Three of the largest toll agencies in the U.S. released new data recently that demonstrating that the number of traffic accidents at open road tolling (or ORT) plazas is significantly less than that at traditional toll plazas.
“From the data that we have on the toll roads Texas Dept. of Transportation operates, open-road tolling facilities have far fewer traffic accidents,” Karen Amacker, TxDOT spokesperson, tells Texas Construction.
Data from Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority and the Texas Turnpike Authority division of TxDOT show that conversion to ORT reduces tolling accidents by more than 60%.
At traditional toll plazas, vehicles must slow down and pay tolls with cash or via a transponder. At ORT plazas, vehicles travel at highway speeds under overhead gantries that collect tolls electronically.
TxDOT operates only one such toll road, Amacker says, and that is the Central Texas Turnpike System. But the data from that clearly shows a reduction in accidents, she adds.
The Central Texas Turnpike System processed about 99 million toll transactions in 2007 and 2008. Slightly more than half of the transactions were through an ORT gantry, the rest were through a traditional plaza. In the two years, 96 accidents were reported at the traditional toll plazas and none at the ORT lanes.
Most of the accidents at toll plazas involve vehicles in a collision with some part of the toll-plaza infrastructure, says Michael J. Davis, national tolls senior group manager with PBS&J. “ORT lanes are ‘open’ for good reason,” Davis says. There are no such obstructions for vehicles to hit.”
Some accidents involve vehicles rear-ending the slowed or stopped vehicles in front. ORT collects tolls as the vehicles pass under the gantries—at highway speeds.
Amacker says out of 100,000 transactions, ORT lanes had no accidents while the lanes that had an automated bucket and electronic toll reader had 1.34 accidents per 100,000.
“That is probably because some people see the toll tag sign above the lane and are not recognizing that the person in front of them is slowing to toss money in bucket,” she says. “ORT is certainly the way we’re trying to take toll roads in the future.”