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Bush Administration Puts Money Behind Implementing Congestion Pricing

<p>In one of the clearest directives to states yet, an FHWA official stated publicly that they want to award money to highway departments to actually implement -- not simply study -- congestion pricing.</p>
March 27, 2007, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Federal Highway Administration officials (on March 20 in CT) urged state lawmakers to install highway tolls that charge motorists different rates based on peak and off-peak hours." The tolling method, called congestion or value pricing, helps reduce traffic during rush hour while providing the state with cash for transportation improvements, said Patrick DeCorla-Souza, program manager for the administration's congestion pricing initiative."

"People understand that at certain times during the year, certain goods and services are more valuable," DeCorla-Souza said at the event, attended by about 30 municipal leaders and legislators from Fairfield County. "The idea now is to help them understand it in the transportation arena."

"Congestion pricing is different from tolls because it doesn't charge a flat fare to motorists regardless of the time, DeCorla-Souza said.

With advances in technology, cash lanes are not needed with congestion pricing, he said. Tolls can be collected at high speeds using transponder tags such as EZ-Pass, or by taking photos of license plates.

The Federal Highway Administration would not support a method to reduce traffic if it led to toll plazas that slow cars down, DeCorla-Souza said.

The (CT) Department of Transportation is seeking federal money to study congestion pricing. But DeCorla-Souza said the federal government is more interested in awarding money for congestion pricing rather than a study of it."

"Some lawmakers are skeptical. They questioned whether congestion pricing would hurt low-income people the most, because their schedules might not be flexible enough to choose when to go to work.

The state could assist low-income commuters, DeCorla-Souza said. It must work with employers to persuade them to offer flexible work schedules that include more telecommuting, and it should work with bus and rail operators and van pool organizers, DeCorla-Souza said."

"The federal government could help Connecticut improve traffic before implementing congestion pricing, said state Rep. Thomas Drew, D-Fairfield."

"I don't see any federal focus on any mass transit initiatives in terms of funding, or any focus in getting trucks off the highway by using rail freight," Drew said.

Thanks to Gladwyn d'Souza via Sierra Club Loma Prieta Transportation Forum

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Published on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 in The Advocate (Stamford, CT)
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