US Interstate Roadways: Congestion Problems, Additional Lanes, Tolls

In the United States, cars became a means of transportation at the beginning of the twentieth century. Interstate roadways were built in the 1930s and most main cities had limited access. Transportation systems play a major role in economic growth, life quality, and maintaining a metropolitan city or region. Interstate highways are essential in offering a network of freeways that facilitate the flow and distribution of goods and services in the US. These systems also provide safety and movement of goods and people granting access to public streets and local highways. This makes it a national interest of the US to enhance and maintain the Interstate System to meet the transportation needs for the 21st century (Victor, 2009, pp. 9).

This system was designed mainly to provide transportation between the national defense and urban areas. They are used by millions of motorists each day traveling to and from school, vacation, work, and everyday activities. Travel on these highways is increasing at a high rate and little expansion is being done on the systems. This has led to a significant increase in congestion of traffic on these highways. There have been delays in traffic especially at peak hours and the design capacity is considered congested. Driver experience stops and in case of any incident, a serious breakdown of traffic flow is caused (Trip, 2006, pp. 12-14). Many manufacturers will be influenced by the transport systems when making decisions about the location of the industries (Maurice & Clinton, 1959, par 1).

Traffic congestion has led to air pollution and nitrogen from vehicle exhausts, affects marine life, and air quality. In addition, the delivery of services and goods becomes more expensive due to the delays experienced. It is estimated that by 2020, the number of vehicles will be two times more than it is today. Moreover, the increased employment opportunities will increase the strain on the transportation system. Thus, the economic and environmental concerns call for mitigation measures to decongest the interstate highways.

As an alternative, additional lanes could be constructed to ease congestion. Barrier-separated lanes could be used where concrete walls distinguish general lanes. They can be either reversible flow or two-direction facilities where one lane travels in one direction. This will require more space for the barriers on both sides. Concurrent-flow lanes can also be used where one lane is used in each direction. Striping patterns are used to distinguish, rather than the physical barriers. They can be placed on the inside lane since enforcement is rather difficult because of the lack of physical distinctions. During peak hours, contraflow facilities can be used where the movable barrier system is used. The high occupancy tolls are gaining popularity in the transportation system. They are a combination of toll expressways and lanes. They allow the use of vehicles on a toll without considering the minimum passenger requirement. They assist in easing congestion to every motorist on the road (Joann n.d pp. 4-11).

On the other hand, tolls call for a public-private partnership. Motorists are expected to pay toll charges which could be open-road or via electronic means. For electronic toll collection, drivers do not have to stop and they can travel at normal highway speeds. This is less costly considered to the open-road systems from an operations perspective. However, the open-road system is cost-effective to the toll operators and convenient for the motorists (Mike 2005 pp. 10-11). The toll system is likely to have long-term costs and short-term benefits since they are not friendly to the citizens. The interstate roadways system should remain free since drivers have already paid their taxes by fuelling. The fuel taxes should be used to improve and maintain the roads. The idea of tolling new lanes should be considered to ensure that these systems are friendly to the public.

The congestion is arising from the continuous development that requires a lot of driving. A solution to decongest the road should be chosen to put into consideration the cost and benefits to the economy. It should be a cost-effective option and one that will provide a lasting solution to the congestion issues. This will also assist the industries in making effective production decisions.

Reference List

Joann, F. (n.d.). Easing Congestion on 1-695: Multimodal Alternatives, USA: University of Maryland.

Maurice, F. & Clinton, H. (1959). Transportation factors affecting locational decisions. Web.

Mike, L. (2005). Operating the Toll Roads: A National Perspective. Web.

Trip (2006) The Interstate Highway System in Michigan: Saving Lives, Time and Money. Washington, DC: Trip.

Victor, M (2009), Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation, 74 (165), 9.

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