New data from three of the largest toll agencies in the U.S. demonstrates that the number of traffic accidents at open-road tolling (ORT) plazas is significantly less than at traditional toll plazas, PBS&J, Orlando, Fla., reported.
Data from Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE), the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority (OOCEA) and the Texas Turnpike Authority (TTA) Division of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) show that conversion to ORT reduces toll plaza accidents by more than 60%.
At traditional toll plazas, vehicles must slow down and pay tolls with either cash or a transponder. At ORT plazas, vehicles travel at highway speeds under gantries that collect the tolls electronically.
Over the past several years, FTE has been converting a number of traditional toll lanes to ORT lanes. At the seven toll plazas that now have ORT (reflecting about 174 million transactions per year), accidents have decreased by an average of 62%.
Since 2003, OOCEA also has been converting toll lanes to ORT, and in 2008 processed over 120 million transactions through converted ORT plazas.
The data shows that accidents at these converted plazas have decreased on average by over 80% compared with the number of accidents that occurred at the traditional toll plazas.
TTA’s Central Texas Turnpike System processed about 99 million toll transactions in 2007 and 2008 combined.
Slightly more than half of the tolling transactions were through an ORT gantry location, and the other half were through a traditional plaza where tolls are collected in either stopped or slow-down conditions. In 2007 and 2008, there were a total of 96 accidents at the traditional toll plazas, but none at the ORT lanes.
“Most of the accidents at toll plazas involve vehicles colliding with some part of the toll plaza infrastructure: guardrails, bollards, attenuators, barriers or light posts,” said Michael Davis, P.E., PBS&J national tolls senior group manager.
“ORT lanes are ‘open’ for good reason. There are no such obstructions for vehicles to hit.”
Some accidents involve vehicles rear-ending the slowed or stopped vehicles in front. ORT collects tolls as the vehicles pass under the gantries at highway speeds. There are no slowdowns to cause such traffic irregularities.
Traffic.com not willing to share
The U.S. DOT’s grand highway traffic monitoring system will most likely not make a grand entrance.
Sensors are being installed in 27 cities, but the contractor hired to implement the system, Traffic.com, was granted exclusive control of the data and is now planning on charging state and local DOTs a user fee. The U.S. DOT’s inspector general released a report on the troubled system on Dec. 14.
The audit also found widespread reliability problems with the data collection. Members of Congress are now encouraging the U.S. DOT to terminate its contract with Traffic.com.
Signs to shrink on Intercounty Connector
The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) is planning to install smaller signs on roads leading to the Intercounty Connector (ICC), the Washington Post reported. The signs, originally planned for guiding drivers to the new highway, drew complaints from Olney, Md., residents, who said the larger, overhead signs ruined the “greenway” feel of Georgia Avenue, one of five roads that will intersect with the ICC.
SHA now plans to install unlighted signs a third smaller and placed on the roadside or in a median. The decision affects about 200 signs telling motorists how to enter the ICC, what the toll is and where to tune their radio fortraffic information.
Cruising Florida nonstop The Florida Department of Transportation has begun converting the southern 26 miles of the Florida Turnpike in Miami-Dade County into an all-electronic open-road tolling facility, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise announced.
The $33 million project will upgrade the Homestead and Bird Road mainline toll plazas and the 17 ramp plazas located between the U.S. 1 and S.R. 836 interchanges.
All-electronic open-road tolling will eliminate the collection of cash at the plazas. Tolls will be collected via SunPass or through Toll-by-Plate, a system that uses cameras to snap a photo of a vehicle’s license plate and bills the registered owner of the vehicle for the toll.
Drivers without SunPass can wait for a bill to arrive in the mail or set up a Toll-by-Plate account to pay for their tolls. SunPass users will pay the same rate they currently pay. Toll-by-Plate users will pay the current cash rate, which is often 25 cents more than the SunPass rate, according to the Associated Press.
The project also entails removing the existing tollbooths and structures, toll plaza building modifications, roadway improvements, grading, drainage, new signs and new pavement markings.
Construction is scheduled to begin in January 2010 and wrap up in early 2011.