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Office of Transportation Policy Studies

Longer Combination Vehicles on Exclusive Truck Lanes: Interstate 90 Corridor Case Study

3.0 Facility Characteristics

This section outlines the physical and operational characteristics of the potential exclusive truck lane facility examined in this study. The physical characteristics include assumptions on the route, lanes, access, and staging areas. The physical features of the facility provide the basis for construction costs, which this section also estimates. The operational characteristics include assumptions about the types of vehicles, toll technologies, and operating and maintenance costs.

3.1 Highway Physical Characteristics


The proposed exclusive truck lane in this scenario is a 128.1-mile highway section between Cleveland, Ohio, and the New York/Pennsylvania State Line on I-90. The route of the new exclusive truck lanes would commence at a new interchange of the Ohio Turnpike (I-80) and I-271 southeast of Cleveland, and would follow I-271 to I-90 on east side of Cleveland. Moving east, the ETLs would link I-271 to the New York Thruway, traversing a short distance in Pennsylvania near Erie. The primary reason in following I-271, instead of I-90 from its junction with the Ohio Turnpike, is cost savings provided by the existing I-271 highway envelope versus the I-90 right-of-way. Specifically, the I-271 right-of-way is generally more expansive than I-90 in metropolitan Cleveland; slightly reducing the potential land acquisition costs to accommodate the exclusive truck lanes cross section. Figure 3.1 illustrates the geography of the connection.

Figure 3.1 I-90 Corridor Map With Staging Areas and Access Points

Figure 3.1 - Map - This figure shows the highways associated with the Interstate 90 corridor extending from Shipley, Pennsylvania in the east to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio in the west. Staging areas are designated as follows: two east and one west of Erie, one in Ashtabula, and one in Euclid. The I-271 and Ohio Turnpike Interchange is designated at Cuyahoga Falls. The span of highway connecting these points is designated for express toll lanes.


The exclusive truck lane facilities developed on this section would consist of the following physical attributes:

  • Four exclusive truck lanes total; two lanes in each direction (representing approximately 487 new lane miles).
  • Construction in the existing Interstate median, where possible given current highway configuration and right-of-way.
  • Follows Interstate design standards for cross section (e.g., 12-foot lanes).
  • Adaptation or complete reconstruction of the highway cross section in some segments where current median or lane configuration would not allow the four new lanes, including potential relocation of general traffic lanes. On portions of the I-271 corridor, this would likely include the reconfiguration of the cross section to accommodate ETLs, express lanes, and general purpose lanes.

Access and Staging Areas

The hypothetical locations for access points and staging areas are identified in Figure 3.1. These hypothetical locations were chosen to provide linkages to existing highway facilities, and to serve local shipping communities.

3.2 Highway Operations

The following figures (Figures 3.2 to 3.4) illustrate the typical configurations expected on the new exclusive truck lane. Figure 3.2 illustrates a typical semi-trailer combination unit, typically limited to 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW), but capable of carrying a heavier load. The double-trailer configurations operate on all sections of the I-90 between Indiana and New York/Massachusetts, except for the gap in Northeast Ohio and the Pennsylvania Panhandle. The triple-trailer configuration operates exclusively on the Indiana and Ohio Turnpikes. Axle weights on all configurations must conform to Federal Bridge Formula B.

Figure 3.2 Single 53-Foot Tandem
Five-Axle, 63.8 Feet Extreme Axle Spacing:  87,875 Pounds

Figure 3.2 - Illustration - This figure is an illustration of a typical semi-trailer configuration with single trailer.

Figure 3.3 Twin 48-Foot (or 53-Foot) Trailers
Nine-Axle, 109.2 Feet Extreme Axle Spacing: 129,000 Pounds

Figure 3.3 - Illustration - This figure is an llustration of a typical semi-trailer configuration with two trailers.

Figure 3.4 Triple 28-Foot Trailers
Seven-Axle, 102.9 Feet Extreme Axle Spacing: 120,000 Pounds

Figure 3.4 - Illustration - This figure is an illustration of a typical semi-trailer configuration with three trailers.

