Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) launched the first phase of its 180-mile conversion of high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to Express Lanes, or commonly known as high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, with TransCore serving as lead integrator for the project. The $11.8 million program was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Federal Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) and local funding. The project is expected to be completed by 2015.
The VTA Express Lanes Program comes at a crucial time in Silicon Valley as it prepares for an expected 38 percent growth in population over the next 20 years and funding for transportation improvements is projected to grow at only a fraction of that amount.
Converting HOV to HOT lanes has become a popular approach to expand capacity on existing roadways in major urban areas across the country. Since existing HOV lanes have the available capacity to accommodate more vehicles, HOT or express lanes allow solo drivers the option to use the HOV lanes for a fee, ultimately easing congestion in the general purpose lanes. Through the use of dynamic pricing, VTA can manage the amount of traffic in the express lanes and maintain free-flowing speeds even when the general purpose lanes are congested. Motorists who use the express lanes will benefit from more reliable and expedited travel times while the revenue is reinvested in the corridor and to fund other transportation improvements.
VTA is implementing the Silicon Valley Express Lanes Program to provide congestion relief in one of its major Bay Area commuter corridors. As part of the program, the SR 237, U.S. 101, SR 85 and parts of I-680 corridor will convert the existing HOV lanes to express lanes.
The first phase of the project focused on the intersect of the major north to south interstate I-880, from Oakland south into San Jose, with SR 237, the east to west freeway. Carpools as well as clean air vehicles, motorcycles, and transit buses will continue to use the lanes free of charge. Express Lane fees will be collected electronically using the RFID-based electronic toll collection technology already in use on the San Francisco Bay Area Bridges and elsewhere in California. Enforcement will be provided by the California Highway Patrol.
"TransCore's traffic engineering experience combined with our knowledge implementing every aspect of electronic toll collection, from system integration to manufacturing RFID technology, allowed us to tackle challenging design aspects that VTA faced and develop a solution that addresses the traffic concerns experienced in this corridor," explained Michael Mauritz, TransCore managing director for the Western region.
Since the location of the initial phase of the VTA conversion is at a key gateway interchange with multiple merging lanes and weaving traffic over a short distance of approximately three (3) miles, provided operational challenges to manage the traffic on both the Express Connectors and the general purpose lanes. TransCore traffic engineers also had to design the dynamic pricing algorithm to perform under rapidly changing conditions.
The scope of TransCore's work as system integrator included the design and installation of AVI equipment, dynamic message signs, traffic monitoring detectors and CCTV cameras. All of the sites are integrated with the VTA's wide area network via a wireless communications network. TransCore also developed the system software that includes the dynamic pricing algorithm that evaluates the operation of the Express Lanes and the general purpose lanes. The site interfaces with the BATA Regional Customer Service Center for backend transaction processing and applying tolls to customer accounts.
Nationally, TransCore has supported HOT lane deployments on the nation's first HOT installation on I-15 in San Diego as well as Houston METRO's deployment earlier in the year, Miami's I-95 Express, Seattle's SR 167, and Salt Lake City's I-15.
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is an independent special district that provides sustainable, accessible, community-focused transportation options that are innovative, environmentally responsible, and promote the vitality of our region. VTA is responsible for bus, light rail and paratransit operations and also serves as the county's congestion management agency. As such, VTA is responsible for countywide transportation planning, including congestion management issues, specific highway improvement projects, pedestrian and bicycle improvement projects, and provides these services throughout the county, including the municipalities of Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara, Saratoga and Sunnyvale. VTA continually builds partnerships to deliver transportation solutions that meet the evolving mobility needs of Santa Clara County.
For more information about the VTA Express Lanes project, visit www.vta.org/expresslanes.
TransCore's 75-year heritage supporting the transportation industry spans the development of RFID technology at Los Alamos National Labs to implementation of the nation's first electronic toll collection system. With installations in 46 countries, more than 100 patents and pioneering applications of RFID technology, TransCore's technical expertise is unparalleled in the markets it serves. In 2011, Engineering News-Record (ENR) ranked TransCore No. 154 out of the Top 500 Design Firms. TransCore is a U.S. owned and operated company with products designed, engineered and manufactured in the United States. For more information, visit www.transcore.com.