Los Angeles Business Journal

Toll Roads Pay Off Over Long Haul

OP-ED By Matthew Click Monday, June 10, 2013

Recent America Thinks surveys from my company, HNTB Corp., show that millions of Americans are aware there is a congestion problem; many would rather pay a fare on a road or highway to save travel time than pay higher taxes, and close to three in four commuters would likely used priced managed lanes if given the opportunity.

Well-designed express lanes are just one way to provide motorists congestion insurance and freedom of choice. Cities such as Los Angeles are best served by implementing a multimodal approach that encourages commuting options such as public transit, cycling and carpooling, all of which are already top priorities here.

Public reaction

With a majority of the public and so many experts showing support for the solution of priced managed lanes, should L.A. leaders be concerned about mixed public acceptance?

First, I challenge the notion that public opinion regarding priced managed lanes varies by region and that L.A.’s cultural reliance on the automobile makes drivers less willing to accept congestion pricing.

As demonstrated in other parts of the nation, such as Texas and Florida, local geography does not determine public opinion regarding priced managed lanes. Rather, public opinion varies according to the stage of the project life cycle. Even with robust public education and marketing programs in place, a general ramp-up time is needed for local constituencies to learn about priced managed lanes, try them out and realize tangible benefits.

Fixing a city’s gridlock takes time and resources, but the economic and social benefits can impact everyone. While it’s not yet clear whether express lanes can generate revenue for cities, there are tremendous economic benefits to cities due to improved mobility. Business, transportation and government leaders must take innovative steps to reduce traffic congestion, transform transportation ideas and improve the quality of life for Angelenos.

Matthew Click is HNTB Corp.’s southeast division director, tolls. HNTB is an architecture and engineering firm specializing in infrastructure including priced managed lanes.

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