Traffic congestion in fast-growing Lee County, Florida, is expected to worsen dramatically in the coming decades. And the current long-range transportation plan does not adequately address those needs, according to a new Reason Foundation study.
The Reason Foundation report finds Lee County needs 488 new lane miles of road capacity by 2030 to handle population growth and eliminate severe congestion in the region. The study concludes that this can be accomplished by making all new lanes planned for I-75 variably-priced toll lanes and providing modestly-priced tolled overpasses at major intersections on key arterials. The overpasses, or “queue jumps,” would allow drivers to bypass stoplights in exchange for paying tolls.
The total cost of the new road capacity proposed by the Reason Foundation study is $5.7 billion, nearly all of which could be funded without taxpayer dollars using the projected toll revenues. The time savings resulting from reduced traffic congestion along with lower operating costs and fewer accidents would save the area $13.25 billion over 20 years. Thus, the savings would be 2.33 times as large as the investment.
The proposed queue jumps would not toll existing arterial roads, but would build new overpasses or underpasses along busy corridors like Cypress Lake Drive/Daniels Parkway. The study examined that corridor in detail, identifying specific queue jumps and estimating their costs. The entire corridor would cost $277 million to build. The “net present value” of toll revenues is estimated at $285 million, suggesting such corridors could be self-supporting.
The study sketched out a network of queue jump corridors along such major thoroughfares as:
- Business 41/Metro Parkway
- Summerlin Road
- Veteran’s Parkway
- Santa Barbara Boulevard
- And the currently planned Colonial Blvd. corridor.
Since these corridors are economically viable, private companies would likely be willing to construct them at no taxpayer expense. The companies would make their money back by charging tolls on the queue jumps. The tolls at each of these intersections would be approximately 45 cents during rush-hours and less at off-peak times. People who do not directly benefit from the improvements would not be forced to pay for them through taxes.
For I-75, the study calls for expanding to 10 lanes by 2030 with all of the new lanes being tolled. The Southwest Florida Expressway Authority projects that the two additional lanes currently being added to I-75 will be congested within a few years. The Reason study says these two lanes should be made “high-performance” by using variable-priced tolls that rise and fall with traffic levels to keep traffic permanently free-flowing. This would also provide a revenue stream to continue to upgrade I-75 and possibly free up transportation dollars that could then be used on other projects. It would also guarantee a congestion-free alternative for emergency vehicles and buses.
Full Report Online
The full report, Reducing Congestion in Lee County, is available online here.
About Reason Foundation
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Chris Mitchell, Director of Communications, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109