Addressing Environmental Justice Concerns When Developing Tolling Policies for the Border Region
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) are constructing toll lanes in El Paso along the César Chávez Border Highway. Under the auspices of environmental justice (EJ), the toll lanes could severely impact residents in this community who live below the poverty level. TTI assessed EJ concerns in the area and offered TxDOT tolling policy options that consider the needs of the lower-income populations, while keeping in mind the need to recover bonded construction costs. TTI used a state-of-the-art simulation-based dynamic traffic assignment modeling to analyze baseline static toll rates, assess variable pricing, and model a scenario using an innovative algorithm that dynamically changes toll rates based on managed lanes’ speed to determine which option maximizes revenue. Regarding EJ issues, TTI used geographic information systems (GIS) and demographic data to identify low-income populations within the border region and mapped these to corresponding traffic analysis zones. Values-of-time were adjusted to determine how often drivers in these areas were diverting to non-tolled facilities. TTI then compared the diversion trends and assessed any potential changes in transportation service within the region. Researchers found that the César Chávez lanes should benefit income classes equitably without substantially impacting bike/pedestrian safety, air pollution, or—with noise abatement measures in place—noise pollution. Regarding modal equity—or travelers choosing a single- versus multi-occupancy vehicle mode of travel—TTI found no benefit/incentive for multi-occupant travelers unless high occupancy is considered for future operations and toll rates.
For more information contact Jeff Shelton at (915) 532-3759 or [email protected].
Restoring the Presidio International Freight Rail Crossing
For more than six years, the international freight-rail crossing at Presidio has been closed following a bridge fire. The Presidio/Ojinaga crossing, though traditionally low in traffic, was one of only eight rail border crossing areas between the U.S. and Mexico. Plans are underway to replace the bridge late in 2015; however, the benefits that might come from reopening the crossing are largely unknown. Owned by the Texas Department of Transportation, the 391 miles of track from Presidio to San Angelo Junction are operated by the Texas Pacifico Railroad. In a white paper, researchers examined the issues in light of the recent oil and gas production in West Texas and the improved sections of the rail line from Sulphur Junction (a few miles north of Fort Stockton) and San Angelo, allowing for increased rail speeds. Among the issues, the paper addresses the potential impacts of a reopened Presidio/Ojinaga crossing on the existing rail traffic flows, the need for additional customs inspection facilities and the potential for rail-served industry development in the region.
For more information contact Curtis Morgan at (979) 317-2562 or [email protected].
Teens in the Driver Seat – El Paso
The El Paso region of Teens in the Driver Seat represents one of the strongest concentrations of activity in Texas for the Teens in the Driver Seat® program. Teens in the Driver Seat is the nation’s first peer-to-peer program focusing solely on teen-driver safety. The program is different from other teen-driver safety initiatives in two ways. First, it focuses on the most common dangers for young drivers: driving at night; distractions such as cell phones, texting and other teen passengers; and speeding. Second, the program relies on the teen audience to both develop and deliver safety messages to their peers, minimizing the “adult fingerprints” that characterize other teen-driver safety efforts. During 2013, the Teens in the Driver Seat program was active in 10 area high schools and 8 junior high schools. Teen participants planned and led a wide array of activities that creatively reached thousands of their peers, as well as school administrators and parents. Other examples of the region’s standout status include the awarding of the TDS Cup to six area schools and student awards presented to 10 students for their service in the name of TDS in their local schools. The following teachers received the SponStar award this year: Laura Rizo (Desert View Middle School), Janice Briones (El Dorado 9th Grade Academy), and Sylvia Garcia (Jefferson/ Silva High School).
For more information contact Russell Henk at (210) 321-1205 or [email protected].
Transportation Reinvestment Zones
Value Capture (VC) is a land market-based innovative financing method that leverages the real estate potential brought by infrastructure improvements in a specific area. In transportation, VC can be simply defined as the means by which transportation infrastructure investment is funded by “capturing” either some or all of the added value of real-estate property that results directly from that investment. Texas is one of the first states in the United States to develop a legislative framework that allows local governments (e.g., municipalities and counties) to use VC specifically to fund transportation infrastructure through a mechanism called transportation reinvestment zones (TRZ). Based on a breakthrough combination of GIS and advanced financial modeling tools, TTI has developed a methodology to evaluate TRZ revenue-generation potential, and has been using it to assist municipalities and counties throughout the state to assess their capacity to fund specific roadway projects through the TRZ mechanism. One of these communities is the City of El Paso, where the first operating TRZ in the state was set up in 2010. Since 2009, TTI researchers have also been providing training to local agencies in communities, where there is growing interest in using the TRZ mechanism as a funding alternative for transportation infrastructure.
For more information contact Rafael Aldrete at (915) 532-3759 or [email protected].