Unintended consequences: learning from managing traffic volumes on express toll lanes

Despite the prevalence of anti-tolling sentiment reported in the press, cities like Atlanta and Los Angeles that operate variably priced toll lanes have seen early skepticism give way to heavy use of these lanes by commuters. These successes and the approaches taken by the two agencies to manage increasing demand suggest a need to manage these facilities in the context of the entire transportation system. The two approaches taken by Atlanta and Los Angeles could be used by other agencies struggling with similar issues.

Urban highway fight gets political in Dallas

I-345 is an aging, 1.4-mile-long elevated highway that separates downtown Dallas from Deep Ellum, a popular arts and entertainment district. It has also become a target for urbanists looking to remove downtown freeways. This month a group of civic leaders announced the formation of a political action committee that seeks to elect local officials who will push to demolish the freeway and replace it with surface streets as well as new housing, commercial buildings, and parks.

The Syracuse I-81 Viaduct—an update and progress report

The New York State DOT, the city, and the MPO have been working collaboratively for several years to develop alternatives for the replacement of the I-81 viaduct. There is agreement that something must be done about the 1.4-mile long, elevated segment of I-81 cutting through the city, but what to build in its place has not been decided. NYSDOT’s alternatives for this project will be out soon and will be included in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. In anticipation of this step some stakeholders are making their priorities known.

Roads designed for speed undermine safety initiatives

In response to the growing share of traffic fatalities nonmotorized users represent in the U.S., the U.S. DOT has made bicycle and pedestrian safety a high priority, state laws are beginning to address the needs of nonmotorized road users, transportation agencies are installing new types of facilities, and cities are stepping up traffic enforcement. All of this, however, is being done within a framework that has for decades prioritized high-speed travel—arguably one of the greatest obstacles to pedestrian and cyclist safety. This has played out in many ways, but particularly in the design process.

NYSDOT considers options for Syracuse freeway

Michigan DOT and Detroit residents are not alone in considering alternatives for an elevated urban highway. On June 23, New York State DOT officials released six possible options to replace the aging I-81 viaduct in Syracuse. The highway has been the subject of intense debate for years, with users, community residents, business groups, and elected officials favoring everything from a tunnel to a street-level boulevard. The only thing everyone agrees on is that the road in its current form is reaching the end of its life.

Cellphone data is helping to improve travel demand modeling

The Moore County Transportation Committee, working with the North Carolina DOT, has significantly increased the accuracy of its data collection for its long-range transportation plan thanks to the cutting edge technology of aggregated cell phone data developed by AirSage . Using the technology, the county was able to determine that a bypass would not help relieve congestion on U.S. 1.

Motor vehicle pollution a major contributor to American deaths

Last year, following six years of decline, the number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. rose 5 percent—to 34,000—continuing the position of motor vehicle crashes as one of the leading causes of death, particularly among young people. It is the top cause of death for ages 5 to 24. Two recent independent studies now suggest that simply living near major roadways and breathing harmful emissions from motor vehicles might be an even greater threat to U.S. health, making the death toll from traffic far worse.

A new future for downtown Rochester: Removing the Inner Loop highway

After several unsuccessful TIGER applications, Rochester, NY underutilized urban Inner Loop, built in the 1960s, received 17.7 million dollars to facilitate the removal of the expressway and frontage roads and reconstruction as a parkway. A road once disparaged by the city itself as a “noose around the neck of downtown,” has been two decades in planning and will give way to a boulevard that will reconnect the city street grid, improve the business environment, and improve livability for Rochester’s residents.

Carmaggedon leads to significantly better air quality

As Los Angeles-area residents were preparing for “Carmageddon II” – the second scheduled closing in two years of 10 miles of Interstate 405, the busiest highway in the country, to complete bridge work – research findings were released showing almost instantaneous improvements in air quality during the original Camageddon in July 15-17, 2011. Unfortunately, the effect was reversed soon after the freeway re-opened.