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3.0 Signing, Markings and Channelization

3.3.1 State-of-the-Practice

Over the years there has been a noticeable trend in conventional plaza lanes of less toll lane signing with the likely intent to reduce user confusion. A sign that can be found in the majority of conventional toll plaza cash lanes is the stop sign. The survey data indicates that 51% of the agencies responding have deployed stop signs in cash lanes. The expert panel discussed the use of stop signs, particularly the modified versions that have been installed in manual and automatic (i.e., exact change) toll lanes. Examples of modified stop signs, defined as those containing supplemental messages such as “Pay Toll” and “Take Ticket”, were reviewed. Some panelists reasoned the limited space to install visible signing on the islands had necessitated placing supplemental messages on the Stop signs. No consensus recommendation was reached on the use of the modified stop signs along the toll lanes. However, the panel did see merit in a new section of the MUTCD specifying a modified stop sign that included supplemental messages such as “Pay Toll” or “Take Ticket”. This new sign would be restricted for use only at toll plazas. Alternatively and in the interest of preserving the integrity of the stop sign, a plaque could be mounted beneath the standard stop sign to provide supplemental information. The panel also discussed one agency’s practice of using a rectangular sign with the message “Stop Pay Toll” using black letters on a white background. This application was viewed as being contrary to uniformity and familiarity engendered by the MUTCD and was rejected.

With the proliferation of electronic toll collection (ETC) in all toll lanes, the installation of speed limit signs in the conventional plaza lanes, specifically the permanent ETC dedicated lanes, has become more prevalent. After adjusting for outliers, the survey data finds a considerable range in posted speeds through a dedicated lane, ranging from 5 mph to 45 mph. While it is understandable for agencies to be concerned with the safety of their staff and customers, posting a speed significantly below the average 85% percentile speed without a rigorous enforcement regimen will result in little compliance based on field observations conducted on the Illinois Tollway in conjunction with testing the effectiveness of speed display signs. In a 1998 study, speed display boards installed along local streets and arterials were found to be effective. The study also revealed that all speed control devices produced more significant results on speeds of 10 mph or more over the 25-mph speed limit.1 Consequently, speed display signs can only be viewed as one element of a group of factors designed to both control and minimize the consequences of higher speeds in the dedicated lanes. For the manual lanes, the survey data indicates that only 23% of the responding agencies have installed speed limit signs. While use of a speed limit sign in a multi-payment type lane that also has a “stop pay toll” sign is likely to cause confusion and should be avoided, the ETC user cannot always be expected to stop if the traffic signal turns green prior to passing the tollbooth door or ACM/ATIM.

This becomes more complicated for multi-payment type lanes that are operated as ETC dedicated lanes, commonly when commuter traffic is heavy. In these lanes a speed limit sign without a “stop pay toll” sign should be deployed to provide some measure of attendant protection in crossing the lane, but needs to be supplemented with other measures. To this end, as described above, some agencies have implemented speed display signs on the approach end of the toll island to show the user’s speed, typically measured by radar sensors, in conjunction with the posted speed limit. Either MUTCD compliant signs commonly installed along local streets and arterials or LED signs similar to displays deployed at roadway construction sites are used to show the driver’s speed. The survey data indicates agencies are more likely to deploy these signs in the ETC dedicated lanes than in the cash lanes, suggesting the dedicated lanes are experiencing more problems with excessive speeds. However, the lanes the attendant must cross should be afforded the highest priority when considering the use of these signs.

Other signs that have been used in conventional toll plazas include “No Stopping” (Do Not Stop) in the ETC dedicated lanes, “Stay in Vehicle” in the ACM/ATIM lanes, “Enforcement by Video” or a related camera based enforcement message in lanes deploying violation enforcement system (VES) equipment, and “Wait for Green” attached to the island traffic signal pole in the cash lanes. The toll island location of some of these signs is shown on the toll plaza diagram below and in Chapter 5.

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