Tolled express lanes proposed for non-expressway roads

(MIAMI HERALD)   All of South Florida’s highways and even some of its major roads may one day offer tolled express lanes if the recommendations of a study released Tuesday are carried out.

The study calls for adding toll lanes over the next 20 years. Offering a faster commute, the lanes would be similar to the current Interstate 95 express lanes in Miami-Dade County. Even some stretches of toll roads, such as Florida’s Turnpike, would get higher-priced premium lanes.

Tolled overpasses or underpasses would be built at 79 intersections on 14 major roads in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, among them Broward Boulevard, Pines Boulevard and Southwest 10th Street in Broward; South Dixie Highway (U.S. 1) in Miami-Dade; and Glades Road and Boynton Beach Boulevard in Palm Beach County.

The study’s authors say toll lanes would give drivers a choice as well as boost mass transit by allowing rapid transit-style buses to run faster on major corridors.

“We’re reinforcing some of what the state is already doing and saying we can do a lot more,” said Robert Poole, lead author of the report and director of transportation at the Reason Foundation, a libertarian public policy think tank.

Poole will present the study at a Miami Chamber of Commerce transportation forum Wednesday that will include Gus Pego, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation’s Miami district office, and Javier Rodriguez, executive director of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.

Officials are not bound to carry out anything in the proposal. But Poole, a Plantation resident who advocates road improvements and bus rapid transit over passenger rail, is one of Gov. Rick Scott’s transportation advisers and served on his transition team.

Jim Wolfe, secretary of the DOT’s district office in Fort Lauderdale, said the department is reviewing how tolls could be applied on roads that are not part of the expressway system.

Over the next 23 years, transportation agencies in South Florida plan to spend $58 billion on road and transit projects. Poole said his analysis shows rush-hour speeds will be 20 percent slower than today, with congestion worse than in today’s Los Angeles.

The toll express lanes on I-95 are already being extended from the Golden Glades Interchange north to Broward Boulevard. They will open to traffic in 2014, the same year reversible express lanes will open on Interstate 595. Plans also are in the works over the next 10 years for tolled express lanes on I-75 and the Palmetto and Dolphin expressways in Miami-Dade.

Poole’s proposal calls for toll lanes on I-95 as far north as Indiantown Road in Jupiter, and would add “premium” toll lanes on the turnpike and the Sawgrass Expressway.

On Broward Boulevard, drivers could pay a toll to take an underpass at Northwest 31st and 27th avenues. The same would be true on Boynton Beach Boulevard at Jog Road, Military Trail, Lawrence Road and Congress Avenue. Southern Boulevard, upgraded several years ago with overpasses, would get an additional overpass or underpass at Military Trail.

Regular lanes would be maintained for drivers who do not want to pay or who need to turn onto the intersecting street.

“I use [the express lanes] every day, really no matter the cost,” said Sheri Abrahams, who commutes weekdays from Plantation to downtown Miami. “On a good day I’ll be at work in 45 to 50 minutes. It’s worth every penny.”

But Boca Raton commuter Mark Burch says the tolls are “crazy.” “Once again,” he said, “this comes down to Lexus lanes for the rich.”

Beyond tolls, the study proposes expansion of ramp signals that control how traffic enters expressways during rush hours. Currently, ramp signals are in place on I-95 between Northwest 62nd Street and Ives Dairy Road in Miami-Dade.

Traffic signals, a major frustration for commuters, would be coordinated. Plans to convert existing lanes to dedicated bus lanes would be dropped in favor of creating overpasses or underpasses that allow buses to travel at higher speeds.

Buses in general get a bad rap from commuters. But Poole said buses that use the I-95 express lanes have drawn even more riders than Tri-Rail.

“The overwhelming success of the new express bus routes using the I-95 express lanes demonstrates that many middle-class people will use bus rapid transit if it provides fast, reliable trips from near their homes to near their workplaces,” Poole said.

The plan would cost $20.2 billion over 20 years. But 80 percent of it could be financed by the revenue the toll lanes are expected to generate. The remaining $4.4 billion could come from shifting funds in the lowest-priority road and transit projects in the three counties.

The study says underpasses could be built in some locations because bridges are politically unpopular, especially in Broward. Plans to extend the Sawgrass Expressway from the turnpike to I-95 were shelved in the 1990s largely because of opposition to overpasses at Military Trail and Powerline Road.

In Poole’s plan, Southwest 10th Street would get underpasses at Powerline, Military and at two other intersections.

Poole said underpasses are about 10 percent more expensive to build than bridges, but are doable in Florida.

“Many people assume that because of the water table in Southeast Florida, underpasses are not feasible,” Poole said. “It is equipped with a pump for use in rain or flooding. The roadway is sealed with an impermeable layer to prevent groundwater penetration into the concrete.”

WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW I MADE ABOUT THIS:


Read the full report at: http://reason.org/studies/show/mobility-in-southeast-florida.

SOME ROADS THAT WOULD BE TOLLED

•  Southwest 10th Street: at Powerline Road, Military Trail, Newport Center and Southwest 24th Avenue.

•  Sample Road: at Lyons Road, Powerline Road and Military Trail.

•  Oakland Park Boulevard: at Northwest 31st and Northwest 21st avenues.

•  Broward Boulevard: at Northwest 31st and Northwest 27th avenues.

•  Pines/Hollywood Boulevard: at Southwest 135th Avenue, Flamingo Road, Hiatus Road, Palm Avenue, Douglas Road, University Drive and 72nd Avenue.

•  U.S. 441 from Glades Road to Pines/Hollywood Boulevard: at Palmetto Park Road, Hillsboro Boulevard, Wiles Road, Sample Road, Royal Palm Boulevard, Coconut Creek Parkway, Atlantic Boulevard, Kimberly Boulevard, McNab Road, Commercial Boulevard, Oakland Park Boulevard, Northwest 19th Street, Broward Boulevard, Davie Boulevard, Griffin Road, Stirling Road and Taft Street.

•  U.S. 441 from Southern Boulevard to Lantana; at Forest Hill and Lake Worth.

•  Southern Boulevard: at Military Trail.

•  Boynton Beach Boulevard: at Jog Road, Military Trail, Lawrence, Congress Avenue.

•  Glades Road: at Lyons Road, Jog Road, St. Andrews, Military Trail/I-95, Dixie Highway.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/27/v-fullstory/2715957/tolled-express-lanes-proposed.html#storylink=cpy

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