The Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington metropolitan area is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the United States. With a population of over 7.5 million people — and growing — the area has rapidly become a desirable place for families and businesses to locate to over the last decade. Alongside the population and economic growth, traffic congestion has quickly become a problem that many commuters must deal with on a daily basis.
In December 2020, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Fort Worth District opened peak-hour lanes (PHLs) to help relieve traffic congestion on an approximately 2.5-mile section of the four-lane, divided, access-controlled SH 121 from Bedford to Euless. Researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) Arlington urban office are currently working on providing the TxDOT Fort Worth District with a before-and-after assessment of the operational performance of the PHLs.
“What we’re trying to do for TxDOT is provide a comprehensive analysis of before-and-after implementation data to understand the impacts these PHLs have had on congestion over time,” says TTI Research Specialist Stephen Ranft, lead researcher on the project. “Our assessment includes a comprehensive analysis of before-and-after implementation data related to traffic volume, travel speeds, queue-jumping volumes, and origin and destination data within the SH 121 corridor.”
To create these PHLs, TxDOT and its regional partners converted the inside shoulder to a third travel lane — on both sides of SH 121 — for motorists to use during the peak operating hours of Monday through Friday, 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Operational information regarding lane accessibility is relayed to drivers via dynamic message signs, new pavement markings and static signs. When not open for use, the inside shoulder remains available for emergencies and disabled vehicles.
“The early results of our analysis have shown that these PHLs have impacted traffic in a positive way,” says Ranft. “We’re seeing improved traffic volumes, increased speed and better traffic flow in the corridor during the PHLs’ assigned operating hours.”
Once Ranft and his team are done with their comprehensive assessment, TTI will continue working with the TxDOT Fort Worth District to assess before-and-after crash data to determine whether there are any safety concerns related to the implementation of the PHLs.