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Tolling Points

When Minutes Count: A Tale of Two Highways

Bill Cramer

Over the Memorial Day weekend, you’ll want to remember this tale of two highways as you search for a safe, reliable route to your holiday destination.

At IBTTA’s legislative summit two months ago, a panelist talked about traffic delays along Interstate Highway 95 that cost precious hours on the road from the Washington, DC area to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“Instead of taking around eight hours to get to Myrtle Beach, during peak times it can take upwards of 10 hours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the top travel days,” the panelist said. That means the destination’s toughest competition for tourist dollars isn’t coming from Atlanta or Orlando. “It’s actually congestion.”

The impact is serious enough that the Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitor Bureau pulled its marketing resources out of the lucrative DC market.

Contrast Myrtle Beach’s experience with North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where tolling along the Chesapeake Expressway is reducing travel times through southeastern Virginia.

The four-lane Expressway was funded by tolls, and until it opened in 2001, vacation travelers to the Outer Banks could lose four or five hours in traffic on the road to and from their rented cottages. “Congestion isn’t good for anybody, and many drivers who are trying to get from A to B are willing to pay a little bit more to get out of that traffic,” said Mary Ann Saunders, Assistant to the Chesapeake City Manager.

When the road first opened, she added, “It was so popular that the toll plaza was overwhelmed. We had to expand the plaza. Traffic was so much greater than anyone projected for the first season that we sometimes had to let the traffic go for safety’s sake.”

This Memorial Day Weekend will see high volume traffic as people venture out after a long cold winter. Be safe. Drive carefully. Check your tires before you start your trip. Fill up the gas tank.

And if you’re stuck in traffic on a congested, aging Interstate highway, think about whether you would have willingly paid a few more dollars to add three or four happy, relaxed hours to a holiday weekend that will end all too fast.

Then ask yourself whether Congress should accept the White House’s proposal – The Grow America Act to allow states the flexibility to lift the ban on tolling the Interstates.

Learn more about IBTTA’s Moving America Forward campaign. To learn more about tolling, technology in tolling and user financing, register for IBTTA's Summit on All-Electronic Tolling, Managed Lanes and Interoperability in July in San Diego, CA and IBTTA’s 82nd Annual Meeting and Exhibition in September in Austin, TX.


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