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Ross: Will the new transportation bill be honest?

Traffic backs up on a freeway on Sept. 5, 2017, in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

One of these days, a big new transportation bill is finally going to get passed. I hope it’s bipartisan, but even more than that, I hope that it’s honest.

By which I mean I hope it requires the honest pricing of the various transportation alternatives. And that it doesn’t just assume that the answer to every transportation problem is more lanes.

For example, I see that in Texas – where they pave everything – there is now a movement to use some of that infrastructure money not to build more freeway lanes, but to remove them on the grounds that the extra lanes have not relieved congestion, but instead are an attractive nuisance that makes traffic worse.

Which brings me to the concept of honest pricing.

The cost of a freeway goes way beyond the cost of building it. There’s the cost to the surrounding neighborhood in pollution and noise, the cost of taking prime land off the market, and the psychological cost of forcing people to depend entirely on cars. And, of course, there’s the maintenance. The never-ending maintenance.

Freeways are never quite finished, are they? I-5, 520, I-90 – all of them are under constant construction! You can see their stretch marks etched in the ghost lanes.

Well, the slogan for this infrastructure plan is supposed to be “Build Back Better.” Not “Bulldoze Bigger Boondoggles.”

So I would like to see the planners figure the full cost of freeways before committing to more projects that simply pack in more lanes.

And as for the way we pay for all of it – if no one wants to tax the billionaires because that would be socialism, then by golly, in the spirit of a truly free market, we should each pay the true cost by the mile.

And yes, I would treat transit the same way – charge what it truly costs for the service.

If we really believe in the free market, we can trust it to adjust. And if it doesn’t, then we tax the billionaires.

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