The purpose of this Systems Interchange Modification Report (SIMR) is to provide the required technical documentation for obtaining Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approval of the implementation of express lanes along I-95. The project limits extend from south of the International Golf Parkway interchange to the system interchange with I-295.
The Methodology Letter of Understanding (MLOU) was approved in May 2015. The primary basis for traffic projections in this SIMR is version (4.2) of the adopted Northeast Regional Planning Model (NERPM) which has a base year of 2005 and a cost feasible year of 2035. The analysis years for the study include Existing Year 2014, Opening Year 2020, and Design Year 2040. The operational analysis for this study is performed primarily using microsimulation (VISSIM).
The purpose of the proposed express lanes is to add capacity on I-95 from the International Golf Parkway interchange to the I-95/I-295 South system interchange in order to improve travel reliability and to provide long-term mobility for the region.
Three alternatives will be evaluated in this SIMR for future conditions: a No-Build Alternative and two Build Alternatives. The Interim Build Alternative provides two express lanes in each direction from International Golf Parkway to I-295 with at-grade, weaving access to and from the express lanes and direct connect ramps at First Coast Expressway. The Ultimate Build Alternative includes all geometric improvements from the Interim Build alternative as well as direct connect ramps at SR 9B.
Currently, the I-95 mainline carries a high volume of traffic with daily traffic ranging from 48,000 vehicles to 102,000 vehicles. The I-95 study area serves as a main route for commuters who reside in St. Johns County and travel to major employment centers located in Duval County. Currently, pockets of congestion occur along the corridor during both the AM and PM peak periods. During the Design Year 2040, the analysis of the No-Build Alternative showed that traffic operations are expected to degrade significantly and severe congestion with system-wide impacts will take place along I-95 northbound and southbound during both the AM and PM peak periods. This congestion also will impact the I-295 and SR 9B mainlines in the Design Year. To improve traffic operations for the Design Year 2040, a four-lane express lane facility is proposed for the I-95 mainline within the study area. In addition to the express lane facility, the Build alternatives propose auxiliary lanes in both the northbound and southbound direction between the SR 9B and Old St. Augustine Road interchanges. These improvements are consistent with both the Interim and Ultimate Build Alternatives.
The Design Year 2040 operational analysis results show that the Build alternatives provide significantly better traffic operations within the I-95 study area compared to the No-Build. For the No-Build, during the AM peak, severe congestion would be experienced on I-95 northbound between International Golf Parkway and Old St. Augustine Road and along I-95 southbound between I-295 and SR 9B due to a lack of sufficient capacity to accommodate future traffic demand on the mainline. In contrast, the Build alternatives provide substantial operational improvements in both directions, resulting in free-flow conditions through the majority of the study corridor during the AM peak.
During the 2040 PM peak, the No-Build exhibits severe congestion in the southbound direction from north of I-295 to SR 9B due to a capacity bottleneck between Old St. Augustine Road and SR 9B. This bottleneck has shown to cause network-wide impacts with congestion extending upstream to the I-295 system interchange ramps and consequently results in spillback onto the I-295 East and West Beltway mainlines. This was shown to cause gridlock on arterial operations, which would impact not only the southbound, but rather extend to the northbound direction from First Coast Expressway (FCX) to Philips Highway. During the PM peak period, the additional capacity provided by the Build alternatives alleviate the capacity bottleneck on I-95 between Old St. Augustine Road and SR 9B and allows the majority of the study area to operate at free-flow conditions. The Build alternatives provide significant travel time savings along I-95 when compared to the No-Build. During the 2040 AM peak hour, the Interim and Ultimate Build provided a 29% reduction in travel time along I-95 northbound (peak direction of flow) general use lanes. During the PM peak, both Build alternatives provided a 51% reduction in travel time for the I-95 southbound general use lanes.
An important element of this project included the express lane performance. The express lanes for both Build alternatives are shown to operate at free-flow conditions during both the AM and PM peak periods. Average travel speed through the express lanes ranged from 67 mph to 73 mph for both directions of the AM and PM peak hours. The express lane facilities in both the Interim Build and Ultimate Build Alternatives will provide reliable travel time through the corridor by delivering free-flow conditions for both peak periods.
Express lane volumes were similar between the Interim Build and Ultimate Build alternatives; however, slightly higher express lane volume was realized in the Ultimate Build since this alternative provides additional access through the implementation of direct connect ramps at the I-95/SR 9B interchange. The peak volume in the express lanes for the Interim Build Alternative in the AM and PM peak periods was 2,040 vehicles per hour (vph) in the northbound during the AM peak and 1,980 vph in the southbound during the PM peak. The peak volume in the express lanes for the Ultimate Build alternative in the AM and PM peak periods was 2,400 vph in the northbound during the AM peak and 2,220 vph in the southbound during the PM peak.
In terms of network-wide performance, the Build alternatives provided substantial improvements over the No-Build in Design Year 2040. When comparing total delay time to the No-Build, the Build alternatives provided AM and PM peak period reductions of 69% and 73%, respectively. In terms of average speed, the Build alternatives increased speed over the No-Build by 49% (35 mph to 52 mph) in the AM peak and 109% (22 mph to 46 mph) during the PM peak. In addition, the Build alternatives reduced latent demand (vehicles not able to enter the simulation network) for the AM and PM peak by 65% and 85%, respectively.
In conclusion, both Build alternatives showed significant operational improvements over the No-Build in the Design Year 2040. Based on the safety, environmental, and traffic operations benefits of the Interim and Ultimate Build Alternatives, both Build alternatives are considered the preferred alternative for the I-95 Express Phase 1 SIMR.
This SIMR has been developed in accordance with FDOT Policy No. 000-525-015: Approval of New or Modified Access to Limited Access Highways on the Strategic Intermodal System (SIS), FDOT Procedure No. 525-030-160: Approval of New or Modified interchange access to limited access facilities on SIS, Interchange Access Request User’s Guide and the FDOT Traffic Forecasting Handbook (Procedure No. 525- 030-120).
Purpose and Need
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The purpose of this SIMR is to provide the required technical documentation for obtaining FHWA approval for the implementation of express lanes along I-95 from the International Golf Parkway interchange to the system interchange with I-295. In 2013, I-95 carried an Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) volume of 91,000 vehicles south of Old St. Augustine Road, 94,800 vehicles between Old St. Augustine Road and I-295, and 100,500 vehicles north of I-295. Due to high peak period volumes, pockets of congestion exist along the corridor. Substantial population increases in St. Johns and Duval Counties have occurred since 1970, as shown in Table 1-1. This trend is expected to continue and add a significant amount of trips to the existing roadway network. The proposed implementation of express lanes on I-95 will provide additional capacity on the constrained roadway network which is anticipated to alleviate congestion and provide better travel time reliability.