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MDOT is evaluating the opportunity to implement the connected and automated vehicle (CAV) corridor project along an approximately 39-mile segment of I-94 between Ann Arbor to the west and Detroit to the east. The purpose of the project is to maximize the benefits of CAVs and encourage similar integration of technologies across Michigan; upgrade I-94 with smart road technology; improve safety, pavement conditions and operations along the corridor; and encourage new and reliable transit routes and transit use.
The project will be implemented in phases, as shown in the map below.
To implement the project, MDOT awarded a contract to Cavnue, a private company focused on building advanced roads, based on a competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) process in 2020 to advance pre-development and design activities.
Learn more about the Connected & Autonomous Vehicle Corridor Study.
What is the project?
The project will repurpose a general-purpose lane to a technology-enabled express lane, likely to be with physical separation. Vehicles will be able to access the lane through access points, which are breaks between physical separation that are at least 2,000 feet in length to accommodate vehicle merges. At the onset of the project, all vehicles will be able to use the lane. As CAVs become more common in the future, and CAV usage on the lane exceeds a certain threshold, the lane may be open to CAVs only. This threshold will be determined after relevant studies, including traffic and revenue modeling, are complete.
Where will the project take place?
The complete project limits are from Ann Arbor-Saline Road in Ann Arbor to M-10 in Detroit. The initial phase (Phase 1a) that is planned to be built is the segment of I-94 between US-23 and Oakwood Boulevard.
When will construction begin?
The project team's goal is to begin building the initial phase (Phase 1 between US-23 and Oakwood Boulevard) of the project after final design is complete following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The NEPA process is anticipated to last approximately 12 months.
Why is MDOT doing this project?
The purpose of the project is to create a first-of-its-kind project to maximize the benefits of CAVs and encourage similar integration of technologies in Michigan; upgrade roadways with smart road technology; improve safety, pavement conditions and operations; and encourage new and reliable transit routes and transit use.
What role will MDOT and Cavnue have in managing the project?
MDOT is responsible for Michigan's state roads (I, M and US routes), including I-94. MDOT will partner with Cavnue in every aspect of the project development process, including conceptual design, permitting and environmental approvals.
What are the phases of the project?
The project will be implemented in three phases. Phase 1 is an approximately 26-mile segment from US-23 in the west to Oakwood Boulevard in the east. Phase 2 is an approximately 8-mile segment from Oakwood Boulevard in the west to M-10 (Lodge Freeway) in the east. Phase 3 is an approximately 4-mile segment from Ann Arbor-Saline Road in the west to US-23 in the east. When fully complete, the project will provide full CAV technology coverage on I-94 between Ann Arbor-Saline Road in Ann Arbor and M-10 (Lodge Freeway) in Detroit.
What physical changes will the project entail?
There will be improved pavement and updated striping on the far-left lane along I-94 in both directions. New poles, which will support advanced camera and sensor equipment, will be installed along the median. There will be new signs, potentially including dynamic messaging signs, along the corridor to help road users identify lane entrances and exits. In addition, there will likely be flexible delineators separating the technology-enabled express lane from the general-purpose lanes, with the exception of access point areas where openings are expected to be at least 2,000 feet to accommodate vehicle merges.
Will any new right of way (ROW) be needed for this project?
No, all road work will be done within the existing ROW.
Why is an existing lane being used?
In accordance with NEPA, several alternatives for the project were developed and considered, which included using the outside lanes, using the inside shoulders, and adding one additional lane. However, after further evaluation, those alternatives were not carried forward due to concerns with operational and technical feasibility, and the lack of ROW required to accommodate the design. Although the project will use the existing far-left general purpose lane, the lane will operate similarly to an express lane and all vehicles will be able to access the lane at the onset of the project.
How will this project affect local communities?
As the project is located within the existing public ROW, the communities around the project will not be impacted by any ROW acquisitions or relocations. Through the NEPA process, MDOT will study the potential impacts on communities, including potential changes to traffic flows and any possible diversion impacts to surrounding communities.
What are CAVs?
CAVs are vehicles that (1) send and/or receive information to and from outside sources and (2) automate the driving task. Many vehicles today have different levels of connectivity and automation, and it is expected that these features that make vehicles smarter will continue to advance rapidly in the future.
What is a technology-enabled express lane?
Roadways are generally complex and unpredictable environments both for the human driver and automated driving systems. A technology-enabled express lane uses physical and digital infrastructure to simplify operations for vehicles and to provide important information about the road ahead. The resulting lane is intended to make the road safer and more efficient for all drivers.
The lane developed through this project will be open to all drivers at the onset of the project, where the overall goal is to benefit everyone on the road with full corridor coverage of cameras and sensors that allow real-time incident detection and, as a result, reduces incident dispatch times. As CAVs become more prevalent over time, the lane may become a CAV-only lane.
