Taking a Toll to Ease Congestion

Board meets this week to discuss new plan

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Imagine a landscape of wide-open lanes and gridlock free commuting. According to local transportation officials that could be a reality on area roadways if a plan they’re developing comes to fruition.

    The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board is meeting this week to discuss a plan that would create a network of tolls across our region, including almost every major roadway, according to the Washington Examiner. They say such an expansive network could greatly reduce traffic issues.

    The plan that encompasses the next 20 years would create more than 1,650 miles of toll lanes. The Capital Beltway, George Washington Parkway, and Interstates 295, 395 and 66 are all included.

    The tolls would be similar to those being instituted on the new Intercounty Connector and high-occupancy toll lanes on the Beltway. What’s unknown is how much the tolls would run. There are no specific numbers provided in the plan, but it does say the rates would vary based on location and time of day.

    Of course one reason for the system is to create a new revenue stream for local transportation agencies. But the plan emphasizes that if the network is region-wide, toll rates could be kept low while still increasing revenue.

    “There’s a fundamental problem with the usage of roads, and that is they’re offered as a free good,” Transportation Planning Board Member Chris Zimmerman told the Washington Examiner. “And if you have a free good you have a shortage.”

    But Zimmerman also questions whether there will ever be enough political support to advance the plan.

    “How bad do things have to get for people to be willing to reach for new solutions? I don’t know,” Zimmerman told the Examiner.

    A new 500-mile rapid transit bus system would also be included in the plan and use the new toll roads.