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Tolling Points

LaHood Task Force Boosts Tolling, Congestion Pricing for Chicago

Bill Cramer

With Chicago one run-off vote away from electing its next mayor, a task force led by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is out with what amounts to an “all of the above” strategy for improving mobility and combatting congestion in the United States’ third-biggest city by population.

The 45-page plan embraces tolling, carbon taxes, and other types of user fees to get new money into the system without waiting for a gas tax increase, the Chicago Sun Times reports.

For good measure, it also calls for state and federal gas tax increases to fund roads, bridges, and transit.

It includes a hat-tip to the successful managed lane projects that have made Northern Virginia a national example of how congestion pricing can work and recommends testing “car-free zones” and scooter-sharing to try to discourage single-occupancy vehicles.

“Northern Virginia has pioneered this idea of, if you want to get someplace faster, get on a road that’s tolled,” LaHood said last week. “Northern Virginians use these congestion-priced lanes a lot. They’re expensive. But they want to get to where they’re going. They don’t want to have to wait in congestion.”

The task force placed a lot of emphasis on innovation and redesign, while calling for a new “chief mobility officer” to oversee a major transformation in the way people move about the city. With the run-off for mayor coming up early next month, LaHood framed the study as essential reading for any incoming administration.

“This report was put together not by the current mayor, but by the citizens of Chicago,” he said. “That’s who the new mayor needs to listen to if they want to coordinate transportation. The alternative is continued confusion. Are people really being well served with all of these forms of transportation if they’re not coordinated?”

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