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 system interchange with I-295 to the interchange with Atlantic Boulevard, which include two PD&E projects: North PD&E (from Butler Boulevard to Atlantic Boulevard) and the South PD&E Project (from I-295 to Butler Boulevard).
The Methodology Letter of Understanding (MLOU) was approved in August 2017. The primary basis for traffic projections in this SIMR is Version 2 of the adopted Northeast Regional Planning Model (NERPM) Activity Based Model (ABM) which has a base year of 2010 and a cost feasible year of 2040. The analysis years for the study include Existing Year 2014, Opening Year 2025, and Design Year 2045. 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 I-295 south system interchange to the Atlantic Boulevard interchange in order to improve travel time reliability and to provide long-term mobility for the region.
Two primary alternatives will be evaluated in this SIMR for future conditions: a No-Build Alternative and a Build Alternative. The Build Alternative provides two express lanes in each direction from south of Old St. Augustine Road to Atlantic Boulevard with at-grade, slip ramp access to and from the express lanes. Additionally, the Opening Year 2025 analysis will include a North PD&E Alternative in case the South PD&E Project is not advanced at the same time.
Currently, the I-95 mainline carries a high volume of traffic with daily traffic ranging from 121,200 vehicles to 148,800 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, as well as for commuters who both live and work in Duval County. Currently, pockets of congestion occur along the facility during both the AM and PM peak periods. During the Design Year 2045, 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 mainline in the Design Year. To improve traffic operations for the Design Year 2045, a dual express lane (per direction) system is proposed for the I-95 study area. In addition to the express lane facility, other improvements include auxiliary lanes, interchange improvements, and a southbound C-D road between Southside Boulevard and I-295.
The Design Year 2045 operational analysis results show that the Build alternative provides 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 Old St. Augustine Road and Emerson Street and along I-95 southbound between Atlantic Boulevard and Emerson Street due to a lack of sufficient capacity to accommodate future traffic demand on the mainline. The northbound bottleneck was shown to cause network-wide impacts with congestion extending upstream to the I-295 West Beltway (impacting the eastbound direction). In contrast, the Build alternative provides substantial operational improvements in both directions, resulting in free-flow conditions through the majority of the study facility during the AM peak. During the 2045 PM peak, the No-Build exhibits severe congestion in the southbound direction upstream of Emerson Street and in the northbound direction between Butler Boulevard and Emerson Street due to capacity constraints on the mainline. During the PM peak period, the additional capacity provided by the Build alternative alleviates the capacity bottlenecks on I-95 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 2045 AM peak hour, the Build alternative provided a 47% reduction in travel time along I-95 northbound (peak direction of flow) general purpose lanes. During the PM peak, it provided a 38% reduction in travel time for the I-95 southbound general purpose lanes.
An important element of this project included the express lane performance. The express lanes for the Build Alternative are shown to operate at free-flow conditions during both the AM and PM peak periods, and are expected to provide reliable travel time through the facility for both peak periods. The peak volume in the express lanes for Design Year 2045 in the AM and PM peak periods was 2,400 vehicles per hour (vph) in the northbound during the AM peak between Butler Boulevard and Emerson Street and 2,170 vph in the southbound direction between Emerson Street and Butler Boulevard during the PM peak.
In terms of network-wide performance, the Build alternative provided substantial improvements over the No- Build in Design Year 2045. When comparing total delay time to the No-Build, the Build alternative provided AM and PM peak period reductions of 70% and 42%, respectively. In terms of average speed, the Build alternative increased speed over the No-Build by 50% (16 mph) in the AM peak and 24% (8 mph) during the PM peak. In addition, the Build alternative reduced total stops for the AM and PM peak by 80% and 55%, respectively. The operational benefits were used in a benefit-cost analysis, which yielded a benefit/cost ratio of 2.28.
In terms of safety, the Build Alternative for this study should reduce crashes due to the significant improvement in traffic operations, hence providing safer travel conditions. The proposed capacity improvements will improve congestion and assist in reducing rear-end crashes, which are the predominate type of crash along the facility. In addition, several geometric improvements are proposed to improve safety, such as improvements to vertical curves, vertical clearances, reducing conflict points, etc. Moreover, the Highway Safety Manual (HSM) analysis of the mainline reported a reduction in annual predicted crashes of 6.2% (20.9 crashes) for the Build Alterative.
In conclusion, the Build alternative showed significant operational improvements over the No-Build in the Design Year 2045. Based on the safety and traffic operations benefits of the Build Alternative, it is considered the preferred alternative for the I-95 Express Lanes Analysis 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 I-295 south system interchange to Atlantic Boulevard in Duval County. In 2014, I-95 carried an Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) volume of 121,200 vehicles south of I-295, 148,800 vehicles north of Butler Boulevard, and 136,000 vehicles north of Atlantic Boulevard. Due to high peak period volumes, pockets of congestion exist along the facility. Substantial population increases in Duval County have occurred since 1970, as shown in Table 1-1. This trend is expected to continue and add a significant number 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.