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Plan Suggests Testing Truck-Only Highway Lanes in California

March 1, 2004

A new plan put forth by the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation on February 26 recommends building truck-only toll lanes on I-5 and I-15. This development would dramatically improve road safety by separating cars and trucks while also significantly reducing shipping costs by enabling the use of larger trucks on those Interstates. "We are reviewing the options and locations recommended in this report to help determine if we can launch a test program of the truck-only lanes concept," said U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young. "California's budget crisis is crippling road improvement efforts," said Robert Poole, co-author of the report and a transportation expert who has advised the last four presidential administrations. "For four years the state has been using gimmicks and diverting transportation funds to other programs in order to close budget gaps. Truck-only toll lanes would increase road capacity and safety, for both cars and trucks, without having to raise gas taxes." Passenger cars are blamed for approximately 75 percent of the 450,000 car-truck accidents each year, resulting in nearly 5,000 deaths. Reason Foundation's truck-only toll lanes plan would move trucks into their own lanes, separated by concrete barriers. Because the trucks would be safely separated from car traffic, trucking companies would be allowed to use higher-capacity Longer Combination Vehicles (LCVs) on the truck-only toll lanes. When reaching urban metro areas, the trucks would be broken down at staging areas — the LCVs would not travel on urban freeways. This win-win approach to safety and productivity issues has garnered the support of a wide variety of groups who do not always agree on such issues, including the National Safety Council, American Trucking Associations, and American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Moreover, because there are strong indications that trucking companies would be willing to pay tolls in order to haul larger loads in uncongested truck-only lanes, these new lanes would be largely self-supporting from toll revenues. That means widening projects and much-needed lanes could be added to these Interstates at a time when very little money is available for essential transportation improvement projects. In the new report, Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based think tank, identifies the most promising Interstate corridors where truck-only toll lanes should be tested based on revenue potential, construction cost estimates, and feedback from several trucking companies regarding the most advantageous locations for truck-only toll lanes. Two of the most viable options are in California: * I-15 in California would link the major intermodal logistics center in Barstow to the existing LCV operations of Nevada, the High Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Moreover, the Southern California Association of Governments already plans an urban-area toll truckway that would extend from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles up I-15 as far as Barstow, where it would link up with the I-15 route proposed here. * Truck-only toll lanes on I-5 in the Central Valley have the potential to interface with proposed urban toll truck lanes in the greater Los Angeles area, such as one being considered over the Grapevine.
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