The New Normal for Highway Capacity

  • Congestion continues to worsen around the country’s major cities, yet the political will for taxpayer-financed new highways seems to be lacking.  A solution to this dilemma that is increasingly gaining currency in public policy circles is tolling.  Indeed, tolling is already more extensive than one might first think.  Where there is resistance comes from the general public that sees a road and believes it has been paid for with gas taxes and, consequently, they believe paying a toll to drive on it represents a double billing.

    Such is the sentiment S. Masani Jackson, as quoted in the New York Times: “I’ve been living here my whole life, and I have never had to pay for the 110 Freeway.  It’s ridiculous.”  She’s referring to Interstate 110, which is converting an 11-mile stretch across central Los Angeles into tolled express lanes.

    One of the driving forces behind this policy development is Robert W. Poole, Jr. of the Reason Foundation.  His work on Congestion Pricing makes the case that all states and metropolitan areas should be looking into this opportunity to create capacity while associating the costs with those who actually use it.

    But there are benefits beyond just reducing congestion and eliminating/reducing taxpayer subsidies.  Tolled roads tend to be safer, which enables motorists to drive faster.  The newly constructed Texas Tollway 130 posts a speed limit of 85 miles per hour.  Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend.

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