In February 2013 the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) kicked-off an 18-month study of measures to reduce congestion in two areas – I-95 between New Haven and the New York state line and I-84 in Hartford. The study is examining conventional congestion relief measures such as highway improvements and improved transit services, and is also exploring congestion pricing and electronic tolling as a means of managing the use and improving the efficiency of the highway.
A key measure that will be studied is “managed lanes” or “express lanes” where motorists are given a choice to use specially-designed, electronically-tolled express lanes -- or use the regular lanes on an interstate highway. The idea is to balance travel demand with roadway supply (capacity) by using electronic tolls as a management tool. This approach allows motorists a choice. They can pay a fee to speed up their journey by using an express lane -- or remain within the main stream of traffic.
In other states, express toll lanes have been popular with the public because drivers like having a choice. They might not be willing to pay a toll every day, but they like having the option to use the express toll lane on days they need the faster and more reliable service that express lanes offer. The managed lanes have also been effective at reducing congestion on the highways where they are used – both in the express lanes and in the regular or free lanes.
Managed lanes are more effective when higher prices are charged during the most congested periods to encourage drivers to travel at less crowded times of day, to shift to less congested routes, or to shift to transit. Congestion pricing can be applied to all lanes on a highway to help manage demand, or it can be applied to just the specially designated express lanes. Both can be effective congestion relief tools, but express lanes are becoming the more common tool used across the country. A variation of the express lane is the conversion of HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle) lanes used to HOT lanes (High-Occupancy Toll) where drivers can pay to use the HOV or carpool lane even if they are driving alone.
Funded by a grant from the Federal Highway Administration, CTDOT has hired a consultant team, headed by CDM Smith, to lead the study. The study team has experts with experience successfully implementing congestion pricing strategies in other states. The team will examine a wide range of options from traditional road and highway improvements to rail service upgrades and congestion pricing. Additionally, public feedback, gathered from a wide range of public engagement and outreach activities, will be integrated into the development of alternative recommended solutions.