USA Today published a major story on the growth of express toll lanes across the country. Reporter Bart Jansen included a table of 40 projects then in operation, with 13 in Texas, 9 in California, and mostly 1s, 2s, or 3s in the other nine states. But Jansen’s total is already out of date, as new projects reach completion and open to traffic. Florida has opened two more ETLs since then (on I-75 near Ft. Lauderdale and on the Veterans Expressway near Tampa). Several projects in other states are nearing completion for opening this year. These include the latest stretch of North Tarrant Express in Fort. Worth (opened in April), the first ETLs in Jacksonville, FL (on I-295, to open by the end of summer), and the extension of Atlanta’s I-85 ETLs (also this summer).
Ground-breaking for one of the largest investor-financed ETL projects to date took place in Virginia on June 28th. The project will result in two ETLs each way on I-66 outside the Beltway, in a $3.6 billion project led by Cintra, which developed the LBJ and NTE projects in Dallas and Fort Worth, respectively.
The largest set of new ETLs is moving forward in Maryland, as previously reported in this newsletter. One major project (or, more likely, set of projects) will add two ETLs each way on Maryland’s half of the Capital Beltway (I-495) and on I-270, adding to the emerging network of such lanes in the greater Washington, DC metro area. In addition, Maryland DOT has opened discussions with the National Park Service, which owns the Baltimore-Washington Parkway between the two cities. Gov. Larry Hogan’s ETL plan includes adding priced lanes to that facility, as well. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Potomac, Virginia DOT is studying a proposal to extend the existing I-495 ETLs to the American Legion Bridge, to provide a seamless connection to the future Maryland ETLs. The idea of a Metro Washington Express Lanes Network got a significant boost, via a mid-May report from the Greater Washington Partnership endorsing the concept as vital for reducing the region’s severe traffic congestion.
Chicago is likely to be the next major metro area to embark on an ETL network. The 2040 long-range transportation plan released early this month by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) calls for adding ETLs to I-55 and several stretches of I-80, in addition to new toll roads and possible dedicated truck lanes on some corridors. Illinois DOT already plans to reconstruct and widen Chicago’s Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) with the addition of ETLs as part of the project. One or both of the I-55 and I-290 projects could be procured as toll concessions, if the Legislature gives its permission.
Another major project is in the planning stages by Washington State DOT. It would combine and expand the ETLs on the northern portion of I-405 and the HOT lanes on SR 167 to the south into a single 40-mile ETL corridor. For the first time in this state, the project might be financed by issuing bonds backed by tolls and state funds, according to a Seattle Times article by transportation reporter Mike Lindblom (July 2nd). The project would also remove a bottleneck in the northern part of I-405 where ETLs are reduced from two to one each direction. (Disclosure: this combined project was one of the recommendations of the WSDOT I-405 Expert Review Panel on which I served in 2010.)
Among other ETL projects moving closer to implementation are the following:
- Adding ETLs to a 17-mile gap of insufficient lanes on I-25 south of Denver, for which CDOT last month received an INFRA grant from FHWA;
- Adding two ETLs each way on I-95 in Jacksonville, FL;
- Adding ETLs to 16 miles of Georgia 400 in Atlanta, for cars and BRT;
- Adding one ETL each way to 17 miles of I-485 in Charlotte, expected to start construction next year; and
- Adding one ETL each way to US 101 from Redwood City to San Bruno south of San Francisco. This is another segment in the emerging ETL network in the Bay Area.
As I wrote in my June column in Public Works Financing, increasingly these “managed lanes” are being developed as if they were business enterprises, with a growing proportion of them being financed by expected toll revenues. You can read this column online, if you are interested: https://reason.org/commentary/viewing-managed-lanes-as-a-business.
(This article first ran in the July issue of Surface Transportation Innovations)
Email this author