Tolling and Technology Considerations


In addition to these LCV configurations, the ETL facility would be open to all commercial vehicle traffic, but would exclude other vehicle traffic. Generally, the facility would convey LCVs and some semi-trailer trucks, especially when congested conditions on the general purpose lanes made the ETLs more attractive. The next section, which provides utilization and toll estimates, includes a scenario in which all commercial vehicles with five or more axles (semi-tractor trailers and LCVs) choose to utilize the ETLs to provide an illustrative upper bound of potential ETL traffic.

Toll collection would likely rely on current and emerging technologies to automatically collect tolls through overhead gantries using existing transponder systems such as E-ZPass.

Safety Technologies

Separation of trucks from the general traffic stream provides safety benefits by reducing the number of potential truck-auto crashes. Section 5.0 estimates the results of these safety performance improvements. The safe operation of the facility could be further enhanced through the requirement of on-board safety technologies. The trucking industry representatives participating in this study extolled the ability of collision detection systems, rollover stability, and other technologies to greatly improve the safety performance of their fleets. The body of research on the safety impacts of technologies for LCVs continues to grow, but does not yet provide any usable factors to estimate the change in crash reductions from shifting loads from semi-trailer to LCV configurations. Based on observed experience, the technologies with the greatest safety mitigation potential for commercial vehicle operations – including LCVs – include at least the following:

  • Collision detection systems utilize radar-based sensors to engage the vehicle’s foundation brakes (which alert the driver), and decelerate the vehicle when a preset vehicle following distance is compromised.
  • Rollover Stability Control (RSC) systems monitor the vehicle’s lateral acceleration to detect and counteract rollover risk. When the system observes a rollover risk, it decelerates the engine and applies tractor and trailer breaking.
  • Lane tracking systems detect lane boundaries to alert and assist drivers to maintain proper orientation and position within their lane boundaries.

While these technologies show great promise, researchers have not yet developed per-mile rates of crash avoidance and crash reduction for LCV fleets. As such, this study focuses on the crash reduction provided by separating trucks from the general purpose lanes.


Another much discussed technology application with respect to truck lanes is “platooning.” This study does not estimate the effect of platooning, but the concept has garnered recent attention. Platooning would use connected vehicle technologies (Connected vehicle technologies, formerly known as Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII), utilize telematic devices and applications to link some of the operating characteristics of vehicles, and to exchange real-time information between vehicles and roadway infrastructure. In the case of platooning, connected vehicle technologies would enable a string of multiple LCVs to nearly operate as a single vehicle because of linked and synchronized acceleration, steering, and breaking.) to allow a lead tractor combination to simultaneously control or coordinate acceleration, braking, and steering to gain energy and emissions efficiencies by cutting air resistance. Research by Shladover and others indicates platooning could further reduce fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions by 10 to 20 percent beyond the efficiencies already realized by converting semi-trailer trucks to LCVs.

In order for the platooning concept to produce these benefits, the freight corridor would require a critical mass of vehicles with common origins and destinations. Because the potential carriers using the study portion of the I-90 corridor serve a broad mix of origin and destination pairs, this study does not apply the platooning concept because it would affect a relatively small segment of the LCVs using the proposed ETL. Further reducing the likelihood of platooning on this corridor is the relatively short length of the ETL facility relative to the costs (time and labor) to assemble the platoons.

3.3 Capital Improvement Costs

Taking into consideration the physical and operational characteristics of the corridor, this section provides planning-level estimates the capital costs to build the facility. Capital improvement cost data were derived from the FHWA’s HERS, and were applied to available highway segment data from the FHWA’s HPMS.

  • HERS is an engineering/economic analysis tool that predicts system condition and user cost levels resulting from a given level of investment. This study utilizes cost estimates from HERS, on a per-mile basis, for pavement and widening improvements.
  • HPMS data are collected annually by the states and submitted to the FHWA to serve as a clearinghouse of information on highway physical and operational characteristics. HPMS is a valuable tool in developing planning-level estimates of improvements. The following table illustrates some of the ETL corridor’s construction-relevant attributes.

Keep in mind that all the costs and assumptions are at the sketch planning level of detail, and would require a more detailed engineering assessment to enhance accuracy. Per-mile cost estimates are based on the following assumptions in Table 3.1 based on HPMS network attributes. The following paragraphs explain the content of the table.

