Sunday, January 13, 2008

Politicians, Bureaucrats, Raising Highway Tolls

The New York Times yesterday had an edifying report on how Gov. Jon Corzine's administration in New Jersey has plans to raise tolls for an automobile on the New Jersey Turnpike from the present $5.85 to $48 for the complete drive from the Lincoln Tunnel to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. The increase would come in stages between now and 2022.

Truck tolls would zoom from the current $23 to $186, according to the article by Ken Belson and David W. Chen. But wouldn't these costs inevitably be passed on to consumers in a whole range of price increases?

New Jersey has been, is, and will be in the future one of the nation's lousiest places to live, but I'm afraid what's happening there in this instance could presage dramatic new burdens on drivers here in California as well. Already, the tolls on just ten miles of the highway from Orange to Riverside counties have zoomed to $10 in peak periods, and wherever toll roads intrude, greedy politicians and pointy-headed bureaucrats will conspire to increase the tolls just as fast as the more justifiable cigarette tax.

In many instance, it is double taxation. Our gas tax and bonds approved by the electorate but charged against the property tax, have been used to help build freeways. Federal funds have helped mightily as well. Now, under the pressure of federal officials in Washington, the Los Angeles County Supervisors, that royal collection of stupes, is planning to introduce tolls on the carpool lanes of three freeways.

And this is just the start. Once tolls become more widespread, congestion pricing -- a charge for drivers to enter downtown areas in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities -- cannot be far behind. Already, federal bureaucrats are pushing the state to adopt it, by withholding federal highway funds from states that resist.

And what would this mean? It would mean that the wealthy would be zipping along our highways, in special lanes only the rich could afford, while the working poor would have to resign themselves to use either the crowded free lanes, or, alternatively, the city streets.

This would be the sad fate of the carpool lanes, often built at the expense of building more freeways.

As toll lanes and congestion pricing spreads, the motoring freedoms we have known in California will vanish, and, we can easily surmise, congestion will only increase, because more and more drivers will be getting off the highways and trying to find their way through up to now, quiet, protected neighborhoods. Say goodbye to quiet. From now on, everything would get more crowded and filled with vehicular noise.

The New York Times article on the situation in New Jersey does say, in its very headline, that "debate will be fierce" about the plan to charge $48 in tolls for driving the length of the New Jersey Turnpike.

Corzine was the governor who was critically injured in a car crash when his speeding vehicle was involved in an accident and, it was revealed, he wasn't wearing a seat belt. Now, he has called a series of public hearings on his nefarious plans, but he wants to require that people attending them register in advance.

Like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, Corzine is hesitating on building the highways and other transportation systems that will ease traffic congestion in the future, especially the kinds of high speed rail systems that will absorb much of the increasing population in other means of travel.

Who else wants to give up? Only L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez, a leading spokesman for the highway enslavement lobby, and others who feel that social engineering will solve all our problems with traffic congestion.

They are wrong. They are going to introduce misery to ordinary life. We should rally public opinion to resist them and cut their schemes off before they can start rolling now toward the path of charging everybody to go everywhere.


To pay Lopez his due, I agree with him on almost everything but congestion pricing and the Iraq war. He has a brilliant column today in the Los Angeles Times on Schwarzenegger and California's fiscal problems, suggesting only half tongue-in-cheek that the state try another gubernatorial Recall.

Lopez called Rep. Darrel Issa, former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, and Ted Costa, all fathers of the Recall of Gov. Gray Davis, for comments on Schwarzenegger's failure to fulfill his pledge to bring the state into fiscal sobriety. Only Costa returned his call.



Anonymous Joe Zekas said...

My home state of New Jersey may be a lousy place to live but at least you get to live among New Jerseays.

You're condemned to live among Southern Californians.

I'll take Newark over LA any day.

1/13/2008 7:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe Zekas said...

I meant "New Jerseyans."

1/13/2008 7:01 PM  
Anonymous another old fool said...

Congestion pricing is not supposed to be a new tax for taxpayers to pay for politicians to squander on some worthless waste of money. It is supposed to be something to get people out of their cars and onto trains, buses, carpools, vanpools, or bicycles. It is supposed to cut down on the number of vehicles in a congested area so that vehicular congestion and gridlock doesn't strangle the economy by bringing transportation to a standstill. It is supposed to promote economic activity. London's traffic congestion plan is a classic example of this. In Los Angeles County, its just just going to be another tax on top of all the other taxes being paid. More money going to support a overbloated and parasitic government bureaucracy.

1/13/2008 8:52 PM  

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