Effects of open road tolling on safety performance of freeway mainline toll plazas
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Advances in intelligent transportation systems technologies promoted the implementation of open road tolling (ORT) on tolled freeways worldwide. This new tolling solution converts existing barrier toll booths to express lanes that are capable of collecting tolls at high speed. ORT has demonstrated numerous benefits in reducing traffic congestion and air pollution. However, the effects of ORT on safety are still not clear because most ORT systems have been operated for a relatively short period. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the safety impacts of ORT by examining recent practices in New Jersey. Multipleyear crash data at toll plazas before and after the implementation of the ORT systems were analyzed. The full Bayes methodology was employed to develop crash frequency models as a function of traffic and toll plaza configurations. These models were used to estimate the crash frequency on the assumption that the ORT systems were not installed. The estimations were then compared with the observed crash counts that occurred after the deployment of the ORT systems. Comparisons showed that crash reductions were obtained at most of the toll plazas. The overall comparison showed that crash frequency decreased by about 24% after the deployment of the ORT systems and suggested that the use of ORT is a beneficial solution to improve the safety of the toll plazas. From an implementation point of view, the analysis results also indicated that special attention should be paid to operational elements such as signage, diversion, and merge designs of the ORT systems.