Toll-road collusion?
August 17, 2005 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Local governments in Colorado have agreed to deliberately impede traffic on existing highways near a toll road in order to protect the toll roads' investors.Article includes examples of similar public/private "cooperation" in Virginia and California.
posted by Kwantsar (30 comments total)
That's interesting, although living here, I'm not sure there's *that* much competiition between Tower Road and E470, as Tower Road is pretty short. Googlemap...
posted by carter at 1:40 PM on August 17, 2005

If that doesn't work, they can use their new powers of eminent domain to simply make people live where they HAVE to use the toll road.
posted by tommasz at 1:50 PM on August 17, 2005

Driving slower increases mpg, thus helping the environment and saving people money. Then again, the stoplights don't help if you are constantly changing speeds. We don't have toll roads anywhere near where I live, so I don't have any comment on how much they cost.
posted by cleverusername at 1:55 PM on August 17, 2005

agree with Carter, although it certainly seems a little strange that this whole issue has never been brought up in either of the local Denver papers, as far as I know.
posted by kozad at 1:56 PM on August 17, 2005

That's sickening. I have TWO, count 'em, TWO, toll roads currently going in within 1/2 mile of my house.
posted by tippiedog at 1:58 PM on August 17, 2005

well, cleverusername, I'm not sure that 40 is better than 55. Check out this oversimplified page from our friends at the EPA.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:01 PM on August 17, 2005

"Protecting investors"? Or, discouraging cheapskate motorists from dodging tolls and clogging local roads?

Anyway, flagging this as a SLOE (single-link op-ed). tsk tsk
posted by mischief at 2:03 PM on August 17, 2005

W. T. F. ???

Talk about betraying the public trust!
posted by zoogleplex at 2:04 PM on August 17, 2005

I've lived in Colorado my whole life. This is news to me. I'm pretty sure these non-compete clauses were kept pretty quiet.

I've never driven on E-470 in my life. Probably never will.
posted by teece at 2:04 PM on August 17, 2005

Ride public transportation.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:05 PM on August 17, 2005

I see this as a case of public vs. private interests, and a reflection of the larger trend of private firms essentially taking public money with the tacit approval of lawmakers. It's the kind of gangsterism that inevitably develops at the end of the privatization spectrum, because private interests become so powerful, they can manipulate the legislative process. On the other end of the spectrum, you have total state ownership of everything, which was also a total failure and has been cast on the ash heap of history.
posted by mert at 2:05 PM on August 17, 2005

I see this as a case of public vs. private interests, and a reflection of the larger trend of private firms essentially taking public money with the tacit approval of lawmakers.

Well mert, it might also be considered that the toll road was built with private money to the relief of the taxpayers. The public also has an interest in not being taxed to pay for roads they won't be using. I'm not saying that this is all good. Colorado Republicans probably don't give a hoot about the taxpayer and no doubt want to make mad manlove with the corporation, but the basic idea of a toll road and an non-compete clause isn't entirely without merit.
posted by three blind mice at 2:13 PM on August 17, 2005

Wait a second, there are private investors investing in a public toll road? How's that work?

And love the page title, Kwantsar!
posted by fenriq at 2:14 PM on August 17, 2005

Auugh! More BS!

When are we going to realize that the public good and corporate good are not the same thing.
posted by Windopaene at 2:15 PM on August 17, 2005

it might also be considered that the toll road was built with private money to the relief of the taxpayers

TBM, you're right. In this case, the firm isn't taking public money outright, but they've arranged for a public road to be crippled, which I would say is clearly against the public interest. And, of course, the private firm stands to profit.
posted by mert at 2:24 PM on August 17, 2005

Yeah, the thought of not widening or improving the "competing" public road for a stated period of time isn't outrageous, it's the deliberately making sure the "competing" public road traffic is slowed and clogged to push people onto the toll road that is absolutely unconscionable.

Sounds to me like the toll road people built that into their business plan, because it was the only way they could assure themselves of enough profit to sell it to their investors.

Dirty trickin', is what that is.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:34 PM on August 17, 2005

On behalf of Lockheed Martin IMS and other toll collection service corporations, GYOBFW.
posted by Rothko at 2:37 PM on August 17, 2005

I sit corrected, it isn't a public toll road.

But the investors are certainly a dirty bunch of greedfaces, aren't they?

And RothKo, why should this be restricted to his own blog? This is interesting and newsworthy.
posted by fenriq at 2:55 PM on August 17, 2005

Nice post Kwantsar. Very interesting.
posted by caddis at 3:04 PM on August 17, 2005

And RothKo, why should this be restricted to his own blog? This is interesting and newsworthy

Call it sarcasm.
posted by Rothko at 3:06 PM on August 17, 2005

Y'know, I'd like it if this had more links on the FPP. But there are links inside the article, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of press about this.
Further, it seems to go against the bias generally associated with you, Kwantsar, you free market ideologue you.

