Tolls, More Freeways Would Improve Transport (Letter to the Editor)

The editorial "Freeways are the solution to congestion" (Comment & Analysis, April 12) got it half-right. Widening roads to support more cars is far less costly than expanding commuter rail, and it avoids many of the land-use problems and the authoritarian "smart growth" social engineering that characterize commuter-rail projects.

But while expanding existing highways is necessary to alleviate congestion and improve the transportation system, tolls and congestion pricing both serve useful functions. Getting the road-financing mechanisms right is crucial for long-term transit privatization efforts. Tolls coupled with congestion pricing means that those using and placing stress on the highway system actually pay for its continued operation and maintenance. Given that tolls are by far the most practical method of generating revenue for private roads, bridges and tunnels, the alternative is maintaining the status quo indefinitely: high-cost, low-quality government monopolies controlling our transportation sector.