal government have since enacted similar public-private partnership legislation. In 1993, Poole oversaw a study that coined the term HOT (high-occupancy toll) Lanes, a term which has become widely accepted since.

California Gov. Pete Wilson appointed Poole to the California's Commission on Transportation Investment and he also served on the Caltrans Privatization Advisory Steering Committee, where he helped oversee the implementation of AB 680.

From 2003 to 2005, he was a member of the Transportation Research Board's special committee on the long-term viability of the fuel tax for highway finance. In 2008 he served as a member of the Texas Study Committee on Private Participation in Toll Roads, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry. In 2009, he was a member of an Expert Review Panel for Washington State DOT, advising on a $1.5 billion toll mega-project. In 2010, he was a member of the transportation transition team for Florida's Governor-elect Rick Scott. He is a member of two TRB standing committees: Congestion Pricing and Managed Lanes.

Aviation

Poole is a member of the Government Accountability Office's National Aviation Studies Advisory Panel and he has testified before the House and Senate's aviation subcommittees on numerous occasions. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Poole consulted the White House Domestic Policy Council and the leadership of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

He has also advised the Federal Aviation Administration, Office of the Secretary of Transportation, White House Office of Policy Development, National Performance Review, National Economic Council, and the National Civil Aviation Review Commission on aviation issues. Poole is a member of the Critical Infrastructure Council of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation and of the Air Traffic Control Association.

Poole was among the first to propose the commercialization of the U.S. air traffic control system, and his work in this field has helped shape proposals for a U.S. air traffic control corporation. A version of his corporation concept was implemented in Canada in 1996 and was more recently endorsed by several former top FAA administrators.

Poole's studies also launched a national debate on airport privatization in the United States. He advised both the FAA and local officials during the 1989-90 controversy over the proposed privatization of Albany (NY) Airport. His policy research on this issue helped inspire Congress' 1996 enactment of the Airport Privatization Pilot Program and the privatization of Indianapolis' airport management under Mayor Steve Goldsmith.

General Background

Robert Poole co-founded the Reason Foundation with Manny Klausner and Tibor Machan in 1978, and served as its president and CEO from then until the end of 2000. He was a member of the Bush-Cheney transition team in 2000. Over the years, he has advised the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations on privatization and transportation policy.

Poole is credited as the first person to use the term "privatization" to refer to the contracting-out of public services and is the author of the first-ever book on privatization, Cutting Back City Hall, published by Universe Books in 1980. He is also editor of the books Instead of Regulation: Alternatives to Federal Regulatory Agencies (Lexington Books, 1981), Defending a Free Society (Lexington Books, 1984), and Unnatural Monopolies (Lexington Books, 1985). He also co-edited the book Free Minds & Free Markets: 25 Years of Reason (Pacific Research Institute, 1993).

Poole has written hundreds of articles, papers, and policy studies on privatization and transportation issues. His popular writings have appeared in national newspapers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, and numerous other publications. He has also been a guest on network television programs such as Good Morning America, NBC's Nightly News, ABC's World News Tonight, and the CBS Evening News. Poole writes a monthly column on transportation issues for Public Works Financing.

Poole earned his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and did graduate work in operations research at New York University.