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California to Receive Federal Gas Tax Money to Implement Tolls
Federal gas tax money used to bribe California legislators into turning Los Angeles freeways into toll freeways.

April 25 press conference
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Friday joined US Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters to announce that his state could receive millions in federal gas tax funding if it agreed to take away existing freeway lanes and convert them into toll lanes. Motorists across the nation would foot the $213 million bill for the proposal, paid out of funds originally earmarked for New York City's failed congestion pricing experiment.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority decided last week that the tolling would take place on an 85 lane-mile stretch of the 10 and 210 freeways in the San Gabriel Valley. Currently, vehicles with two or more passengers are allowed to freely use the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or carpool lanes on those routes. The proposal would convert those lanes into High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes that require solo drivers to pay a tax of up to $1 a mile or more to drive during periods of high traffic. Hybrids and two-passenger cars would no longer have free access to these lanes.

"Our goal is to inspire Washington and to inspire the presidential candidates to make infrastructure investments their top priority," Schwarzenegger said Friday. "This country needs to rebuild its infrastructure."

The benefit, however, would go to non-drivers as the proposal adds no new capacity to the highways. Profit from the new driving tax would instead be diverted into funding an expansion of bus service in the city.

"They have put together a very ambitious plan... to pump new money into the region's transit services by redefining the way that people drive on LA's fabled highways," Peters said. "The funds that are generated by tolls can be used to finance ambitious new bus service that will take advantage of these HOT lanes."

Peters set an October 15 deadline for the California legislature to pass legislation authorizing conversion of a freeway into a toll road. The New York state legislature declined to pass a similar law authorizing an $8 tax on drivers entering downtown Manhattan earlier this month. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (D) is expected to collect the rest of the New York City federal gas tax earmark later today.

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