The $30.11 road toll

Road work aheadEconomist John Whitehead posts at Environmental Economics about a story on possible toll lanes meant to keep traffic running smoothly on a 56-mile stretch of highway in northern Virginia running away from Washington D.C. (Here’s a Washington Post version of the story.)

The goal would be to cut congestion and leave the road open for people who really, really needed to get where they were going quickly, and they’d adjust the tolls as often as every six minutes, according to how bad traffic was. The more crowded, the more it would cost to add yourself and your machine to the dogpile.

At peak times, the consortium responsible for the toll-lane project figures it would have to charge $1.60 U.S. a mile on the most congested stretch, to keep traffic moving briskly (full vehicles could cruise the toll lanes for free). For someone driving the full length of the toll route in the evening, including the less crowded parts, the charge could be $30.11!

Now, this isn’t about the cost of building the highway or maintaining it, just about keeping part of it relatively clear of traffic so it could be used the way you normally would like to use a highway, and it’s heavily dependent on the local economic factors. What it would cost to keep the 401 or the Met or your local urban stretch of the Trans-Canada open is anybody’s guess. But it gives some indication of the scale of the mismatch between what drivers want of major roads and what it would cost to meet that demand.

The above photo is the work of Flickr user Daquella Manera,
used under the terms of a Creative Commons attribution licence

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