Missouri DOT is removing 70 variable advisory speed limit signs on I-270 and I-255 mentioned in the October 14th edition of SSTI News. Although a recent report indicated that similar signs have been having a positive effect on congestion in the Minneapolis area despite drivers’ general disregard for the speed limits, MoDOT has decided to remove the signs to lower operating costs and reduce confusion.
Drivers headed for traffic jams largely disregard advisory variable speed limit (VSL) signs intended to slow traffic in advance of downstream congestion. However, while drivers are not adjusting their speeds to comply with the limits, the signs do appear to be having a positive effect on congestion.
A new University of Minnesota study on driver behavior in managed lanes provides some findings that on the surface seem highly counter-intuitive, but that may have a simple explanation. Travelers care more about reliability than delay. The first surprising result is that travelers were willing to pay large tolls to access HOT lanes. Also, rather than discouraging HOT lane use, increases in tolls actually encouraged more drivers to opt for those lanes
Early this month, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Al Franken (D-MN), called on the chairman of the Surface Transportation Board to assure that Berkshire Hathaway’s 2010 purchase of BNSF doesn’t result in unfair rate hikes for farms and businesses in Minnesota and nationally. He also recently called on President Obama to address a lack of freight rail competition that he claims is forcing businesses to pay unfair rates to ship their goods.
Most discussion of possible solutions to the problem of stagnant gas tax revenues has focused on increasing user fees in some way – e.g., by raising fuel taxes, adding tolls, and/or adding VMT-based fees. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s proposal to eliminate the gas tax and pay for transportation with an increased sales tax, thereby abandoning the decades-old concept of funding transportation with user fees, seems to have united both the left and right in opposition.
Although several states have considered VMT fees as an alternative to the gas tax, none have yet instituted them. But recent news articles show that interest is still high, and some states may be inching toward this model. Insurance billed on a per-mile basis is also beginning to appear.
Wisconsin is the most recent state to consider a mileage-based user fee. Although other states have considered such fees, none has yet been implemented. Although the political climate is hostile to additional taxes, many states are realizing that they have little choice but to find new revenues for their transportation systems.
Demand for more accountability in the use of scarce transportation funds is pushing DOTs toward new performance measures, both to evaluate systems as whole as well as proposed projects. One key area for such analysis is economic impact, but until now agencies had no accepted toolbox – nor often the needed data or expertise – for such work. A new guide developed for SSTI by the Center for Neighborhood Technology is designed to assist DOTs as they improve their capacity for economic analysis.
Last week, Amtrak service in western Michigan and northern Indiana reached speeds of 110 miles per hour, marking the first expansion of regional high-speed rail in the U.S. outside of the northeast corridor. Other states seem eager to follow, and more upgrades within Illinois are already planned.
Over a period of six months, the Task Force, appointed by Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel, discussed and evaluated the overall MBUF concept and related issues, determined benefits and concerns, considered potential system …