Can Ideas From Texas and Florida Help Clear Our Highways?
Highway accidents can’t be completely prevented, but a proposal in the legislature’s Transportation Committee could help minimize the economic impact caused by disabled vehicles and collisions on Connecticut’s highways.
It also promises to provide some immediate traffic congestion relief as lawmakers begin to develop a long-term transportation plan.
Connecticut has some of the nation’s most heavily congested highways—including the I-95, I-84 and I-91 corridors. On any given day, one accident can mean the difference between doing business on time, hours late, or not at all.
Highway congestion was the No. 1 transportation concern of Connecticut businesses responding to a CBIA survey in 2013.
Respondents said that congestion impacts work schedules, limits their markets, prevents meetings with customers, holds up delivery times, and disrupts logistics.
SB 481 requires the state Department of Transportation to look at programs that other states are using to reduce accident-related congestion, programs preferably delivering a benefit-to-cost ratio of 9:1 or greater.
There are, in fact, some excellent models that could be emulated by Connecticut, including:
- The SafeClear program in Houston that tows disabled or abandoned vehicles off the highway to the nearest exit at no cost to the driver. Although there is some cost to the city, Houston claims the program has a 10:1 benefit-cost ratio.
- Washington State’s Incident Response Program, during the first quarter of 2012 alone, cleared over 10,000 accidents and saved $10.7 million in wasted time and fuel from congestion. Accidents were cleared from the highway in an average of 14 minutes, and the program showed a 9:1 benefit-cost ratio.
- Florida’s Rapid Incident Scene Clearance Program provides clearance-time incentives for responders to tractor trailer accidents. The heavy-duty towers are given a $2,500 bonus if the tractor trailer is cleared within 90 minutes of their arrival. If the accident hasn't been cleared within three hours, $10 is deducted for each additional minute.
Other methods may prove useful as well, including more traffic cameras on highways and the use of total surveying equipment or photogrammetric technology by police responding to accidents.
SB 481 will allow the state transportation commissioner to develop a customized program that works best for Connecticut.
Connecticut’s transportation problems will require a long-term solution. However, SB 481 provides a measure of immediate, short-term relief for Connecticut commuters and businesses alike.
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