|We should consider implementing such tolls on other major intercity routes:
• I-15 between Victorville and the Nevada State Line (people driving to and from Vegas should be paying through the nose, since they're going to be spending a lot more money outside the state)
• I-40 between Barstow and the Arizona State Line
• I-10 between Beaumont and the Arizona State Line
• I-80 between Auburn and the Nevada State Line
• US-50 between Placerville and South Lake Tahoe
• I-5 between Redding and the Oregon State Line
• US-101 between King City and Paso Robles, and again between Santa Maria and Goleta
• CA-46 between Paso Robles and Lost Hills
And many other routes. At this initial stage I would argue for staying away from tolling urban freeways and other key routes, such as Highway 99, at least until we have more robust alternatives in place.
The toll collection absolutely must be done by Caltrans, and not by a private concessionaire. The purpose here is to use our existing 20th century infrastructure to pay for 21st century infrastructure, not to hock state property to a bunch of wealthy shareholders the way Indiana did.
If done correctly, this could bring in nearly $1 billion to the state transit fund, helping to reverse the insane cuts to mass transit and helping build things from the Subway to the Sea to high speed rail. And once the tolls have become familiar and commonplace to Californians, as we build out our commuter and metro rail/bus transit systems, we can then take the big plunge and start tolling the urban freeways.
Let me be clear: this isn't a solution to all our transportation funding woes. We will definitely need a higher gas tax as well, and should explore other methods to fund mass transit. And it will require a federal waiver, perhaps even a new act of Congress, to slap tolls on freeways built with federal funds, though the USDOT and Congress have shown themselves willing to consider this policy in recent years.
But it is ridiculous to be leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table by refusing to toll the intercity superhighways. It would take just a few months to erect toll booths and hire staff. And since these would not be on the main commute routes the potential for backlash would be smaller. Backlash will still exist, but it would come from the usual wingnut suspects. Californians have shown they will tax themselves to pay for mass transit - and most Californians would support tolling the intercity freeway routes to do the same.
It is high time California ended the freeway.