Chocolate and Gold Coins

Sunday, May 01, 2005

HOT Lanes for the Beltway

Last week, the Virginia Department of Transportation announce that it would build High Occupancy or Toll (HOT) lanes along the Beltway (I-495) between Georgetown Pike and Springfield. The tolls enable these new roads to pay for themselves. Here is an excerpt from Friday’s Washington Post (free subscription required):

"We want to build HOT lanes," said Virginia Transportation Commissioner Philip A. Shucet. "I think it could be one of the few options that we have to meaningfully improve mobility."

"I'm all for it. I would gladly pay a premium," said Harry Dennis of Arlington, a lawyer who drives the Beltway almost every day. Dennis said he would have taken the Beltway yesterday to get from Reston to Springfield if it had HOT lanes, but because traffic is so unpredictable, he took back roads.

Getting corporations to pay for new roads is an alternative to trying to get public financing of new roads. There is only mixed support for new road construction even though roads are always congested here. Statewide, people resent money going to the urban areas, which they feel should fund themselves. Locally, most inner suburb residents sense that congestion is why their homes are so valuable, and really don’t want to fix the traffic problems of the outer suburbs. I live in an expensive home in an inner suburb, (there are no other kinds of homes here), and I get a perverse sense of shaudenfreude whenever I see congested roads. I think, “Good, that increased demand for my neighbors’ homes.” HOT lanes break the impasse and get new roads built because only the users pay for them.

Northern Virginia’s experience with the hybrid exemption on HOV lanes showed that people would pay a lot to have access to uncongested freeways.


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