SAN DIEGO – Commuters are spending much less time stuck in traffic on Interstate 15 after the full length of the I-15 Express Lanes between San Diego and Escondido opened to traffic in January 2012, according to a preliminary analysis by SANDAG.
About a decade ago, before the construction of the Express Lanes, the average travel time on I-15 was around 40 minutes between State Routes 163 and 78. By 2012, the average travel time had gone down by 25 percent to about 30 minutes.
Estimated mile per hour speeds are now in the 60s, whereas they used to be in the 30s and 40s. Meanwhile, the number of carpools, which use the facility for free, is at an all-time high, and so is the number of solo drivers enrolled in the FasTrak® electronic tolling system to use the Express Lanes. The total number of FasTrak transponders in use has topped 25,900, and the number of carpools has exceeded 23,500 daily.
“The tremendous investment the region has made in the I-15 Express Lanes has paid off—big time,” SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos said. “Not only have the Express Lanes cut travel time and reduced commuter frustration, the lanes also are generating revenue to support transit services in the corridor. About $1 million a year from the I-15 FasTrak program goes toward transit.”
The Express Lanes won the “Project of the Year” award from the California Transportation Foundation in May 2012. Construction of the Express Lanes—two lanes in each direction built in the freeway median—was done in three segments. The first eight miles opened in September 2008 and March 2009; the second eight miles in November 2011; and the last four miles in January 2012.
The Express Lanes project is just one component of a bigger vision for the I-15 corridor. More improvements are coming.
Currently, SANDAG, Caltrans, and the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) are working together to upgrade transit stations along I-15 to accommodate Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Scheduled to launch in 2014, the new service will run more often than the existing MTS Premium Express Bus, as well as offer increased reliability and customer convenience similar to rail services. BRT vehicles will take advantage of the Express Lanes, as well as direct access ramps and transit priority technology, to cut travel time.
The Express Lanes and the BRT improvements represent a $1.3 billion investment in the I-15 corridor.
This year, SANDAG and its partners also will launch an Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) system in the I-15 corridor between State Routes 52 and 78 as part of a federally funded demonstration project. Cutting-edge technology will be deployed to identify and determine how freeway, arterial, and transit networks can be managed together to improve mobility and maximize efficiency. The overall vision of the $12.3-million project is to apply predictive algorithms and real-time modeling tools to forecast traffic across multiple networks and recommend actions to manage anticipated congestion. For example, the ICM system will coordinate the use of freeway ramp meters and arterial traffic signals to improve day-to-day conditions or to route traffic around major incidents.