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6/17/2008
California: Plan Would Impose Congestion Zone in Los Angeles
Los Angeles officials seek to promote congestion taxes that members of Congress are seeking to scale back.

Gary Miller
Congestion in Los Angeles, California is legendary. Now, local politicians and private companies are vying for the chance to profit from it. Earlier this month, the county awarded engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff a contract to develop a congestion pricing plan that would apply to the entire region. Parsons most recently had spent several years promoting the idea of a London-style congestion tax in New York City, an idea that the state legislature rejected in April. It is likely the company will explore similar experiments in Los Angeles.

"The project will develop a regional plan for congestion pricing that is technically feasible and acceptable to the public," a company statement explained.

Recent reaction to the first element of the congestion pricing plan suggests that public acceptance may be hard to come by. A bipartisan group of US House members from Southern California joined together to fight a US Department of Transportation plan to spend $213 million in federal gas tax dollars on a project that would impose tolls on existing freeway lanes in Los Angeles County (view details). Congressman Gary Miller (R-Diamond Bar) is leading the effort with legislation that would prohibit the tolling of existing High Occupancy Vehicle freeway lanes anywhere in the country.

"Under their proposal, our free-ways would be turned into fee-ways," Miller said in a statement. "That is simply unacceptable.... Despite the urgent need to improve our existing infrastructure, not one cent of the revenues generated from these toll lanes would go back into adding capacity to our region's aging and over-crowded roads."

Miller's bill simply undoes the ability to turn an existing HOV lane into a toll lane by forbidding the imposition of a charge on anyone currently using such lanes for free. Representatives David Dreier (R-San Dimas), Buck McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), Hilda Solis (D-El Monte) and Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) have all signed on as co-sponsors of the measure.

Miller explained that his opposition to the plan is based primarily on his understanding that it will increase, not decrease, congestion. To maintain a steady flow of cars in the toll lanes, carpoolers would be forced by high prices into the general purpose lanes or surface streets. This, Miller argues, further clogs an already overburdened transportation network.

"This proposal makes no sense at all," Miller said. "It will only increase prices and congestion for Southern California commuters."

Article Excerpt:
Free Way Act of 2008
110th CONGRESS, 2d Session
H. R. 6002

To amend title 23, United States Code, to prohibit the collection of certain tolls on existing high occupancy vehicles.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
May 8, 2008

Mr. GARY G. MILLER of California (for himself, Mr. DREIER, Mr. MCKEON, Mrs. NAPOLITANO, and Ms. SOLIS) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

A BILL To amend title 23, United States Code, to prohibit the collection of certain tolls on existing high occupancy vehicles.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Free Way Act of 2008'.

SEC. 2. PROHIBITION OF TOLL COLLECTION ON CERTAIN HIGH OCCUPANCY VEHICLES.

Section 166(b)(4) of title 23, United States Code, is amended by striking `The' and inserting the following: `Except in the case of high occupancy vehicles that were permitted to use a HOV facility in a State at no cost before December 31, 2007, the'.


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