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CABE Commentary

Does the Washington Post Read the Washington Post?

December 9, 2018 -- We ask because today's Metro section leads with a major story about the failure of I-66 toll lanes to improve commutes. Yet, the editorial in the same paper endorsed (albeit tepidly and with caveats) putting Northern Virginia-style toll lanes on I-495.

It's like the editorial writer didn't read the Metro section or simply chose to ignore the report that the I-66 Lexus Lanes, where tolls can top $47, aren't relieving congestion -- they're prolonging the rush hour. 

"Would most people in the corridor say their commutes have improved? I don't think so," Loudoun County Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) told the Post. "This tolling system has just made driving impossible and not affordable."

That's the important part.  Working people want their commutes to improved, not made worse at enormous cost. They don't want to see their homes razed, communities invaded, or environment polluted with more smog and untreated storm water runoff. They certainly don't want to stand by helplessly as tax dollars are tapped by for-profit companies when toll revenues fall short.

Unfortunately, the Washington Post ignored its reporters' good work. While the editorial calls for more mass transit (which is good), it also backs Hogan's Lexus Lane proposal, believing it will relieve congestion, present and future.

The question is why? Why replicate the terrible Lexus Lane business model in Maryland given it's lack of success for commuters in Northern Virginia and other states? The editorial argues car use is expanding across the country and so something must be done.

Congestion argues for better transportation policy, not Lexus Lanes on I-495. In fact, the same editorial credits the I-66 toll lanes for bringing previously barred single-passenger cars onto the road during rush hour. Single-passenger cars are a prime source of congestion, so building Lexus Lanes to encourage more of them is not the way to less congestion.

Fortunately, other states seem to be learning from their experiences with privatized toll lanes. For example, in Texas, where car use is also rising, the Republican legislature rolled back new Lexus Lane authority in 2017 and forced toll operators to repay their slices of a $10 billion highway tax-pie they shared. And this year, Texas GOP primary voters passed 9 to 1 a measure to let localities approve proposed Lexus Lanes.

When a pro-business state like Texas acts to rein in a business model, Maryland should pay attention. The Washington Post should find out what Texas knows about Lexus Lanes and share it with the rest of us. We hope the Post will also reconsider its position, call on Gov. Hogan to stop his headlong rush into Lexus Lanes, and argue for something better than something that doesn't seem to work.

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