Freeways / Highways of the Future

September 5th, 2014

Current Designs are Antiquated

The current designs of our freeway and highway systems are very antiquated. The speed at which technology is moving and our understanding of the challenges of fast population growth, our roads have not kept up with the times. We are relying on ideas from many decades ago that just don't work anymore.

Population and Geographical Challenges

I live in Southern California. If you've never been to California, you undoubtedly know we have horrible traffic problems grid-locking our roads. You've heard of the horrific Los Angeles traffic. I frequently have to travel on the 91 freeway connecting Orange County to Riverside County. This is one of the very few through-fares connecting the counties due to large mountain ranges dividing them to the north and south. To avoid the 91 freeway, you have to drive about 45 minutes south just to get on a dangerous and windy 2 lane mountain road. You can also drive another 45 minutes north to other freeways and eventually trackback to the south. With the population exploding in Southern California, CalTrans has their work cutout for them.

Carpool Lanes (HOV) and Toll Lanes

Carpool lanes may have been a great idea in the 70's and 80's to help reduce congestion by getting more people into one car and reducing the number of vehicles on the road. This just doesn't work today. There are far too many people traveling today that there sometimes is absolutely no benefit when it comes to keeping traffic moving. Don't get me wrong, we still want people to carpool, but these lanes are not a solution. On the 91 freeway, they have added Toll Lanes. As of now, they can cost up to approximately $10.00 per way during the busiest times. This is certainly not affordable to everyone. This is a luxury lane. I certainly don't want roads to be divided for the upper income earners and the lower income earners. I want a transportation system that works.

Separating Local and Long Distance Commuters

The first step to correcting our grid-lock is to separate local commuters and long distance commuters. This would require what I call Freeway to Freeway Lanes. These lanes would connect only to other freeways and separate the long distance commuters from local commuters for a better traffic flow. Interchanges would have to be built connecting these freeways so that commuters would not be required to cross from the left side of the freeway to the right side of the freeway to make it to the freeway interchange. When commuters have to travel many lanes to the right to change freeways, it causes a chain reaction behind them causing traffic to slow. There are some challenges to overcome though. Refueling, restroom usage, and food/drink. These types of lanes may need small gas stations with these amenities. I'm sure there are other concerns to be raised, so please leave your comments below.

Motorcyclists are helping to reduce congestion by driving smaller and more maneuverable vehicles. They unfortunately don't have a lane specifically for them. We can easily build a motorcycle lane to increase safely for them and a faster commute.

Separating Large Commercial Vehicles

Large commercial vehicles can be a cause for slower traffic as well. As they merge onto a freeway or off a freeway, it slows down traffic. People speed up to pass them or slow down quickly to get behind them before their exit. These vehicles may get cut-off by other vehicles causes accidents or traffic to stop quickly behind them. When these commercial vehicles are traveling uphill or downhill, they tend to pass each other using another lane. This will cause a chain reaction as traffic behind them has to slow and may cause other lanes to slow as other drivers change lanes to pass them.

These large commercial vehicles need to be separated from local and long distance commuters. Keeping them completely separated from other traffic will help reduce the problems stated above. The only interaction they would have is entering and exiting the freeway.

On-ramps and Off-ramps

Traffic entering and exiting the freeway must also be considered. Plenty of accidents are caused as people change lanes, usually in a rush, to get into or out of the exit lanes. By offsetting when cars can enter the first lane on the freeway and when cars can exit to the exit lane can help reduce accidents and help keep traffic moving smoothly.

Light Efficiency

When traffic exits the freeway, backups and traffic lights and stop signs can cause lanes to back up on the freeway. This can cause accidents and slow traffic behind it. CalTrans and municipalities have already been working on making these lights more efficient, but more work needs to be done. With the computing power we have today, it's surprising that our traffic lights are using such old technology.

Speed Flow and Accident Signs

At strategic intervals, freeways should have informational signs for each lane. This would help keep traffic flowing and to divert traffic. When an accident has been reported down the road, these signs can let people know to change lanes to avoid the accident and keep traffic flowing. These signs can also let people know the safe speed at which they need to travel in each lane.

Please leave your comments and ideas below. No one has all the answers and I always enjoy good feedback.

About the Author

Brandon Orth

Brandon Orth

Brandon is a web developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, Javascript, and jQuery and has been developing since 2005. Brandon has been with IOGEAR since 2010. He is recently married with one kid, a Chihuahua, name Cisco (he was adopted with that name). Brandon enjoys playing golf, baseball, programming, science, technology, movies, music, and much more. Always make a side dish without onions and cilantro; he's allergic. Isn't that weird?