Success of 95 Express leads to five others and bolsters plans for toll express lanes network in Miami metro area
By Peter Samuel
2013-08-28: The success of toll express lanes (TELs) on I-95 just north of Miami is spawning a boom in like facilities on other area expressways. An as-yet-incomplete report titled "Southeast Florida Express Lanes: Regional Concept for Transportation Operations" by Florida DOT presents a plan for deployments that form an interconnected and progressively more complete regional express lanes network (dubbed ELN.)
We draw on a 19-page "Draft Executive Summary" for the Report not yet officially published.
Most significant is a map showing an ELN envisaged as operating within ten years consisting of the following six with mileages and km we've computed:
- 95ELs 46 miles 74km downtown Miami to north of Boca Raton
- 595ELs 11 miles, 17km 95 to 75/869
- 826ELs Palmetto Expressway 50 miles, 80km
- HEFT DPLs 12 miles, 20km
- 75ELs 18 miles, 29km
- 836 Dolphin DPLs 12 miles, 19km
The total is by our estimate 149 miles, 239km centerline-miles. And somewhere around 500 lane-miles.
And it shows seven extensions and other highway segments for ELs as 'Vision projects' described as "potential future (additions to) express lanes network" which are an additional 58 miles, 95km. Probably another 150 lane-miles.
All this suggests considerable potential for toll systems and services!
How much really commited?
But how much is happening, how much is just planning that may or may not be realized as funded projects?
Recently the Miami Herald reported Maurice Ferre chairman of MDX as saying the local toll agency was "planning" express lanes on their five tollroads in Miami. Ferre showed a map with the express lanes they were "planning."
"The officials said they see the express lanes as a tool to manage congestion and to provide a premium transit option," the Herald reported.
The Herald did quote Ferre as saying the MDX board of directors would have to approve an express lanes plan.
MDX just starting
Spokesman Mario Diaz tells us MDX is doing no planning of express or managed lanes. But since Florida DOT is developing the "Concept" plan for a regional network of express lanes they had better think about about what might be involved on the MDX tollroads.
But he says this needs to be discussed by the MDX board before they can conduct studies, let alone advance to plans.
Diaz says that in the rebuild of the 826-Palmetto/836 Dolphin interchange - a major 4-level direct connector IC that is an ongoing project - they've made provision in the layout so that express lanes could be accommodated. That likely involves spacing of piers and ramps of the mainlanes connectors so that the centrally oriented EL ramps could be added in the future without too much disruption.
But he says "the others" - he means Florida DOT - "are far ahead of us on this."
And they are.
Actually back in 2005 Florida's Turnpike and MDX collaborated in a "HEFT Widening Concept Traffic Report" that showed detailed proposals for widening the HEFT in its busiest section with premium service lanes from SW104th St to the MDX 836 Dolphin Expressway and east along the 836 to the Airport entrance. It looked at 5/5 lanes, 3/2/2/3, 4/2rev/4 alternatives.
8.5 miles, 14 km of the express lanes on the HEFT were costed at $330m to $360m. Florida's Turnpike is getting work on that under way now in stages and it could be ready for equipment for dynamic pricing in the 2015-2017 time period.
The same PD&E concept study shows the northern end of the ELs connected to ELs proceeding east another 9 miles, 15km along the 836 Dolphin to the SR953/NW42 St approach roads to Miami International Airport. At the 836/826 Palmetto interchange there are EL ramps 826 south to 836 east.
How much of the 2020 plans will be realized is not yet clear but a lot is getting under way.
13 miles are being added to the 8 original miles of 95 Express. By the end of 2014 95 Express should be 21 miles long. And the others:
595 Express an important 10.5 mile 17km east-west link which will have three reversible toll express lanes (ELs) between I-95 near Ft Lauderdale/Port Everglades area past an interchange with Florida's Turnpike to the interchange with the Sawgrass Expressway FL869 to the north and I-75 south and west. The three ELs are being built as part of a larger $1.2 billion project which also adds auxiliary lanes, adds new continuous frontage roads (SR84), modernizes interchange ramps, adds many sound walls, and does landscape trails along an edge canal Much is 15 lanes 2FL, 1AL, 3GL, 3revEL, 3GL, 1AL, 2FL. That's an increase from 10 lanes: 2FL, 3GL, 3GL, 2FL.
Dragados is the major builder in the 595 Express with AECOM and HNTB principal engineers.
The 595 ELs will be run eastbound 4am to 1pm, and westbound 2pm to 2am. A gantry over three lanes near the western end will collect tolls, the tolls being set according to available capacity for free flow. The project is ahead of schedule and they presently aim to open March 26 2014.
At its eastern end will be the 95 Express, part way west Florida's Turnpike and the Palmetto Expressway an at the western end I-75 and the Sawgrass. The Palmetto and I-75 are getting toll managed lanes too, so the area north of Miami will soon have the 595 as the centerpiece of a toll expressway network of interconnected lanes for premium service at a price.
I-75 and Palmetto SR826 get toll express
Construction of toll express lanes on the FL/I-75 and the Palmetto FL826 is not far off. RFPs for construction on the 75 (595 to near Griffin Rd) are to go up in September, with other RFPs being rolled out over the rest of the year. Actual construction should be under way on much of the two projects by the end of 2014 for opening of the lanes around 2017.
The 826 and 75 Express projects form a continuous north-south corridor about 28 miles, 45km in length.
The 10 mile stretch on the 826 Palmetto Expressway is parallel with I-95 and 7.3 miles, 12km to it west. Presently 2x4 lanes in a very constrained right of way the pavement is being widened slightly, and six lanes squeezed in each direction, all lanes being narrowed to 11ft from the existing 12ft and shoulders compressed.
The 75 Express Lanes for the most part are in the Interstate's very wide grass median. Most is also an addition of two express lanes each direction for the same 4GL, 2EL, 2ELs, 4GLs format, but with generous shoulders both sides of each of the four roadways and 12ft travel lanes.
Direct connector ramps at the northern end of the 75 Express at I-595 will connect with its reversible express lanes.
In the 18 mile, 29km of the 75 Express it runs about 12 miles, 19km west of the I-95.
The project involves some direct connector ramps at the four expressway-to-expressway interchanges plus about nine sets of slip lanes in and out of the general use lanes for intermediate entries and exits.
our earlier rport on the 95 Express: