NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Paying While Driving

April 9, 2004

A growing trend in freeway tolls is giving commuters the option of paying their way out of congestion, and thus bringing more highway revenue to cash-strapped states, according to USA Today.

Several states are converting existing lanes or adding new lanes to freeways that enable drivers to pay a fee to travel in those lanes and escape congestion, especially during peak traffic times.

  • Minnesota is adding a high-occupancy toll (HOT) option on its HOV lanes for Interstate 394 -- single drivers will pay to use the HOV lanes while carpoolers will continue to use them for free; about 20,000 drivers are expected to use the HOT lanes.
  • Orange County, California now charges for the use of "express" lanes on its busiest highway, State Route 91, and San Diego County is extending HOT lanes along I-15.
  • Texas is adding a toll lane along I-35 between Austin and San Antonio; Denver, Portland and Raleigh are considering similar measures.

Moreover, the use of electronic toll tags (which automatically register usage) enables more drivers to pass through toll lanes quicker, eliminating waiting lines. Indeed, the toll plazas of 30 years ago only processed 250 vehicles per hour, say experts, but electronic tolling has increased that number to 2,200 cars per hours.

Source: Fred Bayles, "Toll Lanes: A Freer Ride, For a Price," USA Today, April 8, 2004.

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