In a move toward next-generation Express Lane traffic management, Plenary Roads Denver (PRD) asked the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) Board May 17, to consider its request to transition the U.S. 36 and I-25 Central (I-25 from downtown Denver to U.S. 36) Express Lanes corridors from fixed time of day pricing to dynamic pricing.
With dynamic pricing, Express Lanes rates would be continually adjusted according to real-time traffic conditions to maintain free-flowing levels of traffic. Toll rates would increase when the Express Lanes get congested and decrease when the Express Lanes are less full. This advanced technology helps to manage traffic flow through the Express Lanes, and helps to maintain reliable travel times along the corridor. Drivers will see the current toll rates displayed on the same overhead electronic message boards before each Express Lanes entrance.
If the HPTE Board approves the request at its June 20 meeting, PRD will begin testing dynamic Express Lanes pricing in the fall, with plans to complete the transition to full dynamic tolling in 2020. The only change during testing and implementation is that Express Lanes drivers will notice more frequent toll-rate changes based on traffic congestion.
“The benefits of dynamic pricing are that it integrates the latest advanced mobility technologies to allow the U.S. 36 and I-25 Central Express Lanes corridors to maximize traffic flow and ensure a reliable trip, no matter the time of day. Bus riders, carpools, toll-paying drivers and drivers in the general purpose lanes would all be able to continue to see the benefits,” said Christian Guevara, director of operations for PRD, which operates the U.S. 36 and I-25 Express Lanes public-private partnership project.
PRD is working to implement dynamic pricing as traffic, population and the economy grows along this corridor and to meet its public-private partnership requirements to provide a reliable travel time for the Express Lanes.
“Dynamic pricing has always been our vision for the U.S. 36 and I-25 Central Express Lanes,” Guevara said.
Rates would be set using an algorithm that tracks real-time traffic flow and adjusts them to optimize traffic volume within the Express Lanes. The toll rate prices will be set to bring just the right amount of cars into the lane because if rates are too high, no one will use the Express Lanes. If they are too low, too many people will use them and speeds and travel times will slow down.
“This system is more flexible and active than using a fixed-pricing rate, and its real-time monitoring helps to consistently maintain optimal traffic flows in the Express Lanes,” Guevara said, adding that drivers can expect dynamic pricing rates to be similar to current peak-hour rates with off-peak rates fluctuating based on traffic congestion.
As part of the request to move to dynamic pricing to respond to traffic conditions, PRD has asked the HPTE board to allow for the flexibility up to the current maximum rate for one way from Boulder to Denver, and from Denver to Boulder. The current maximum rates for ExpressToll account and pass users is $15.76 and $23.64 for License Plate Toll (LPT).
Eighty-two percent of the corridor’s billable Express Lanes drivers use an ExpressToll account and pass, saving money every time. PRD continues to see an increase in drivers using an ExpressToll pass.
I-25 North U.S. 36 to 120th Avenue Express Lanes:
Additionally, the HPTE Board received a staff recommendation to approve a toll adjustment along the I-25 North Express Lanes fromU.S.36 to 120th Avenue. This is the first toll rate adjustment request for this corridor since it opened in 2016. The toll rates adjustment is to account for increased operations and maintenance costs.
The toll rate adjustment is an increase of 5 to 15 cents (depending on the time of travel) for drivers with an ExpressToll account and pass, and 21 to 40 cents for LPT users. For example, from 6:45-7:15 a.m., southbound travel rates for ExpressToll Pass customers are $1.25; with the adjustment, the same trip will cost $1.30. The I-25 North Express Lanes rates will remain as fixed time of day rates. The new rates will go in effect July 1, if approved by the HPTE Board.
“All drivers in Express Lanes corridors, including those using the general purpose lanes, have benefited from the increased capacity and mobility options, as well as shorter, reliable travel times,” said David Spector, HPTE director. “HPTE’s goal is to make your commute better, and Express Lanes are working. They help bring congestion relief to critical corridors and provide drivers with choice. The request to transition to dynamic pricing can allow Express Lanes to integrate the best advanced technology solutions to improve all of our commutes.”
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