The traffic congestion in Orange County continues to get worse for drivers on Interstate 405, as both the general purpose and High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes have exceeded available capacity. Yesterday, Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) inched closer to a solution for easing congestion on the nation’s busiest corridor by deciding to reexamine the use of express lanes in conjunction with the construction of an additional single general purpose lane already approved last year as part of Measure M2. If ultimately adopted, this option, known as “Alternative 3,” would not only add the approved general purpose lane but would also add an express lane to the existing HOV lane, creating a dual Express Facility in where the tolled Express Facility would operate so that vehicles with less than three passengers would be tolled and those carrying three or more would either be free or receive a discount, similar to SR-91. OCBC applauds the majority of the OCTA Board who understand that “Alternative 3” and per-mile tolling is the best solution to efficiently increase traffic through the busy I-405 corridor and bridge the revenue gap.
In a recent study, ““Interstate 2.0: Modernizing the Interstate Highway System Via Toll Finance,” Robert Poole, Director of Transportation Policy for the Reason Foundation, concludes that per-mile tolling is a better option than per-gallon taxes for bridging the funding gap for American’s highway system. This is because tolls can be tailored to the cost of each road and bridge, rather than being averaged across all types of road — from neighborhood streets to massive Interstates — ensuring adequate funding for major highway projects, such as I-405 reconstruction and modernization. Per-mile tolling also reflects greater fairness than per-gallon taxes since those who drive mostly on Interstates will pay higher rates than those who drive mostly on local streets. Also, if per-mile tolling is implemented as a true user fee, it will be self-limiting, dedicated solely to the purpose for which it was implemented (and enforceable via bond covenants with those who buy toll revenue bonds). Toll financing means that needed projects, such as the I-405 expansion project, can be done when needed and paid for over several decades as highway users enjoy the benefits of the improved facilities that will relieve traffic congestion.
Meanwhile, as OCTA studies the obvious benefits of per-mile tolling, San Francisco is adding 90 miles of new express lanes to improve mobility for residents, visitors, workers and goods movement. So come on Orange County let’s get a move on. For more information, contact Bryan Starr, Sr. Vice President, Government Affairs.