Toll equity at the Beachline Expressway FL - new toll points but pricey for cash collection (CORRECTION)
By Peter Samuel
Before the end of March the Orlando area Expressway Authority (OOCEA) will be opening a new toll plaza on its very first expressway, known now as the Beachline, but back then as the Beeline Expressway. It was so named because it made a "bee line" from Orlando airport to the Atlantic coast at Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. The 15 miles stretch between SR417 and FL520 runs the whole distance across flat scrub and swampland in a perfectly straight line.
By number the Beachline is part of a longer Florida State Route 528, FL528, the east and west ends of which are run by Florida's Turnpike.
The mid-60s when the straight stretch opened were the glory years of America's space launch program out of Cape Canaveral. The OOCEA with the Beeline Expressway its top priority were the response to the need for a modern, high speed link to the flowering metro area nearby and its airport.
The 15 mile straight stretch of the Beeline/Beachline Expressway now has two intermediate interchanges but the single mainline and single ramp toll pair at the Orlando end. No trips were untolled but the new toll point enables finer tuning of toll charges. (CORRECTION)
Now 8 miles east of the existing Beachline Mainline plaza the new mainline toll plaza named the Dallas Boulevard Plaza matches the established one in format - 2x2 highway speed open road toll (ORT) lanes in the center and 2x4 conventional lanes to each side, set up flexibly with coin machines, collector booths and roll-through transponder tolling.
An interchange in the middle at Dallas Blvd is now being tolled with east facing ramp tolls - with cash and transponder lanes.
Pricey to build cash collection
ORT+cashtoll plazas don't come cheap - capital cost $22m for the 12 mainline toll lanes of the new mainline plaza and four toll lanes on the two ramps.
OOCEA describers this as an exercise in "toll equity" since at present (CORRECTION) traffic going just beyond the mainline plazas pays as much as traffic going the full length of the road. That wasn't an issue when all the traffic was long distance but with development between 417 and Dallas Blvd a decent proportion of users now join or leave the Beachline just east of the Beachline Mainline. The extra toll points will allow tolls more in line with distance traveled. (CORRECTION)
They won't gain an increase in revenue from the new setup because the toll at the existing mainline plaza is being halved from $1.50 to 75c and the toll at the new mainline plaza will also be 75c. - meaning the charge for traveling the length of this section of the Beachline remains $1.50. Ramp tolls are all 50c.
Traffic diminishes from 46k veh/day in the west to 44k in the center and 40k in the east, reflecting a number of commuters close in to Orlando. But the rather small differences in volume underline the predominantly through-traffic character of this stretch of pike.
Traffic was growing through 2007 but took a big hit in the Financial Crash year of 2008 dropping 12% 2008/20007. By 2010, the latest year for which there are statistics, it was still 3% short of 2007.
If real growth were to resume the road would probably need third lanes each direction. But for the moment the original 2+2 are probably adequate for normal traffic.
Serious hurricane evacuation however might justify 4+4, maybe using shoulders?
TOLLROADSnews 2012-03-05 CORRECTION Mar 6 10:00