I love innovation – especially when it benefits the people on our nation’s highways.
In 2007, Washington State DOT (WSDOT) implemented high occupancy tolling (HOT) lanes on a notoriously-congested stretch of SR-167 near Seattle. Since then, the agency has noticed a significant increase in the average speed and volume for both the general purpose and HOT lanes on both sides of the highway.
I should note that these HOT lanes are former HOV (carpool) lanes – meaning that vehicles with 2 or more occupants can continue to use it for free, while single drivers may choose to drive in the lane for a nominal fee. WSDOT uses Daktronics dedicated dynamic message signs (DDMS) to display these variable fees to single commuters on SR-167.
DDMS are an economic solution because they mount on static signage and are easily maintained by accessing the sign’s critical components in a control cabinet at ground level. For me, it’s a great feeling to see the DDMS help the agency reach its goals for mitigating traffic congestion and boosting revenue.
Since 1995, drivers on San Diego’s I-15 have also experienced the benefits of this type of project. By converting the underutilized HOV lane into a HOT lane, the privately-funded project reduced travel times between San Diego and Los Angeles by about 20 minutes for drivers who bought into the FasTrak tolling system. Today, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) operates the express lane which is now closing in on half of a billion dollars in net present value.
Not only does this type of project bring satisfaction to commuters – it also opens up an entirely new and innovative source of revenue for transportation agencies.
I also like the subscription-based concept behind these projects. For daily commuters, there is nothing more inconvenient than roadway congestion from industrial shipping or out-of-town drivers. HOT lanes offer a way around the mix (literally). Essentially, the HOT lane project becomes a rewarding relationship between the commuter and the DOT.
I encourage our architects, engineers, consultants and integrators to learn more about our DDMS technology and how it can help agencies reach their goals of relieving traffic congestion, effectively using HOV lanes, and implementing HOT lane projects.