CABE Connection

Citizens Against Beltway Expansion (CABE), a coalition of civic associations, environmental groups, and concerned citizens, collaborates with DontWiden270.org to oppose widening the Beltway and I-270 for privately owned for-profit luxury toll lanes.

Follow CABE at www.cabe495.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/495CABE) or Twitter (@495CABE). The following came from the CABE newsletter. Sign up for their mailing list on www.cabe495.com.

October 11, 2019

Will Trucks Use Beltway Luxury Lanes?

If you're expecting the MDOT Luxury Lanes to take trucks off the Beltway during rush hour, don't hold your breath.

The American Trucking Association warned a House Transportation subcommittee hearing last month that most truckers opt for the free lanes because tolls come out of their bottom lines.

ATA cited a study that found truck drivers would be willing to accept between 29 and 52 minutes of extra travel time to avoid a toll road. Of course, it’s a different story if the shipper pays. But, according to the ATA few shippers pick up the toll tab.

"The carrier usually bears the cost of the toll and has to attempt to recover these costs by either improving efficiencies or increasing rates across the carrier’s entire customer base," said Darren Hawkins, CEO of YRC Worldwide Inc.  When it comes to changing trucker behavior through congestion pricing (i.e. variable tolls), this is "a crucial factor", he said.

Bottom Line: Luxury Lanes do not guarantee fewer trucks in commuter lanes during rush hour.

A few more relevant points from the hearing testimony: The study ATA cited says toll road traffic is usually 20-30% lower than forecasted in the first five years of operation. This raises questions about MDOTs promise the proposed Luxury Lanes will be self-financing without taxpayer backstops.

Other data presented at the hearing raised questions about the cost effectiveness of tolls vs. other ways to finance roads. Congressional Research Service, toll collection costs exceed 10 percent of revenue using Electronic Toll Collection systems. (It tops 20 percent on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.) By contrast, federal fuel tax collections cost just 0.2 percent of revenue.

"Clearly, from a highway user’s perspective, the waste that goes into collecting a toll is simply unacceptable when far more efficient alternatives are available," says Hawkins. 

For more hearing coverage, check out "Beating congestion means thinking outside the toll booth" from Transportation Today.