Last month’s issue carried a piece by my long-time friend and colleague Alan Pisarski arguing against tolling U.S. Interstates. He and I seldom disagree on transportation policy, but we do in this case. All five points he made are challenges to the idea of replacing the first-generation Interstates with much better second-generation ones. Here are my answers.
Alan does not offer an alternative to the dismal status quo. Not only is our most important highway resource wearing out and undersized for the 21st century; we also face the necessity of shifting from paying for highways per gallon of fuel used to paying for them per mile driven. A carefully-crafted, politically-feasible Interstate replacement plan can serve both goals. If we can succeed in replacing the 20th-century Interstates with electronically tolled 21st-century corridors, over the next few decades, up to 25% of all VMT will have transitioned off the fuel tax to mileage-based user fees.
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