Evaluation of the Effect of MnPASS Lane Design on Mobility and Safety

Panagiotis Stanitsas, John Hourdos, Stephen Zitzow
June 2014
Report no. MnDOT 2014-23

Abstract

Dynamically priced High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes have been recently added to the traffic operations arsenal in an attempt to preserve infrastructure investment in the future by maintaining a control on demand. This study focuses on the operational and design features of HOT lanes. HOT lanes’ mobility and safety are contingent on the design of zones (“gates”) that drivers use to merge in or out of the facility. Existing methodologies for the design of access zones are limited to engineering judgment or studies that take into consideration undersized amount of observations. Case in point is the fact that the design philosophes between the two HOT facilities in Minnesota are diametrically opposed. Specifically, the I-394 freeway, the first dynamically priced HOT lane, was designed with a closed access philosophy, meaning that for the greater length of the roadway access to the HOT lane is restricted with only specific short-length sections where access is allowed. In contrast I-35W, the second HOT corridor, was designed with an open access philosophy where lane changes between the HOT and the GPLs are allowed everywhere except for a few specific locations. This contradiction generated questions as to effect each case has on safety and mobility. This study presents an assessment of safety and mobility on the two facilities as they operate today and highlights the issues present on either design. In addition, two design tools were developed, the first assisting in the optimal design of access zones based on traffic measurements, and the second allowing the assessment of the influence congested General Purpose Lanes can have on the mobility and safety of the HOT under different traffic conditions and utilization due to changes in pricing strategy.

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Sponsored by: Minnesota Department of Transportation