So, on the topic of libertarian arguments for user fees: One of the biggest problems I have with the traditional "The Market will sort this out" arguments is that markets are wobbly, squishy things, and are easily distorted. Especially when one actor has the power of compulsion by force implied behind it, coupled with the fact that infrastructure costs limit the amount of competition.

The goal of roads is to work for the public good. Transportation is needed both for personal liberty and for private enterprise. But by taking this action, the government has abandoned its responsibility to the public good, the over-reaching public good. The goal should be to make the pay road significantly better than the free road by improving the pay road, not by handicapping the public road like some sort of highway Harrison Bergeron.

These legislators and city council members deserve to be held accountable and kicked out of office for this. That's the only real remedy that citizens have. And if they're not, it's only going to encourage more abuses like this.
posted by klangklangston at 6:05 PM on August 17, 2005

If you want the people that use the roads to pay for them... tax gasoline. Toll roads are evil, stupid, and pointless.
posted by sfenders at 6:33 PM on August 17, 2005

...except for bridges. I can see some sense in having tolls for large bridges. They're an order of magnitude or two more expensive than the rest of the roads by length, there usually isn't any easy way to route around them, and it's sort of traditional anyway.
posted by sfenders at 6:43 PM on August 17, 2005

just fwiw, e-470 is the easiest, most direct route from denver int'l airport to the northern part of colorado or to wyoming. there's a lot of pointless side-tripping through suburbia to get to i-25 if one takes tower road.

but i've lived in colorado a while, and i'll never use e-470 or pay a toll.
posted by littlegirlblue at 6:45 PM on August 17, 2005

To provide a counter-example to the E-470 hate here, I drive 36 to E-470 to the airport (and back) an average of once per week. I *love* the route, even though a round-trip costs me $11.

Normally, getting to DIA takes 50 minutes (and could be closer to 1:15 during rush hour), and routes either through downtown Denver, or through suburban surface streets. On 470, it takes me 35 minutes flat, and I don't *ever* have to fight my way through traffic (That stretch of E-470 has an average of 4-6 cars per mile at any given time (according to estimates I reached under my seat to procure)).

This section of road is the completion of a ring-highway around the Denver metro area that has been on the drawing board since the 60's. The south-western section is called C-470 and is by far the most travelled segment, and is NOT a toll road. The real question is, why was the transportation plan for the ring highway not completed with public funds? Why was this section's emminent domain sold to the (highest?) bidder?

I'd never heard of these non-competes, but they don't shock me. I'm almost convinced that there are also gentlemans agreements to not patrol the segment between I-25 and the airport too heavily. (Can't say the same for the section in Broomfield county)
posted by zeypher at 7:13 PM on August 17, 2005

I have taken E-470 several times to DIA airport, and can say for sure that the $4.75 is worth it to bypass all the local trafic.

But I have a erie feeling about these clauses. I have heard that there might be a toll road comming from DIA south straight to Colo. Springs. I wonder what crazy back room deals are in the works with that...?
posted by Balisong at 8:35 PM on August 17, 2005

Sfender: Taxing gas is a start. But there's really nothing wrong with having competing routes (except perhaps that the property could be used for something more productive), and it's a nice way to get to choose whether or not it's worth the money to you to take the road. Coming from Michigan into Chicago, it's often worth it (though not this time, because of the crappy construction). Going into Wisconsin from Chicago, it almost always is. I have no problem paying for a road when the road is well kept, especially since I'm not a resident of the states that these roads are in. My federal road taxes only go so far (though that would be an interesting twist: tolls, but only for non residents).
posted by klangklangston at 11:06 PM on August 17, 2005

Toll roads would be nice if they were entirely private roads with no enforcement of speed restrictions - I have a 300 mile trip next week and I'd love to be able to blitz it in 2 hours without worrying about having a bunch of plods giving me gyp. It'd be well worth £10-20 just for the time saving.
posted by longbaugh at 6:37 AM on August 18, 2005

it's a nice way to get to choose whether or not it's worth the money to you to take the road.

The roads that have tolls tend to be the largest, fastest-moving, most efficient per driver-mile of traffic kind of freeways. Logically, those kind of roads should cost *less* than some back county lane, if you're trying to allocate the costs fairly.
posted by sfenders at 7:01 AM on August 18, 2005

Toll roads suck. I don't live near any. But on our summer travels we paid a lot more than I expected on gas and tolls. I really don't like toll roads.
posted by tomplus2 at 8:41 AM on August 18, 2005

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