Value pricing projects conducted in three metropolitan areas indicated the costs to convert HOV lanes to HOT lanes ranged from $9 million to $17.9 million.
Made Public Date

This research synthesized evaluation findings from 24 projects sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Congestion and Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) between 1991 and 2006. Strategies evaluated included:

  • High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) to High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane conversions with pricing
  • Variable pricing of new express lanes
  • Variable pricing on existing toll facilities
  • Region-wide variable pricing initiatives
  • Making driver costs variable
  • Other pricing projects (i.e., voluntary cash out and carshare programs).

Section 1 of Appendix B of the source report provided system costs for several projects. The three examples below show the total project costs required to convert HOV lanes to HOT lanes.

HOT Lanes on I-25/U.S. 36 in Denver, Colorado

In Denver, the Downtown Express HOT lanes project included a two-lane barrier-separated reversible facility in the median of I-25 between downtown Denver and 70th Avenue (6.6 miles), and an additional section on U.S. 36 (0.4 miles) that extended to Pecos Street. Toll rates were not dynamically set, but pre-scheduled to vary by time of day. Rates were posted on "static" signs in advance of the entrance to the HOT lanes, and electronic tolling was administered at a single toll collection zone where "high occupancy vehicles" and "single occupancy vehicles" were required to separate into marked lanes to declare their eligibility. Buses were authorized to access either lane. The system utilized an EXpressToll transponder that was compatible with the existing tolling facilities on E-470 and the Northwest Parkway. Before the opening of the HOT lanes on I-25, Colorado had over 381,500 EXpressToll transponders in use. Structures with communications equipment constructed above the roadway were used to interact with in-vehicle transponder tags installed on vehicle windshields. Back-end technology was then used to assess tolls on user accounts. Vehicles traveling in HOT lanes without a transponder were identified with license plate photographs and mailed a fine of $70.

Planning, implementation, and construction occurred from 2001-2005. The total project cost was estimated at $9,000,000. Operations and evaluation occurred from 2006-2010.

HOT Lanes on I-394 in Minnesota (MnPASS)

Beginning in May 2005, HOV lanes from Highway 101 to I-94 in the Minneapolis area were converted into dynamically priced HOT lanes. The project included two sections of highway: a three-mile east section that had two reversible lanes separated by a barrier from general purpose traffic; and an eight-mile west section that had one lane in each direction separated from general purpose traffic by double-white stripes. Traffic heading into Minneapolis (eastbound) could use the HOT lanes facility from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM, and traffic heading out of Minneapolis (westbound) could use the facility from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM. The facility was free to buses, HOVs and motorcyclists during peak hours, and all users during off-peak periods.

In order to use the system, MnPASS drivers needed to open a prepaid account with a credit card and then attach a transponder tag to the inside of their vehicle's windshield. Tolls varied up to 20 times per hour depending on traffic density measured by roadway sensors in the HOT lanes. Special transponder units were installed in police vehicles, enforcement beacons were installed above roadways, and an array of antennas were used to communicate with mobile enforcement transponders to identify vehicles traveling without a valid transponder. Violations were assessed at $142.

Planning, implementation, and construction occurred from 2002-2005. The total project cost was estimated at $12,982,800. Operations and evaluation occurred from 2005-present.

HOT Lanes on SR 167 in the Puget Sound Region, Washington

In Puget Sound, a HOV to HOT conversion project was implemented on a nine mile section of SR-167 that extended from 15th Street in Auburn to I-405 in Renton. Expansion of the existing freeway was not required. HOV lanes were re-striped using double white striped buffers to define the new HOT lanes and defined access points. Transponder-equipped vehicles were allowed to enter the HOT lanes at certain access points. Toll rates were programmed to vary dynamically with the level of congestion in the HOT lanes and ensure tolled traffic flowed at a minimum of 45 mi/hr 90 percent of the time during peak periods. Non-HOV vehicles would pay a single rate for the entire distance of their trip, regardless if the toll rates were updated en-route. Tolls were debited from existing prepaid accounts using the State’s existing windshield mounted sticker transponders (branded “Good to Go” in Washington State). Customers paid $12 to purchase the transponder and were able to set up accounts using credit cards, bank accounts, or cash. Transponder-equipped vehicles participating in carpools (HOV2+) were able to travel for free, however, they had to purchase an in-vehicle transponder disabling device for $3.50. Washington State Patrol troopers were able to monitor the HOT lane traffic. When a vehicle with a valid e-sticker entered the HOT lanes, a light flashed on an overhead sensor. If the light did not flash and there was only a single passenger in the vehicle, a state trooper could stop the vehicle and issue a citation for $124. Preliminary capital costs of the conversion were expected to be recovered by net annual toll revenue within 11 to 12 years.

Planning, implementation, and construction occurred from 2004-2008. The total project cost was estimated at $17,000,000. Operations and evaluation were planned to occur from 2008-2012.

System Cost

HOT lane conversions: Denver $9 million; Minneapolis $13 million; Puget Sound $17.9 million.