Table 3.1 Corridor HPMS/Cost Assumptions
From To Distance (Miles) Terrain
Added Lanes Lanes Recon. Added Lane Miles
NY State Line PA State Line 46.3 80/20 3+ 4 Empty Cell 185.2
PA State Line I-90/I-271 54.7 80/20 3+ 4 Empty Cell 218.8
I-90/I-271 U.S. 422 12.63 100/0 3+ 4 4 50.52
U.S. 422 I-480E 5.42 100/0 5+ 4 Empty Cell 21.68
I-480E SR 8 2.97 100/0 5+ 4 Empty Cell 11.88
SR 8 I-80 6.08 100/0 5+ 4 Empty Cell 24.32

In Table 3.1, the HPMS attributes include the following:

  • Distance of the segment expressed in miles.
  • Terrain characteristics, expressed as the estimated split of flat versus rolling terrain.
  • A Widening Feasibility code indicating the extent to which an existing facility could be widened within its existing right-of-way, reflecting physical features along the section such as severe terrain, cemeteries, park land, and nonexpendable buildings (large office buildings, shopping centers, etc.). A value of 3+ equates indicates the ability to add 1 lane, while 5+ indicates 3 or more lanes may be added.

Based on these physical design characteristics, the final two columns of Table 3.1 indicate the expected changes to the highway, including the following:

  • Added Lanes are segments with new exclusive truck lanes in existing right-of-way, typically in the median.
  • Lanes Reconstructed are segments where reconstruction of existing highway lanes is required to accommodate the exclusive truck lanes. For example, on an urban segment of I-271 between I-90 and U.S. 422, this may require construction of ETLs and the reconstruction of existing Express Lanes.

After identifying the segment characteristics using HPMS data, the study team developed per-mile cost estimates using the HERS model. HERS per-mile cost estimates vary based on improvement definitions for urban and rural segments. For example:

  • From the New York State Line to the I-90/I-271 interchange, the HERS improvement type is “Major Widening at High Cost (Rural).”
  • For the 12.6-mile segment of I-271 with existing Express Lanes, the HERS improvement type is “Reconstruct and Add High Cost Lanes (Major Urbanized Area).” This improvement type is selected because this section would require complete reconfiguration to accommodate new ETLs while preserving express lane and general purpose lane capacity.
  • South of the I-271 Express Lanes to I-80, the HERS improvement type is “Major Widening at High Cost (Small Urbanized)” to reflect and expectation that right-of-way (ROW) acquisition would be minimal, given the existing cross section’s wide median.

Based on the assumptions identified above, Table 3.2 presents the total construction costs by applying lane-mile improvement costs from HERS to the HPMS characteristics of the highway segments. The costs include new lanes, ramps, new bridges and bridge upgrades, pavement reconstruction (where identified), and staging areas.

Table 3.2 I-90/I-271 Exclusive Truck Lane Construction Costs by Highway Segment
(Costs 2008) Flat
(Costs 2008) Rolling
Construction Subtotal Staging Area Costs Total Cost 2008
NY State Line PA State Line $6.02 $7.61 $1,153 $20.40 $1,173
PA State Line I-90/I-271 $5.11 $6.46 $1,168 $8.40 $1,177
I-90/I-271 U.S. 422 $10.69 $89.46 $1,072 $8.40 $1,080
U.S. 422 I-480E $21.06 $21.06 $448 $8.40 $457
I-480E SR 8 $21.06 $21.06 $250 $- $250
SR 8 I-80 $21.06 $21.06 $630 $- $630
Total Empty Cell Empty Cell Empty Cell $4,721 $45.59 $4,767

Capital Cost Summary

Based on this analysis, the order-of-magnitude capital costs for this facility are more than $5 billion, consisting of the following major categories, all expressed in 2008 dollars:

