It is a California still life. In this land of mobile ambition and instant communities, life is on hold in the parking lot that is the Riverside Freeway, 10 miles or more going nowhere at all hours of the day on one of the most congested auto corridors in the world.
But like a mirage in the exurban desert, a narrow river of traffic moves swiftly down the middle of this highway. The fast lanes, the 91 Express, are sometimes called Lexus lanes, first class on asphalt. They can turn a two-hour commute to work into a 30-minute zip. For a solo driver, on-time arrival comes with a price: nearly $11 per round trip, a toll collected through electronic signals.
The freeway in places is no longer free. From the backed-up pools of frustration in Chicago’s adjacent counties, to the farthest Virginia fringes of the commute to Washington, to Texas, where plans are under way to build a 4,000-mile network of toll roads, the United States has outgrown its highway system.
But state and federal governments, beset by deficits, say they have barely enough money to service the existing system, let alone build new roads. As a result, nearly two dozen states have passed legislation allowing their transportation systems to operate pay-as-you-go roads, and in many cases, letting the private sector build and run these roads.
I guess this means the old saying “So and so is going places” to refer to someone who is becoming wealthy and famous is really going to take on a whole new meaning. I thought with gas taxes we already had a pay as yougo system, but that seems to be insufficient. Thoughts?