In California, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) purchased a four-lane 10-mile long limited access variable toll facility for $207.5 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 included system costs for several projects. The example below summarizes costs for variable pricing on new express lanes.

In the mid-1990s express toll lanes were constructed in the median of SR-91 to improve travel between Orange County and southern Los Angeles. The expressway was designed with no intermediate exits or entrances, and the toll lanes were separated from general-purpose lanes by a painted buffer and plastic pylons. In December of 1995, the express lanes were opened. Since the overall goal was to maintain free-flowing traffic in all toll lanes, dynamic pricing based on real-time traffic data was not required. Toll schedules could be preset and updated periodically based on general trends in traffic data relative to time of day, day of week, and direction of travel.

In order for the system to operate, vehicles traveling in the express lanes were required to have an in-vehicle transponder (FasTrakTM) to communicate with roadside equipment at full highways speeds. The system automatically deducted tolls from prepaid accounts. In 2007, the toll schedule was set at $9.50 during the busiest half-hour, and HOV3+ was allowed a 50 percent discount (currently there is no charge for HOV3+).

The four-lane 10-mile-long express lanes toll facility was constructed for approximately $134 million in private funds. The author noted, however, that the initial costs did not involve new right of way, interchange modifications, or intermediate access/egress points resulting in a cost of about $3.0 million per lane mile versus $10 million or more per lane mile for typical major urban freeway construction. The developer indicated the facility had "acceptable financial performance." In 1996, annual income (revenue less expenses) was estimated at $733,000. In 2001 annual income had increased to $13.7 million.

In January 2003, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) purchased the project for $207.5 million and began public operations. A benefit-to-cost analysis favored the express lanes over a carpool lanes alternative. The express lanes had a higher net present value compared to the carpool lanes ($490 million versus $303 million ), largely due to the higher travel time savings in spite of the higher operating costs.

System Cost

Four-lane 10-mile long limited access variable toll facility: $207.5 million (2003).