Plenary Roads Denver requests transition to dynamic pricing to optimize travel times for US 36 and I-25 Central Express Lanes
DENVER - In a move toward next-generation Express Lane traffic management, Plenary Roads Denver (PRD) asked the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) Board on Thursday, May 17, to consider its request to transition the US 36 and I-25 Central (I-25 from downtown Denver to US 36) Express Lanes corridors from fixed time-of-day pricing to dynamic pricing.
With dynamic pricing, Express Lanes rates would be continually adjusted according to real-time traffic conditions to maintain free-flowing levels of traffic. Toll rates would increase when the Express Lanes get congested and decrease when the Express Lanes are less full. This advanced technology helps to manage traffic flow through the Express Lanes and helps to maintain reliable travel times along the corridor. Drivers will see the current toll rates displayed on the same overhead electronic message boards prior to each Express Lanes entrance.
If the HPTE Board approves the request at its June 20 meeting, PRD will begin testing dynamic Express Lanes pricing in the fall, with plans to complete the transition to full dynamic tolling in 2020. The only change during testing and implementation is that Express Lanes drivers will notice more frequent toll rate changes based on traffic congestion.
“The benefits of dynamic pricing are that it integrates the latest advanced mobility technologies to allow the US 36 and I-25 Central Express Lanes corridors to maximize traffic flow and ensure a reliable trip, no matter the time of day. Bus riders, carpools, toll-paying drivers and drivers in the general purpose lanes would all be able to continue to see the benefits,” said Christian Guevara, Director of Operations for PRD, which operates the US 36 and I-25 Express Lanes public-private partnership project.
PRD is working to implement dynamic pricing as traffic, population and the economy grows along this corridor and to meet its public-private partnership requirements to provide a reliable travel time for the Express Lanes. “Dynamic pricing has always been our vision for the US 36 and I-25 Central Express Lanes,” Guevara said.
Rates would be set using an algorithm that tracks real-time traffic flow and adjusts them to optimize traffic volume within the Express Lanes. The toll rate prices will be set to bring just the right amount of cars into the lane because if rates are too high, no one will use the Express Lanes. If they are too low, too many people will use them and speeds and travel times will slow down.
“This system is more flexible and active than using a fixed-pricing rate, and its real-time monitoring helps to consistently maintain optimal traffic flows in the Express Lanes,” Guevara said, adding that drivers can expect dynamic pricing rates to be similar to current peak-hour rates with off-peak rates fluctuating based on traffic congestion.
As part of the request to move to dynamic pricing to respond to traffic conditions, PRD has asked the HPTE board to allow for the flexibility up to the current maximum rate for one way from Boulder to Denver, and from Denver to Boulder. The current maximum rates for ExpressToll account and pass users is $15.76 and $23.64 for License Plate Toll (LPT).
Eighty-two percent of the corridor’s billable Express Lanes drivers use an ExpressToll account and pass, saving money every time. PRD continues to see an increase in drivers using an ExpressToll pass.
I-25 North US 36 to 120th Avenue Express Lanes:
Additionally, the HPTE Board received a staff recommendation to approve a toll adjustment along the I-25 North Express Lanes from US 36 to 120th Avenue. This is the first toll rate adjustment request for this corridor since it opened two years ago in 2016. The toll rates adjustment is to account for increased operations and maintenance costs.
The toll rate adjustment is an increase of 5 - 15 cents (depending on the time of travel) for drivers with an ExpressToll account and pass and 21 to 40 cents for LPT users. For example, from 6:45 a.m. - 7:15 a.m., southbound travel rates for ExpressToll Pass customers are $1.25, and with the adjustment, the same trip will cost $1.30. The I-25 North Express Lanes rates will remain as fixed time-of-day rates. The new rates will go in effect on July 1, 2018, if approved by the HPTE Board.
“All drivers in Express Lanes corridors, including those using the general purpose lanes, have benefitted from the increased capacity and mobility options, as well as shorter, reliable travel times,” said David Spector, HPTE Director. “HPTE’s goal is to make your commute better, and Express Lanes are working. They help bring congestion relief to critical corridors and provide drivers with choice. The request to transition to dynamic pricing can allow Express Lanes to integrate the best advanced technology solutions to improve all of our commutes.”
Toll Rate Adjustment, Dynamic Pricing Questions & Comments:
At the direction of the HPTE Board, HPTE will conduct public outreach on the proposed changes to the toll rates and for dynamic pricing. HPTE will accept questions and comments on dynamic pricing and the toll adjustments for US 36 and I-25 Central and North Express Lanes to be presented to the Board in June. Information on the proposed changes will be available at the HPTE website, www.coloradohpte.com and comments and questions can be received at (720) 729-0805 or email at [email protected].
About Plenary Roads Denver: Plenary Roads Denver (PRD) is a Denver-based consortium of industry leading firms established to efficiently deliver improvements to the US 36 corridor. By creating a team of experts from each part of the infrastructure industry, PRD is able to ensure an integrated roadway, bus rapid transit system and bikeway that serve the needs of all residents. PRD is led by Plenary Group, a long-term investor, developer and operator of public infrastructure projects in the United States and Canada. Plenary’s U.S. headquarters is located in Los Angeles. It has additional offices in Denver and Tampa, Fla.
About the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE): The HPTE is a government-owned, independent business within CDOT. It searches out innovative ways to finance projects to help Colorado fulfill its commitment to increase travel choices through options that include Express Lanes, transit, biking, walking and carpooling. For more information, visit www.coloradohpte.com.
About Express Lanes: Express Lanes increase roadway capacity and help manage congestion on the highways. The use of toll pricing during peak travel times reduces delays, manages congestion and maintains reliable travel times. Express Lanes are currently open on I-25 between downtown Denver and 120th Avenue, US 36 between Denver and Boulder, and on I-70 between Idaho Springs and Empire. For more information, visit www.codot.gov/programs/expresslanes.