  • Highway Mainline. The costs in Table 3.2 represent 2008 costs adjusted from 2002 cost assumptions from HERS. These adjustments are made through Consumer Price Index factors and state construction cost factors from HERS of 1.257 for Pennsylvania and 1.067 for Ohio. The resulting total corridor cost estimate is $4.767 billion.
  • Ohio Turnpike Truck-Only Interchange. An additional construction cost required for the project recommendation is the development of a truck-only interchange at I-80 (Ohio Turnpike). To develop a cost estimate for the new interchange through use of HERS, the following assumptions are used: 0.5 centerline miles of ramps, 4 structures, rolling terrain, and 10 culverts. These assumptions, accounting for the construction price index and state cost factor, result in a total cost for the interchange of $83.92 million.
  • Technology and Toll Collection. The recently completed Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Statewide Truck Lanes Needs Identification Study (Georgia Department of Transportation, Statewide Truck Lanes Needs Identification Study, 2008.) developed cost estimates for a system of statewide truck lanes in April 2008. Cost estimates for this study were developed through a statewide project costing tool based on state-specific, regional, and national cost data. To develop a cost estimate for constructing toll collection facilities and Intelligent Transportation System (ITS)/Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) equipment in the corridor, per mile cost estimates of $1.1 million from the GDOT study were used. Total cost for this element of the ETL corridor is $140.47 million.
  • Staging Areas. Table 3.2 includes capital costs for the construction of five new staging areas along the corridor. These new staging areas complement the existing staging area at the New York State Line by providing an assembly point for LCV equipment. The new staging areas are situated to serve local shipping communities or at major highway junctions. The estimated cost of developing a staging area is $8.4 million in Ohio and $10.2 million in Pennsylvania (to match the higher HERS construction cost factor for Pennsylvania). The costs were obtained from the U.S. DOT Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study and inflated to current year. The total cost for the staging areas is $45.59 million.
  • Utilities Relocation. The average cost per-mile to relocate or reconfigure utilities in the right-of-way is about $1.76 million, translating to $210.80 million for the 128.1-mile corridor. This cost is based on the GDOT study assumption that utility relocation is roughly 5 percent of construction cost.
  • Preliminary Engineering. The GDOT study also estimates preliminary engineering would constitute at least 10 percent of total construction cost, translating to $476.7 million.
  • Total Capital Costs. Accounting for all subcategories, the total project corridor capital cost in 2008 dollars is $5.679 billion. (Note that right-of-way acquisition is not included in these costs as the preliminary analysis of the corridor using HPMS data reveals that the current highway real estate should generally accommodate the conversion or addition of ETLs.)

Financing Costs

To pay for the capital costs of infrastructure, the project would likely require debt service payments to secure at least a portion of the financing. The market rate for toll facilities currently hovers around 5 percent. For example, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority bonds that mature in 2040 are yielding 5.25 percent. The possibility of public financing through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program of the U.S. DOT could provide a lower-than-market rate (currently at 4.25 percent) for a portion of the investment. Assuming a mix of lower interest public financing and market rate bonds, at 5 percent the annual debt service for this investment would be $365.8 million (expressed as 2008 dollars). For this estimate a 30-year term is used to match the 30-year bonds traditionally issued by the Ohio Turnpike Commission and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority.

3.4 Maintenance and Operations Costs

Another important consideration is the costs associated with continued operations and maintenance of the facility. The estimating procedure from the recent GDOT study assumes annual operations and maintenance costs for a truck-only-toll lane corridor at 0.5 percent of total initial project capital cost plus 3 percent inflation per year. Applying this assumption to the I-90/I-271 corridor results in an average annual maintenance and operations cost estimate of $45.72 million from 2010 to 2040.

3.5 Cost Summary

Collectively, the annual capital and operating costs total $411.5 million (2008 dollars). Subsequent sections of this report estimate the potential toll revenues and benefits to public and private stakeholders to offset these costs.

Table 3.3 I-90/I-271 Exclusive Truck Lane Capital and Operating and Maintenance Cost Summary
Cost Category Total Cost ($ Millions)
Capital Costs Empty Cell
Highway Mainline Construction 4,767
I-80 Truck-Only Interchange 83.92
Technology and Toll Collection 140.47
Utilities Relocation 210.80
Preliminary Engineering 476.70
Subtotal 5,678.9
Operating and Maintenance Costs 45.72
Annual Financing of Capital Costs 365.8
Total Annual Cost 411.5