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Gongol.com Archives: August 2004

The American Way (8.18.2004)
How Toll Roads Can Help Control Accidents and Pollution
I discussed toll roads on my radio show this past weekend after a particularly nice drive on the Kansas Turnpike, which was built before the full Interstate highway system was developed.

As listeners heard when former Governor Terry Branstad called in, federal laws get in the way of converting existing freeways into toll roads. While the logic of the toll prohibition makes sense on one hand (the Interstate highways are funded primarily by federal money, so it wouldn't be fair for states to generate toll revenues from roads they don't exactly "own"), it unfortunately has the effect of preventing us from using our highways in the most efficient manner.

As with so many economic subjects, the trade-off is between efficiency and fairness. Tolls would be a much more efficient way to fund highway systems than the current tax-based "freeway" system, but it strikes lots of people as unfair that they should have to pay anything to drive on the road.

The original report recommending a freeway system rather than toll roads suggested that traffic volumes would be insufficient to make the toll system workable. In retrospect, though, it certainly seems as if we've crossed the feasibility line since then.

To be honest, I'd much rather support the conversion of the present freeway system to toll-metered highways than be forced to fund new high-speed rail networks, which certainly can't sustain themselves without lots of public (read: tax) investment.

Toll systems could help reduce pollution (by charging more for higher-pollution vehicles), control traffic volume (by charging more at higher-volume periods and less, for example, overnight), and allocate maintenance costs more efficiently (by charging heavy trucks proportionally more than light passenger cars).

Add to the list of potential benefits the ability to self-fund maintenance and expansion (while charging those costs to the drivers who actually use those roads) and the prospect of giving drivers the power to influence the rules under which they drive (if you don't like the speed limit, you could withhold the tolls you would have otherwise paid).

The downside is in providing accountable management for the toll roads (it's difficult and inefficient to provide duplicate roads following parallel routes, so competitive forces are held back from working their full power), but there's little reason to believe that management would be any less accountable than it is today under the various state and federal departments of transportation.

The United States of America (8.18.2004)
Rumsfeld Wants Missile Defense Shield
Says the longer we go without it, the more likely that another country will try using ballistic missiles against us

Aviation News (8.18.2004)
One Year to Being an Airline Pilot
Embry-Riddle offers a program that allows students who have never been in a cockpit before to become regional airline pilots in as little as one year

Aviation News (8.18.2004)
Hurricane Charley's Damage to Private Aircraft
Photos of the damage illustrate just how bad the storm was. The damage to aircraft was extensive.

Threats to Western Civilization (8.18.2004)
Left-Wing Terrorists Plant Bombs Near Italian Prime Minister's House
British PM Tony Blair had just been there hours before

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updated 8.2004