IB-2002-E (April 2002)
Author: Dennis Polhill
Both the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) can expect a dramatic reduction in highway and transportation funding from traditional sources over the next few years. Colorados highway network is already overrun with travelers, yet widened and expanded highways will not be pursued.
There exists unused space in Colorados High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, at locations such as I-25, Santa Fe Drive, and State Highway 82, as well as projected unused space in future HOV investments, such as North I-25 and U.S. 36. High Occupancy / Toll (HOT) lanes are a viable and desirable means of effectively using that excess space, without:
- reducing the congestion-free benefit of the lanes;
- eliminating the incentives to carpool or ride the bus; or
- requiring large capital expenditures.
HOT lanes are a politically acceptable and financially desirable means of extending transportation finance and travel choices. Furthermore, the private sector has shown demonstrable interest in using toll financing, such as HOT lanes, as a way of improving traffic in congested corridors.
HOT lanes are not a new idea. They have been successfully implemented on State Route 91 (Orange County) and Interstate 15 (San Diego) in California, and Interstate 10 in Houston, Texas. HOT lanes continue to receive significant support from users and non-users alike. In fact, initial experiences with HOT lanes have been so successful that both states are moving forward with new highway capacity in San Diego, Los Angeles, Dallas, Austin and Houston to be financed, in part, with HOT lane revenue.
HOT lanes are a viable way of introducing the free marketplace to the realm of transportation infrastructure and services. The following policies are recommended:
The full use guarantee policy. In a time of declining transportation funding and increasing congestion, wasting space in HOV lanes should not be tolerated.
Requiring HOT flexibility. No Colorado agency should enter into an agreement that prohibits the flexibility of using HOT lanes.
Incorporate HOT Lanes as a standard option with HOV facilities. All Colorado HOV lanes should offer toll-based access to vehicles, where feasible.
End illegal discrimination against toll road users. Colorados constitution sets gasoline taxes aside for public highways, Thus, people who buy gasoline, thereby paying gas taxes, and who also pay tolls are being double taxed.