Between 2015 and 2035, Southeast Florida transportation agencies plan to spend $58 billion on improving the region’s roadways and transit. Yet, even with all of that spending, regional planners project that rush-hour speeds will be 20 percent slower than they are today and the region’s traffic congestion will increase to levels worse than the gridlock experienced in today’s Los Angeles, the nation’s most congested area.
A new Reason Foundation study demonstrates how the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach areas can alter their long-term transportation plans to reduce traffic congestion by 13 percent and boost the Gross Regional Product by $3.5 billion a year. The key ingredient is a region-wide network of express lanes like those on I-95 in Miami. These toll lanes, variably priced to remain uncongested and free-flowing even during peak travel periods, add much-needed road capacity and enable a region-wide bus rapid transit system that would increase mass transit’s speed and reliability.
“Southeast Florida shouldn’t settle for longer commutes, slower travel speeds and more gridlock,” said Robert Poole, lead author of the report and director of transportation at Reason Foundation, where he has advised the U.S. Department of Transportation, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Department of Transportation, and numerous other states and agencies.
Based on 18 months of research, and carried out with the cooperation of Southeast Florida’s transportation agencies, the Reason Foundation study includes four primary components:
1. Build a region-wide network (302 route-miles and 1,117 lane-miles) of managed lanes similar to those on I-95 in Miami. The Reason plan includes an extension of the I-95 managed lanes into Palm Beach County as far north as Indiantown Road, as well as similar lanes on SR 826 (Palmetto Expressway) in Miami-Dade County, I-75 in Broward County and portions of the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike (HEFT).
2. Upgrade14 key arterials (107 route-miles) to include optional tolled underpasses allowing cars and buses to bypass signalized intersections, an innovation the report calls “managed arterials.” In Miami-Dade County, two of the new managed arterials would be Kendall Drive from SW 147th Ave. to US 1 and the Tamiami Trail (SW 8th St.) from the Palmetto Expressway to HEFT. For Broward County, the managed arterials would include SR 7/US 441 from Glades Road in Palm Beach County to Hollywood/Pines Blvd. in southern Broward County as the principal north-south route. And in Palm Beach County, the managed arterials would include Southern Blvd. from SR 7 to I-95, Boynton Beach Blvd. from the Turnpike to I-95, and Glades Road from SR 7 to US 1.
3. Replace the current long-term plan’s proposed bus-only lanes with express toll lanes that would serve as “virtually exclusive busways” offering high-quality express bus service, while also generating transportation revenue from motorists choosing to use them, and carrying significantly more vehicles and passengers than bus-only lanes.
4. Make a series of operational improvements to the road system, including extensive expressway ramp metering and further expansion of traffic signal coordination.
“All of these concepts are realistic and affordable,” Poole said. “Instead of settling for more traffic jams and slower commutes, Southeast Florida has the tools to create an efficient, integrated regional transportation system that utilizes technology, tolls, and bus rapid transit. Doing so will yield significant improvements in mobility and productivity.”
When Reason’s proposed network was modeled using FDOT’s regional planning model, congestion in 2035 was projected to be 13 percent less than with the current long-range plan. The value of time and fuel savings from the reduced congestion would be $1.35 billion per year. And because economists have demonstrated a strong link between less congestion and increased economic growth, the report forecasts Southeast Florida’s economy would be an estimated $3.5 billion a year larger.
Implementing Reason Foundation’s complete plan for the region would cost $20.2 billion over 20 years. Nearly 80 percent of the costs could be financed based on the toll revenues the network of managed lanes and managed arterials would produce. The study recommends obtaining the remaining $4.4 billion by reallocating funds from the lowest-priority projects in the current $58 billion long-range transportation plan.
Full Report Online
The complete report with detailed route information is available online here.
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Chris Mitchell, Director of Communications, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109