How can the lane support public transit?
The lane, similar to existing managed lane projects across the United States, can create a preferred ROW for transit vehicles to support more reliable and frequent transit service. The project team is working with the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) to evaluate potential transit options for the lane.
What are the benefits of the project?
This project will have a number of benefits, including:
- Enabling safer and future-ready transportation;
- Reducing crashes on the corridor due to driver error, such as distracted driving;
- Immediately detecting incidents on the roadway and reducing response time for situations where seconds matter;
- Providing faster and more reliable travel times, including for transit vehicles;
- Providing an improved automated driving experience for CAV vehicles; and
- Accelerating the potential benefits of connected vehicles, including safety, increased capacity and reduced emissions within the corridor.
How will the safety benefits of the lane be realized if non-CAVs are also allowed?
Non-CAVs will benefit from the dedicated lane and operations, as well as overall anticipated improvements in lane operations. Automated incident detection, as part of the technology being deployed, will also reduce incident response dispatch times for all vehicles (including non-CAVs) on the lane.
Will MDOT or Cavnue collect my data? How will they be stored?
No personal data will be collected as part of this project. Should user fees be implemented in the future, financial transaction data will be processed in accordance with all applicable laws and privacy standards.
What happens if the technology becomes obsolete?
As the technology company that will be operating the lane developed through this project, Cavnue will provide updates to its suite of software and hardware to ensure that it remains up to date and up to the standards of auto manufacturer partners.
Who is paying for this project? What will this cost taxpayers?
MDOT is working with Cavnue to advance conceptual design for the project. To date, outside of staff time, MDOT has not provided any funding. The feasibility work, including conceptual design, permitting, and the NEPA study, has been funded by Cavnue. Construction of the project is currently expected to be privately funded. MDOT is working with Cavnue to further define the funding and operational elements of the project.
What is a user fee?
A user fee is a sum of money paid as a necessary condition to gain access to and benefit from a particular service or facility. User fees ensure that a project is funded directly by those who benefit from it.
Will there be a user fee?
The project team is currently working to determine whether, when and how a user fee might be implemented in the future, including the potential to collect a user fee on the lane once CAVs become more widely adopted. In 2021, Michigan Senate Bill 706 (SB 706) authorized MDOT to designate automated vehicle roadways, enter into agreements with technology partners to operate them, and allow for a user fee to be assessed. It is possible that at some point in the future, drivers who choose to use the lane will be charged a user fee via electronic tolling. The ability to collect user fees on an interstate freeway such as I-94 would require federal approval.
What would happen to the proceeds of any user fees?
User fees collected would be used toward the cost of the building, operations, and maintenance of the lane.
What technology is being deployed?
The project will deploy poles that will consist of cameras, radar sensors and wireless radio equipment.
How will a disabled vehicle get out of the active lane?
The project will maintain the left-side shoulders at locations where it is currently available. Disabled vehicles can either exit the lane (if able) or use the left shoulder as an area of refuge and wait for incident response to arrive. The project’s suite of cameras and sensors will allow MDOT to know, in real time, when there is a stalled or disabled vehicle, which can reduce incident response dispatch time, allowing MDOT to clear or reopen a lane after an incident faster.
How will emergency services reach a crash?
Emergency vehicles will be able to enter and exit the lane through designated entrance and exit locations along the corridor, which is anticipated to include one between every existing I-94 on and off ramp. As part of the design and NEPA process, the project team will be working closely with emergency services representatives, such as the Michigan State Police, to understand and incorporate access requirements into the project.
How will these laneways be maintained and conditioned?
MDOT and Cavnue are working with Wayne and Washtenaw counties to develop a plan for operations and maintenance.
How will truck operations be impacted?
Trucks, which comprise less than 10 percent of traffic along the project corridor, will continue to use the far-right general-purpose lane, consistent with Chapter 257.634 of the Michigan Vehicle Code.
Are transit options being taken into account? How will regional transit options be supported?
The project team is working with RTA to evaluate potential transit options on I-94. The project creates a preferred ROW for transit vehicles, allowing for more reliable and frequent transit service along the project corridor.
As the project is privately funded, it could complement any future public funding secured by the RTA or other public agencies for new transit routes on I-94. The design elements of the project also will not preclude any other transit modes, such as rail projects along the project corridor or on existing tracks in the region, should they be contemplated in the future.
Buses such as those operated by the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) and the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) are among the most prevalent forms of public transportation in southeast Michigan. Will these buses benefit from the lane?
Yes. The project will create a preferred ROW for transit vehicles, allowing for more reliable and frequent transit service along the project corridor. Public transit vehicles will be able to use the lane free of charge.