The Miami-Ft. Lauderdale region is creating a 21-mile managed-lane facility on I-95, between I-395 and I-595, with a longer term goal of providing a network of managed lanes throughout the congested region. Free-flowing conditions on the managed-lane network will be ensured through the use of variable pricing based upon demand and the network itself will be used as the back-bone of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system which will be subsidized through the toll revenues. Toll rates will be adjusted as often as every three minutes in order to maintain free-flowing conditions on the managed lanes at least 90 percent of the time.
This is the second project in the nation (after the Houston QuickRide project) to increase the occupancy requirement on high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, in this case from HOV 2+ to HOV 3+. The new occupancy requirement will ensure that the lanes remain free-flowing as HOV demand increases in the future, and will create some excess capacity for priced vehicles. The current open access to the HOV lanes will be restricted using delineator posts and only provided at strategically chosen locations, enhancing traffic flow and safety on those lanes. Open road tolling at freeway speeds will occur through the use of "SunPass" toll transponders and electronic readers and through video license plate readers. (Currently, 63 percent of toll transactions in the region are by SunPass, climbing to 80 percent at certain locations during commute hours.) Changeable message road signs will show the current price for vehicles not meeting the occupancy requirement to use the managed lanes. A camera-based violation enforcement system will also be deployed.
The 21-mile I-95 express facility will be created by converting a single HOV lane into two high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in each direction by narrowing the travel lanes from 12' to 11' and narrowing the shoulders. Construction will include some bridge and interchange improvements to maintain continuity of the dual managed lane facility. This is all anticipated to be completed by June 2009. The first phase of the project, the southern half of northbound lanes, is anticipated to be opened by May 2008. The longer-term plan is to convert the flat-rate tolls on the limited-access expressways in South Florida to variable rates based on travel demand. Over half of such expressways are currently tolled. Extensive outreach is being conducted, including through project web sites, public meetings, media campaigns, and the production of videos, which are made available both on the web and at public meetings.
In addition to pricing the managed lanes to reflect demand, the Florida Department of Transportation is further improving traffic conditions in the corridor by installing ramp meters on I-95 south of the Golden Glades interchange. Other traffic management strategies currently in use will also serve the new managed-lane network, including traffic management cameras coupled with "Road Ranger" full-service patrols and rescue services.
The I-95 express lanes will be an important part of the BRT service network. For passengers boarding BRT vehicles at the Golden Glades interchange park-and-ride lot and heading the 11 miles south into Miami, bus speeds are anticipated to increase to 50 mph as a result of the corridor improvements, from the current 22 mph. The BRT service network will, in the medium- and long-term, be far more extensive than just this single corridor. Additional BRT vehicles will be purchased to expand this service. Express feeder bus services will be offered, running north-south along US-441/SR-7 and SR-817, and east-west along Hollywood/Pines Boulevard. The service network will not only run on managed expressway lanes but also on special-use lanes on three major arterials: Biscayne Boulevard, Flagler Street, and Kendall Drive.
Additional related improvements will be to allow transit vehicle priority at 50 signalized intersections, uniquely brand two new express/BRT stations in Broward County, and construct pedestrian access accommodations at one of the two new stations.
To round out the congestion-reduction plan, the Chamber of Commerce is leading efforts to encourage telecommuting, flextime, and employer-sponsored ride-sharing. This is being supported by South Florida Commuter Services, which, among other things, already works with the business community to promote vanpooling. South Florida Commuter Services is funded by the Florida Department of Transportation.