Monday, April 30, 2007 at 11:04 am by Darryl
Having grown up using the Illinois toll roads, I really hate tolls. But I hate traffic jams, pot holes, unsafe highways, collapsed highway infrastructure, and sinking floating bridges even worse than tolls. So, perhaps this solution to funding our regional transportation infrastructure will grow on me.
A report prepared at the direction of King County Executive Ron Sims advocates turning all major freeways from Everett to Lakewood, near Fort Lewis, into payas- you-go roadways. According to the draft report, dated March 5, 2007, all vehicles except transit and emergency responders would pay a fee to travel within this network of major highways, with cost determined by time of day and distance driven.
The report proposes charging [tolls] on all major roadways, including Interstate 5, State Route 520, Interstate 405, Interstate 90 as far east as Issaquah, State Route 509, State Route 167 from Auburn to Renton, State Route 518 and parts of State Route 99.
The reportâ€™s authors emphasize that their suggestions are meant to be starting points for regional discussion. That said, to achieve the dual benefits of lessened traffic congestion and raising enough money to pay for necessary transportation improvements, the authors suggest charging every car $2 for a typical morning commute. That same trip at 3 a.m. would cost $1. However, someone driving from Tacoma to Woodinville at the height of the afternoon commute would pay $8, the maximum for any single trip. Fees for large trucks would be double those prices.
One of the most annoying aspects of tolls is the traffic backups and slowdowns at toll booths. The proposed system might well eliminate this problem by digitally identifying all vehicles—using an electronic ID or by photographing the license plates of cars without an electronic ID. I’m not so sure they will have much luck billing visitors from out of state.
Aside: One trade-off for this system is in privacy. Electronic records of our every movement on the highways create privacy issues—even beyond all the traffic cams being put up. I suspect the very same people who scream that highway users should pay as they go (rather than taxing everyone) will be the first to demand anonymity when using the highways.